Temple Grandin – Autism Awareness Month

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World

Sy Montgomery, Author

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children,  Biography,  Apr. 3, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 9 and up, Middle Grade

Themes: Austism Spectrum, Differences are gifts, Revolutionizing livestock industry

Sy Montgomery’s captivating children’s biography about Temple Grandin, speaks to children, especially to those who feel different.  It is beautifully crafted and has all the ingredients for a good book with simple chapters, a lot of photographs, informative inserts, and advice for kids with autism.  We meet her mother, her lifelong school friends, and teachers.  (Depending on the child’s age, parents may want to review the graphic details about the cruelty to animals.)   This book belongs in school libraries, as it helps all children understand that abilities may be the result of differences.

For years, Temple, couldn’t speak a word.   Loud noise hurt, ordinary sensations were torture, human voices made little sense and the certain odors prevented her from concentrating.   Sometimes the only way she could communicate was by crying or throwing a tantrum.   Her father wanted to institutionalize her, but her mother refused.   It would be years before she was diagnosed with autism, as she was born in 1947, and little was known.  But her mother found special schools for Temple with teachers and psychologists who knew how to bring her out.  This was surprising, knowing she attended school in the 1950s and 1960s.

Temple saw the world visually — in pictures –much like animals do.  And it was animals that eventually saved Temple and helped her learn to calm herself as a teenager.  While visiting her aunt’s cattle farm, she would go out into the middle of a spacious pasture, lie down and wait for the thousand-pound steers, to curiously circle around her motionless body.  They would walk up and lick Temples face — she was at peace.   She was introduced to a cattle chute where calves were vaccinated.  The calves heads stick out a hole in the gate head, the operator pulls a rope to press side panel against the animal’s side.  It horrified Temple at first, but she observed this squeeze chute calmed the animal.   She decided to try it on herself with her aunt helping, and she suddenly felt calm, secure and peaceful.   She built a squeeze machine for herself when she returned to school, so she could calm herself.   The school psychologist was not happy, but her favorite science teacher supported her.  He suggested they build a better squeeze machine and conduct scientific experiments on other students to see it if helped them relax.  Success!

These early discoveries and a love for animals were the beginning of a long career studying animal-behavior in college and graduate school, that would open the door to her life work of advocating for more the humane treatment of cattle in the livestock industry.  Her breakthrough designs for cruelty-free cattle-handling facilities are used worldwide.  These designs have benefited the cattle, ranchers and slaughterhouses.  And it was her autism that gave her the special insights and skills to make that difference.

I hope parents with children see possibility in Temple Grandin.  She is a strong advocate for autism and works with many young people.   Although she has learned coping skills, she has autism like many famous inventors and scientists who changed the world.  Temple doesn’t want a brain like most other people have.  “A lot of normal people are fuzzy in their thinking,” she says.  “I like the way I think.   Autism is part of who I am.”   Temple uses her experience as an example of the unique contributions that autistic people can make.  You see beauty in her autism.

Today, she is a scientist, professor, lecturer, and author of many books.  She now focuses on the humane treatment facilities for pigs, sheep, goats and chickens.  In 2010, HBO made a TV movie of her life, starring Claire Danes.  It won an Emmy.

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About Patricia Tiltonhttp://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

28 thoughts on “Temple Grandin – Autism Awareness Month

  1. Temple Grandin is an inspirational woman. Her writings, blog and interviews always leave me feeling built up. I am so happy that this well-researched and beautifully written biography is available for Middle Graders, though I suspect YA and adults will enjoy it too. I love how cows and a squeeze machine were keys to her young journey and I love all the work she does on behalf of animal welfare. How we need to hear again and again the value of differences. Great review, Pat. Many thanks!

