Temple Grandin, autistic animal scientist and author

by | Feb 28, 2024

Temple Grandin–sometimes referred to as the world’s most famous autistic person, amidst several ways to describe her, including expert on animal behavior, prolific author, longtime professor of animal science at Colorado State University, fervent activist for autistic people, and tireless lecturer—sat with me onstage at the Paramount Theatre in Austin for what became a truly wide-ranging interview. I began the conversation describing the first of two hypothetical situations I introduced, involving my fictional three-year-old son, with behavior and communication issues, and an appointment yesterday with the doctor, who told my wife and me that our child is on the spectrum. I asked Grandin about the first steps we should take. Her response included immediately getting the child into therapy, and and other measures, including playing games and engaging in other activities that involve taking turns. Grandin outlines the virtues of taking turns, citing the way it cultivates impulse control and other longstanding educational benefits. In this part of the conversation, we touched on one of uber-prolific-author Grandin’s latest books, “Autism and Education: The Way I See It: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know,” which she explained is aimed at the teachers and parents of young, newly-diagnosed autistic children. The second “hypothetical” I raised inquired about adults—say, in their 30s, 40s, 50s—who come to realize (or loved ones do) that they’re on the spectrum. This seems potentially vexing, given the urgency of intervening rapidly on behalf of a newly-diagnosed child. But Grandin suggests undertaking a therapeutic measure may not be paramount, but rather these latter-day autistics may be relieved to place their social awkwardness or certain unsuccessful relationships in a new context. We discuss Mr. Carlock, her high school science teacher and enormously important mentor—and the significance of mentors for autistic kids, plus how to identify a potential mentor. We also discuss her mother, Eustacia Cutler, who was instrumental in Grandin developing socially, personally, and professionally—often by giving her choices, but narrowly designed ones. For example, Grandin recalled that just before the summer she spent at her Aunt’s ranch in Arizona, she was scared to go, so her Mom gave her the choice of going for two weeks or for the summer; there was no option to not go to the ranch at all. Turns out she loved it, sparking her lifelong interest in horses and cattle. (https://www.templegrandin.com/, https://www.grandin.com/, http://www.tgecautismfund.org/)

ALSO: I spoke briefly with Tasha Cohen-Glynn of Achieva Credit Union, which—in partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay– is collecting pet food at all of their branches in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco Counties, with both Achieva employees and clients contributing the pet food. This “PAWS-for-a-Purpose” campaign started Friday, March 1, and runs thru March 13. The collected pet food—which Achieva has committed to match, up to 500 pounds–will be distributed to pet owners in need. That process, Cohen-Glynn explained, will be overseen by Feeding Tampa Bay. She goes on to note that “PAWS-for-a-Purpose” will culminate with a March 15 event at the credit union’s own dog park, Achieva Paw Park (1659 Achieva Way, Dunedin, FL 34698). All of this is rooted in an effort to recognize National Puppy Day, on March 23. (https://www.achievacu.com/events, https://www.feedingtampabay.org/)

COMEDY CORNER: Mike Vecchione’s “Vegetarian Chicken”  (DS edit) (https://mikevecchione.com/)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  The B-52s’ ”Rock Lobster”


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