by Lisa Sisley on September 10, 2010

(Actually, not even that many, more like ONE!)

OK, so if you saw the Emmys the other night, you saw that the HBO movie Temple Grandin did really well, winning a bunch of awards. I’m too cheap to subscribe to HBO so haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll Netflix the movie. The thing is, I briefly worked with Temple Grandin, Ph.D., autism and Asperger’s spokesperson, designer of livestock handling facilities, and professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Several years ago, I copyedited a veterinary medicine textbook (Beef Practice: Cow-Calf Production Medicine) to which she contributed a chapter.

I knew who Dr. Grandin was before we talked on the phone for a couple of hours one night about her chapter. She has written several books about growing up and living with autism, and I read An Anthropologist on Mars, by Oliver Sacks, which features her. Dr. Grandin, who didn’t speak until she was nearly four and whose parents were advised to institutionalize her, copes very, very
well without being able to read the moods and social cues of other people. How she manages is fascinating – for instance, she can memorize a social exchange, and then recall the memory years later when she finds herself in a similar situation, in order to react appropriately. She parlayed the unique way her mind works into a satisfying professional life – she uses her amazing spatial sense and memory to visualize and design humane, efficient livestock-handling facilities, for which she is world-renowned and about which she has lectured at K-State.

So take a look at the movie, or read one of Dr. Grandin’s books (Manhattan Public Library has several by her). Nobody wishes autism on anybody else; after reading about Temple Grandin, nobody can say that an autism diagnosis must automatically limit your potential. Good stuff, so check it out.