Woman Crush Wednesday – Temple Grandin

Amy Phillips

It’s World Autism Month and this week’s #WomanCrushWednesday goes out to one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People in the World (in the Heroes category), the woman who revolutionized the cattle industry, making it more humane for the animals, Dr. Temple Grandin. She says it never would’ve happened if she had a neurotypical brain.

Mary Temple Grandin was born in Boston in 1947. At the age of three, she wasn’t talking at all. Her mom took her to the experts and the little girl was diagnosed with brain damage – which, at the time,  was pretty much synonymous with autism. Dr. Grandin’s mom was blamed for the diagnosis and doctors recommended the little girl be institutionalized. Her mom wasn’t fond of that idea, so she took little Temple to the to the world’s best special needs researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital. She got her into intensive speech therapy and by the age of four, Temple was talking. She was mainstreamed in school, where she was teased and bullied mercilessly. In high school, in order to deal with her anxiety, she developed a “squeeze machine” – it was based on the containers used to calm cattle down before immunizations. (The design is still used today – for some folks on the autism spectrum, deep pressure is calming.) Despite her struggles in school, she persevered and went on to college, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s and doctoral degree in animal science. Good thing algebra wasn’t a requirement – this brilliant woman cannot do algebra!

When Temple Grandin was 15, she spent a summer on a ranch, which fueled her interest in animals and their welfare. Years later, after observing the stress and pain animals suffered as they were led to slaughter, she developed a more humane method of handling livestock. It’s called a center-track restrainer system – it’s quieter, has better lighting and a nonslip floor. Today, half the cattle in North America are handled using her design.

Dr. Grandin has written more than 400 essays and several books – her latest, Calling All Minds, was a New York Times bestseller for middle school students. Two other books of hers were bestsellers as well – Animals Make Us Human and Animals in Translation. She has made dozens of television appearances – 20/20, 60 Minutes, the Today Show, Larry King Live, and others. She has a TED talk titled “The World Needs ALL Kinds of Minds.” In 2010, HBO made an Emmy-award winning movie about her life, starring Claire Danes.

Dr. Grandin is a member of the National Woman’s Hall of Fame and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She’s a professor of of Animal Science at Colorado State University and is a staunch advocate for early childhood intervention for kids on the autism spectrum.

#WCW #neurodiversity #changemakers #innovation #autism #dogoodbegood

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