Temple Grandin's Logical Mind on Early Intervention, Vaccines and More
Below is a wonderful interview with Temple Grandin on a variety of topics. She will be presenting at the All Ages and Abilities Autism/Asperger's Conference this weekend in New York City. From The Charlotte Observer.
By Karen Garloch
At the Emmy Awards ceremony in August, Temple Grandin took the stage several times as the HBO movie about her life grabbed seven awards.
Dressed in rancher attire with a red scarf and a silver belt buckle, Grandin gave the film's executive producer a long hug.
For someone who started life unable to bear a hug from her parents, the embrace was a sign of how far she's come.
Grandin, now 63, has autism.
The HBO movie, starring Claire Danes, tells how Grandin, a Boston native, defied the predictions of 1950s specialists who said she should be institutionalized. As a 3-year-old she was unable to speak or make eye contact. But she grew up to become a renowned animal scientist who helped create guidelines that have become a standard in the meatpacking industry. For example, she designed curved corrals intended to reduce stress on animals being led to slaughter and has taught workers how to herd animals without excessive electrical prodding.
This week, she will be in Charlotte to speak at a national conference on autism and Asperger's syndrome. (Tickets for her talk are sold out.)
Grandin is also the subject of the title story in "Anthropologist from Mars," a best-selling book by acclaimed neurologist Oliver Sacks, and of a BBC documentary, "The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow."
Grandin spoke to the Observer by telephone. Here are edited excerpts:
Q. What's your best advice for parents of children with autism?
I can't emphasize enough the importance of early educational intervention... (As a child) I had 20 or 30 hours a week of teachers and people working with me... If you have a kid who is 2 years old or 3 years old and there's no speech, just doing nothing (is) the worst thing you can do...
If you're in a situation where you can't get any services, get some grandmothers, get some students to start working with that kid. Teach them nursery rhymes. Do a lot of one-on-one teaching. Play games with them. Teach them the alphabet. You can't just let them sit in the corner rocking.
Q. Is it realistic to expect most people with autism to accomplish what you have?
Autism is a very big continuum. At the one end you've got somebody that's going to remain nonverbal and have problems... If you work with them and train them, they can do simple things... living skills like dressing themselves, feeding and shopping.
At the other end of the continuum... you get into the mild, Asperger type ... We called them geeks and nerds. They're the ones that might be good at science but they're not very social. And a lot of those people, they run Silicon Valley.
Well, that's not true. I have emotions... but they're not complicated. They're simple. I can be really happy, really angry, really sad. When kids teased me, it hurt a whole lot.
Q. The HBO movie shows how at 16, you visited your aunt's cattle ranch in Arizona and discovered you had a lot in common with animals. Describe how you got the idea to build your own "hug machine."
(When I was little) I couldn't stand to be touched. I wanted the nice feeling of being hugged... but it was sort of like a tidal wave of stimulation... When I got into puberty, I started having horrendous anxiety attacks. My nervous system was looking for danger when there was no danger.
(At the ranch), I watched cattle go into the squeeze chute... It holds cattle still for veterinary work... Some of the cattle just kind of relaxed. So I got in the squeeze chute with the cattle, and I found that pressure calmed me... I invented a device very much like a squeeze chute...
(My mother) wanted to get me out doing different things... A lot of autistic kids don't want to do new stuff... You've got to encourage them.
Q. You're described as a visual thinker. What does that mean?
The movie does a very good job of showing how my mind works in pictures... There's a scene where a whole bunch of shoes come up in rapid succession... That's how I think. Imagine a PowerPoint presentation and you just click through the slides really quick.
Q. You have said you credit autism for your achievements. Can you explain?
I think autism helped me in my work with animals. I'm an extreme visual thinker. Also I think very much in details. Animals think in details, think in pictures, think in audio clips, think in touch sensation. They don't think in language... (A cow) is going to recall a picture of something that's good or bad. A feed truck - that's something good. A certain man wearing a striped shirt is bad because he hit (the cow) in the past. That's how an animal responds to things.
Q. In recent years, many parents have blamed vaccines for causing autism. That theory has been discredited by recent research. What do you think?
There's one study that still hasn't been done. There's a type of autism where the child gets language... can say a few words... and then loses it. There's a regression at about 18 months or 2 years. That subgroup needs to be studied separately. Until that study is done, the book is not closed.
Q. So you think it's possible vaccines could play a role?
I'm leaving that open. That study has to be done. I've brought that up with some of the top experts and they get very silent. That's all I'm going to say about it.
Q. What kind of feedback are you getting from the movie and your books?
People write me e-mails and things like that, and they tell me that they've been encouraged. I had one mother write to me and say "My son went to college because of your book." That makes me really happy.
Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/10/18/1771354/living-the-autistic-life.html#ixzz12rGyClOO
I think that there has not been proven a direct link between vaccines and autism. If everyone stopped taking the vaccines, we would have wild outbreaks of some dreaded disease at precisely the moment in history when we can least afford for that to happen. (By that I mean folks like myself going uninsured and not getting medical care until their problem has gone on for far too long and it's too late). I am not sure what I have, weather it's Aspberger's or autism or exactly what, but my brain certainly does work differently than other people's. It would be truly great if I could get Temple's email address as I am going on medication soon and I would love to be in contact with her. Thanks.
Posted by: Nina M Gregory | November 14, 2010 at 10:18 PM
I'm actually surprised that Temple Grandin apparently has such support at AofA. According to a review of one of her books at Amazon it was Temple who "has transformed autism from being an unfortunate disability to being an enviable advantage that many of us would give anything to experience." It was Temple who first suggested that Bill Gates and Einstein had autism, and that without the autism gene she said, we would all be "standing around in a cave chatting and socializing and not getting anything done", and according to Temple it was a guy with Aspergers who invented the first spear.
Maybe without Temple's input we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now with the "mild Aspergers types.. the geeks and nerds on the other end of the continuum", and the self-diagnosed, bullying parents who are desperately trying to recover their regressed children with the severe disabilities they've acquired.
This, in my opinion, is the best thing Temple has ever said:
"There's a regression at about 18 months or 2 years. That subgroup needs to be studied separately."
Posted by: ATSC | October 26, 2010 at 08:37 PM
Temple is a role model for those like me to aspire to!
I look to her and all she does for her fellows on the spectrum and there I see my marching orders!
For the first time ever my state is finally looking to us young adults on the spectrum and realizing one thing: That 1-150 of '94 are graduating, and there is NOTHING there to help them or catch them!
Anyone who doesn't think this is a crisis is insane! My state is finally seeing this. And I am more than ready with ideas and designs I have been working on for years now for just what services would do wonders for the most ignored side of the spectrum, those with AS!
It's been an up hill battle but they are finally beginning to wake up to the fact that AS is not just a medical term for the quirky geeks who run large companies. It is a disability, and can be a very dibilitating one. And those with it are falling through the cracks in massive numbers!
Because of Temple, I took the inspiration to make the invisable finally visable! And with teaming with parents, like yourselves, we are finally starting to get people's attention.
So Thank God for Temple Grandin!!!
Posted by: Theodora Trudorn | October 25, 2010 at 10:18 AM
Temple Grandin is an inspiration but the sad part of this story is that most children with autism will never be able to accomplish anything close to her capacity, unless they are treated with biomedical therapies, and unfortunately that is not the majority.
Temple can raise awareness about biomedical therapies however she can't speak openly regarding the vaccines causation because it would immediately get her kicked out of mainstream autism recognition and support. I am thinking that perhaps she may feel that she cannot risk her position since then she could be prevented from doing all of the wonderful work that she does.
Temple has my admiration for making this statement which tells me that she does recognize the vaccines connection:
"There's a regression at about 18 months or 2 years. That subgroup needs to be studied separately. Until that study is done, the book is not closed.
Q. So you think it's possible vaccines could play a role?
I'm leaving that open. That study has to be done. I've brought that up with some of the top experts and they get very silent. That's all I'm going to say about it."
Obviously the top experts who "get very silent" is a major statement in itself in that these people also know the truth about the vaccines but they are going to keep their mouths shut for the sake of thier careers and the almighty dollar. Temple on the other hand, is wise in not risking her ability to represent the interests of the autism community in the many other ways that she has volunteered her services and support.
Posted by: Autism Grandma | October 21, 2010 at 02:43 PM
VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM
"Let the PharmaWhores get angry! Their time will come. This nightmare of vaccine-induced diseases is ENTIRELY of their creation. Vaccine madness must stop!"
I could not have said it better myself Patron99
VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM
Posted by: WILLIE | October 21, 2010 at 03:46 AM
From "across the pond":- I've posted this before on another related topic but here goes - About twelve years ago my 'normal' son was being treated for a 'normal' childhood condition. The locum doctor asked me for details of the health of the other children. My brief explanation of my ASD daughter's descent into regressive autism and my belief that the MMR caused/triggered that descent was greeted with the words, "You're an intelligent woman, Mrs X, you know this sort of thing happens."
If you want to silence any doctor and make them hurriedly change the subject, just add that you have dated camcorder footage showing a normally developing child.
I'm still waiting for someone, anyone, to have the courage(foolhardiness?) to clinically examine the subset of children who develop normally. As Temple Grandin said, "Until that study is done, the book is not closed".
