Temple Grandin in Saskatoon to give lecture on autism

Renowned animal expert and autism advocate Temple Grandin says people with autisim and similar conditions need help so they can contribute to society.

Her own experience with autism has helped her in her profession.

Well known autism advocate and animal scientist is lecturing at TCU Place. (Josh Lynn)

Temple Grandin wants to make sure people whose minds are wired differently have an opportunity to contribute to society.

It's a subject the internationally recognized advocate for people living with autism and accomplished animal scientist will discuss at a lecture tonight at TCU Place. The event is part of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine's launch of a new animal welfare fund. 

Grandin, who is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, credits her own experience with autism with helping her stand out in her field.

"I think in pictures, and when I was really young in my twenties, that helped me in my work with animals ... [they] don't think in verbal language," said Grandin, during an interview on CBC's Saskatoon Morning. 

"I noticed cattle would balk at a shadow, balk at a hose on the ground, balk at a car next to a fence, other people weren't seeing this and I couldn't understand why they weren't seeing something that was so obvious to me, and I finally figured out I think differently," Grandin said. "I'm an extreme visual thinker."

Half of Silicone Valley has got mild autism.- Temple Grandin

According to Grandin, one of the problems kids face once they are diagnosed with autism or a similar condition is over-generalization.

"You've got a huge spectrum — everything from Einstein, Steve Jobs, who was a weird loner who brought snakes to school, to somebody who cannot dress themselves," she said.

"Another problem I see when kids get a label like autism, dyslexia, or whatever: [they get] a 'handicapped' mentality," Grandin said. "They're not learning working skills. I'm seeing too many smart, quirky kids getting addicted to video games and they're not having good outcomes." 

Jobs as teen beneficial 

An early introduction to working as a teenager is something Grandin feels was key to her success later in life, getting her to socialize and learn self-discipline.

"I'm hearing too often, 'he's 21 and I can't get him out of the basement.' When I was 13, [my] mother got me a sewing job, and when I was 15, I was cleaning horse stalls," Grandin said.

It isn't uncommon for her to receive letters from grateful parents whose children have gone on to excel with the help of her advice. It's something she finds extremely satisfying. 

"I want to see these kids that are different get out and be successful." Grandin said. "You know, half of Silicone Valley has got mild autism."

"But when you talk to human resources people [there], they'll go, 'oh, we know that, be we don't talk about it.'"


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