    • Joanna, I was so happy to find a book for middle grade readers on Temple Grandin. It’s hot off the press. You’re right it could be a YA and adult book. I could not put the book down it was so good! Nothing got in her way. And, I love how she wouldn’t want a “normal mind” because it would be boring. She’s learned how to filter all of the senses that she takes in and focus them — creating a rich world. Parents need to know that kids with autism find ways to cope on their own — found the same thing with Carly Fleischmann — she taught herself “audio filtering.” Yes, and I love that it she used her autism to revolutionize animal welfare. Great book!

  2. What an incredible story. It’s amazing, isn’t it?, how close she came to never being able to do all these things – imagine if her father had won out over her mother. I never knew where the core pressure idea came from – fascinating to learn. And how incredible that she’s learned to cope to the point where she has made so many contributions, and can stand up and lecture, and all the amazing things she does. Thanks so much for sharing, Pat.

    • Susanna, I believe Temple came from strong blood — it took a lot for her mother to stand up to her father, who repeatedly wanted to institutionalize her. I am so glad you liked the review. And, Temple no longer requires her squeeze machine, because she now is able to hug people. Cool!

  3. It is really awesome to see real life stories like this. I think this book will help me too! I like “Temple doesn’t want a brain like most other people have.” I think most people have diffferent brains and think in different ways.

    • Erik, I also liked that she didn’t want a normal brain, as she said it would be boring. She has learn to filter all of the senses that she takes in at one time and focus them — she says it makes her life rich. I think we each have our own unique wiring.

  4. I love this quote from Temple’s incredible mother, Eustacia Cutler. She says: “Temple isn’t ‘cured’ of her autism. She is fulfilled – and she’s fulfilled in the way that SHE wants to be fulfilled. THAT is the goal.”

  5. Hi Pat, this is not the first time that I’ve seen a glowing review of this book. Like what Joanna noted above, I am glad that this is made available to younger kids now – I am more than certain that it would prove to be a thoroughly inspiring read. So beautiful. Your reviews are always very thorough and includes video clips to boot. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    • Myra, this middle grade book was just released April 3. It is inspiring and I couldn’t put it down. I had to share this particular video clip because the interviewer asked the right questions. Thanks for your comments.

    • Michael, her real name was Mary Temple Grandin. She was such a tomboy, that she insisted on being called Temple. She felt it better suited her! And, if you think about it, her chosen name is kind of a paradox of a beautiful mind!

  6. wow! what an inspirational story and such an inspirational woman. It’s hard to believe she managed to come through all she did back then, when less was known about autism. She was very lucky to have people around her who were prepared to focus on her abilities rather than her autism. Her mother was a great influence. Amazing that cattle actually helped her and proved to be the key to proving what she could do in the eyes of others. I watched a bit of the movie but will come back later to watch the rest of it, when time permits. Thankyou very much Pat for a wonderful review.

    • Diane, it is amazing considering the time period she grew up. It may have been an advantage not to have all the labels. Her mother stood strong against the doctors and her husband. She believed in her daughter and did everything to help her. She could identify with animals like cows, because she thought and saw everything in pictures. Hope you watch the movie — it’s outstanding!

  7. Oh my goodness, she’s wonderful! I’ve heard of Temple Grandin, but I’ve never heard her speak. Wonderfully inspirational story.

  8. LOVE THIS! My in-laws bought us the movie for Christmas one year, and I have to admit, I didn’t think I’d like it. Of course, I didn’t even know what it was about. Now… it’s one of my favorite shows. What an amazing person she is. She has an amazing story and ability. Wonderful choice for this post!

    • Leigh, I remember you saying you saw the movie. So did I — I loved it! This book is hot off the press for middle grade students, which is why I selected it for Autism Awareness Month. Finally a book teachers can use with students. I’m glad you liked my choice!

  9. I read articles about her when the movie came out. So glad to see books for early readers on this subject too. Good point about the animal details. It is amazing that her mother was able to find schools for her back then.

    • Stacy, Temple is a little olde than I am, and I remember that time very well. There will special schools for the deaf and blind. Most kids like Temple ended up in institutions. Her mother was a saint and never gave up hope. Today, she’s changed the world.

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