“Nature is cruel, but we don't have to be." -Temple Grandin
Jan. 11, 2023
Many people think of Temple Grandin as one of the greatest advocates for individuals with autism. As a high functioning person with autism, she is the first to write and talk about her disability in a way that neurotypical people can understand. With a successful career in animal behavior, livestock handling design and as a university professor, she has used her platform to tell her story about living a full life not despite her autism, but because of it. That is enough to make anyone regard her as a hero. However, the reason I admire Temple Grandin is because she does not profess to know how to “cure” autism and she is able to be more candid and practical in her assessment of it than most people. While many professionals cloud diagnoses and treatment with a lot of “mumbo jumbo”, Temple Grandin is able to tell it like it is without being offensive or argumentative. She is able to talk from a place of experience with autism and does not overgeneralize what worked for her to everyone with autism. She is quick to point out that the diagnosis is very broad with many manifestations, and everyone needs to find what works for them. This is very refreshing in a world where parents are inundated by people claiming the ability to cure a disease that does not even have an identified cause. Even while the most educated researchers believe there is a genetic component due to the patterns they see, they cannot identify which genes or combinations of genes are causing the issues or which environmental factors might be triggering these genes. Temple Grandin also emphasizes the importance of finding what works and building on strengths instead of focusing on weaknesses or labels. Labels are essential in order to access funding for services, but their use ends there. It is possible that her disability itself allows her to be able to address the subject with such practicality without offending her audience or having them disregard her opinions. In my experience as a parent, I quickly learned that writing about my son’s weaknesses on a report, ISP, IEP, ETR or progress report did little to change his skills. They assured funding but did not help him progress. It was the time that his teachers, therapists, providers, and loved ones spent working with him that changed his life. This is why I join a chorus of people who believe that Temple Grandin is a hero.