Posted by: ElizaCassandra | October 20, 2010 at 06:59 PM
Having recently attended a two day seminar featuring Temple, I am amazed at her tenacity and ongoing advocacy for the autism community. She understands her role and is more than willing to create awareness and "speak for our kids". I learn more in an hour of her lectures than in hundreds of hours of therapists comments. They are just guessing...whereas she truly knows them.
I do wish there was more discussion on biomedical approaches she encourages parents to do, such as the GFCF diet, like she did at the Illinois conference.
Thank god there are people like Temple who shed light on our children and encourage parents to do everything possible to help them.
Posted by: Jacey Capurso | October 20, 2010 at 05:49 PM
Soon after we began our autism journey I attended an engagement where Temple Grandin was the speaker. She was not dismissive of a possible vaccine connection for some children then and it appears to date she has not been convinced otherwise. Temple has contributed in many ways to the autism community and science/animal studies and I do not feel she needs to be a spokesperson for the vaccine-autism link.
Posted by: samaxtics | October 20, 2010 at 05:38 PM
I agree that as a scientist, Dr. Grandin likely does have an opinion about vaccines. However, she does not wish to share her opinion and she is entitled to that. As an autistic woman who has likely endured enough criticism and cruelty to last a lifetime, she may not want to open herself up to that again. Battling the vaccine fight is not easy even for the bravest and she has a right to protect herself from the kind of abuse heaped on those who try reveal the truth about vaccines. And as for being coy, since Dr. Grandin is autistic, she likely isn't capable of it. I think she's just being honest. She doesn't want to share her opinion. And as autism advocates, we should respect that.
Posted by: Concerned Mom | October 20, 2010 at 02:38 PM
Since the media likes to talk about Temple Grandin, they should also be interested in this woman's opinion on link between vaccines and autism.
Anytime I find an article about her, I'm going to post her comments about a link to vaccines.
Anne Dachel Media
Posted by: Anne McElroy Dachel | October 20, 2010 at 02:25 PM
Our lives have changed completely since our
son's regression into severe Autism triggered
by vaccines... The five years since we have
learned and grown... We look toward Temple
as a success model that we can hope for our
son's future.. He now has language and
we can see his skills emerging... Hope is what
her message means to us!!!
Posted by: Kyle and Annette van dyke | October 20, 2010 at 01:22 PM
Temple Grandin is a huge blessing for the autism community. I am so grateful for her interview and on going efforts.
Posted by: Lisa @ TACA | October 20, 2010 at 01:00 PM
Yes I have 1 child with Regressive Autism and one with INFANTILE Autism...it is not the same trigger!!
Posted by: Kathy | October 20, 2010 at 12:49 PM
Bob Moffitt - "we all know how mean-spirited "top experts" can get when they are "angered" by someone who dares ask "inconvenient questions" of them."
VERY TRUE! But at this point, there are enough "real” experts, many of whom are more qualified than these so-called, self-annointed “top experts”, that have seen the truth behind pharma’s vaccination agenda and the harm being wrought upon the public by that agenda. The “real” experts have started to weigh-in on this topic.
Let the PharmaWhores get angry! Their time will come. This nightmare of vaccine-induced diseases is ENTIRELY of their creation. Vaccine madness must stop!
Posted by: patrons99 | October 20, 2010 at 12:45 PM
I'm sure as a scientist she has her own opinon on the matter, and I wish she would just come out and say it. We are in the middle of a holocaust and it is no time to be coy.
Posted by: julie | October 20, 2010 at 10:33 AM
"...the book is not closed." Amen to that.
Posted by: Harry H. | October 20, 2010 at 09:41 AM
Just goes to prove that these experts are frauds and deep within them they know it.
They know that to be a true expert you have to live it or very close to ti.
Not only live with it, but also have the ability to observe the natural process of things.
Observe things like after a vaccine a child 18 months to 2 years -becomes ill. In our case however, it was a nine month old that was walking and jabbering all over the place - stopped and regressed.
Easier to hide the younger babies - than older.
Of course my son only made it to the nine month old marker walking and talking because I delayed. Too bad I was not smart enough to tell the ped to shove it up his rear.
Posted by: Benedetta | October 20, 2010 at 09:23 AM
I greatly appreciated Temple Grandin's carefully guarded comments regarding her opinion on the "role vaccines may play in causing autism".
Ms. Grandin: "I brought that up with some of the top experts and they get very silent. That's all I am going to say about it"
If history is our guide .. when "top experts get very silent" it may be an indication they have been "angered" .. and .. we all know how mean-spirited "top experts" can get when they are "angered" by someone who dares ask "inconvenient questions" of them.
Dr. Wakefield comes to mind.
Posted by: Bob Moffitt | October 20, 2010 at 06:40 AM