Temple Grandin unlocks secrets of autism

6:06 AM, May 9, 2013   |    comments
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COLORADO -- Minnesota Public Radio News Host Kerri Miller recently visited the ranch of Temple Grandin in Colorado. Grandin, who has autism, will be in the Twin Cities to speak Thursday to a sold-out crowd at the Fitzgerald Theater.

During their visit Temple said, "I got teased horribly in high school. The worst part of my life was high school. Absolutely the worst."

She knew she was different. Her neurologist told her mother once that Temple was an odd little girl, but doctors didn't know much about autism back then.

So when Temple Grandin, portrayed by Claire Danes in a movie had tantrums or obsessions or needed the comfort of a "squeeze machine" she designed herself, they thought it was brain damage.


Temple knew better, but she didn't know why until she began seeing images of her own brain.

"I could remember going into the control room the very first time and that's back when MRI was first invented," Temple recalls.

Since then Temple, who has a PhD, has written a dozen books and was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People, has seen her brain many, many times.

And what she's learned about it is demystifying the neuroscience of autism.


Temple Grandin has had to train herself to "say what she sees" to connect the visual to the verbal. And here's why! Her brain circuit bundles are different.


She has a smaller cerebellum which gives her problems with balance. She often struggles to recognize even-familiar faces.

And she famously thinks in pictures, like animals do, she says.


That ability has made her one of the most sought-after designers of cattle structures at slaughterhouses where she insists on calm and humane conditions.

"You know, I've had people say to me, 'Why don't you just do autism and forget the cattle stuff? Because cattle are my real job, and I think I am a better role model for a lot of kids out there if I still have a real job that has nothing to do with autism."

In fact-when Grandin talks to those kids' parents she tells them to stop obsessing about the label of autism.

"Now one thing I feel strongly about is I'm seeing too many youngsters today get hung up on autism. Cause people with autism tend to get fixated on their favorite things. Let's get their favorite thing to be something they can make into a career," Grandin said.

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