I first learned of Temple Grandin because of her powerful
advocacy work for animals and her autism. The little bit I read made
me want to know more. I was thrilled to discover Sy Montgomery's
Temple Grandin: How The Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and
Changed The World.
Temple was born when autism was not the household word it is
today. The name had just been coined seven years before her
diagnosis. Even though today we still understand this condition very
poorly, we know a lot more now than we did back then.
Although Temple was brilliant she was different. Sensations
that were ordinairy for other people (the sound of a bell ringing, the
scratchiness of a garment, the smell of perfume) were magnified to the
point of torture for her. She didn't cuddle or laugh or play in a way
similar to other children. Her speech was delayed. Her father
thought she was retarded and should be institutionalized. Back then
that was the fate of too many children considered too different to
live in the real world.
Fortunately for Temple, her mother would have no part of that.
She became an advocate for her daughter. Schools were carefully chosen
for their potential as havens. Classmates were taught about her
differences. Unlike many kids then who were shut off in rooms for
"retards," usually in school basements, or bullied and ostracized in
regular classes, she was able to fit in, belong, and achieve.
As an adult, Temple was able to put unique insights to use to
improve conditions for animals. For example, she designed cattle
chutes that hurt or terrify cows. Half the cattle in the United
States now benefit from her research. The woman whose own father
considered her retarded and wanted to surrender her custody to an
institution has awards from institutions ranging from the Beef Council
to the Humane Society. How cool is that? Her story is well worth
On a personal note, I tried out for and got a part in Orono Community
Theater's production of Our Town. Other than the church Christmas
pageant I was drafted into I hadn't acted since before kids. (RSU
doesn't count.) As much as I love acting, if it wasn't for Darcie's
intervention, I wouldn't have had the self confidence to go for it.
A great big shout out goes out to the people who are wired
"differently" who, despite the prejudices of other people they must
overcome, make important contributions to our world.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod