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Meeting Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University with a degree in psychology and both Masters and Doctoral degrees in animal science. She is incredibly well-known for “her design for a humane livestock restraint system now used on nearly half [of] the cattle in the U.S.” (Temple Grandin, Ph.D.). She created this system by using her experience as an autistic person. She is also “a prominent author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior” (Temple Grandin, Ph.D.). On March 2nd, the University of Windsor welcomed Dr. Grandin as a keynote speaker during the 5th Annual Accessibility Awareness Day.

Temple: When I was working with cattle in the 1970s, there were no women working with them out in the field. It was very male dominated. The whole thing with the bull’s testicles being left on my car was true (Temple is referring to the incident in the HBO movie about her life). It really happened. Women should still get involved with field work.

Rachel: How do you think today’s event went?

Temple: I think today went very well. I think that people gained a lot from it. I’ve spoken to NASA, the APA, Autism Groups, all kinds of people, and it’s different every time. When I talked to the scientists at NASA, it was all about seeing things from another perspective.

After speaking about our experience of being on the autism spectrum, Temple said:

I always find that for me, engineering came first, autism second. A lot people are being dominated by labels these days. Don’t get me wrong, labels aren’t a bad thing, but people are being entirely defined by them. I want to know more about a person. Like you: you’re a journalist first, autistic second. That tells me something about you.

Rachel: This semester, one of my professors, Dr. Jennifer Willet, has encouraged students to break out of their comfort zones. Specifically, she’s been having science students and visual arts students work together. What do you think of that?

Temple: That’s great! I think that having a mixture of minds and a mixture of thinkers is very important. For example, Steve Jobs was an artist. A creative person thought of a better way to organize a phone and he got engineers to find a way to make the insides work. When I spoke to the scientists after the meltdown of the Japan Fukushima reactors, I thought, knowing nothing about nuclear power, that if my cooling system didn’t work, I would want to make sure that it did before anything else! And I certainly wouldn’t want to put it underground near the sea. But the scientists just didn’t think of the water coming in because it never occurred to them. We have to have people who think in different ways to collaborate. In my novel, “The Autistic Brain,” I talk about the autistic mind thinking in visual ways. We are very visual thinkers so I call it thinking in pictures.

It’s also important to change the language you use to change the way you think. When we talk about a building in engineering, we talk in medical terms. We refer to pipes as veins and arteries or a motor as a heart. Language is a powerful thing and it’s important to change the language you use to get in a different frame of mind.  

Dr. Temple Grandin thanked me at the end of the interview and told me to pass along the message that if you want to learn more about her, besides her books and the HBO movie, her scholarly articles are only a Google search away.

Works Cited:
Grandin, Temple. Temple Grandin, Ph.D. RDC Design Group, 2012. http://www.templegrandin.com/. 3 March 2017.


I am one of the Campus Correspondents for Her Campus UWindsor. I am enrolled in English & Creative Writing and Visual Arts. Art, music, and writing are my obsessions! But my heart also belongs to books and big dogs.
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