Friday, February 5, 2010

Dr. Temple Grandin

She is probably the most visible autistic person globally, and she is in the news again today as HBO is set to premiere her story, “Temple Grandin” (HBO, premieres Saturday, February 6). If you have a child on the autism spectrum or afflicted with a social communications disability, you probably have come across her name, even if you don’t know a lot about her. I am one of those parents. However, some quick research in the past few weeks as the movie’s buzz accelerated taught me enough about this woman to make me want to learn more.

The movie appears to have been well received in a critics’ preview: the NY Times critic, Alessandra Stanley, remarks that the film “honors its heroine’s priorities, stressing deeds over tearful setbacks and joyous breakthroughs.” In other words, look at what I did – but don’t look at it as a “breakthrough.”

On Dr. Grandin’s website (, she notes "I have read enough to know that there are still many parents, and yes, professionals too, who believe that 'once autistic, always autistic.' This dictum has meant sad and sorry lives for many children diagnosed, as I was in early life, as autistic. To these people, it is incomprehensible that the characteristics of autism can be modified and controlled. However, I feel strongly that I am living proof that they can" (from Emergence: Labeled Autistic).

She has co-authored a book (with Sean Barron, also diagnosed as autistic) called Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships. The summary on the website testifies: “This enlightening and thought-provoking book by two of the leading minds in the field, who themselves have been diagnosed with autism, educates both those on the spectrum and their caregivers. Certain to become a classic, Temple and Sean lead you through their mistakes socially and ways they found to improve their lives.” Had I read this book sooner, I might not be writing here today! On the other hand, had I not started this blog, I might not have come across the book, which is now on my must-read list. My hope is that my son will also want to read it.

Temple Grandin is a tremendously inspiring figure for those affected by these disabilities – children and their parents, adolescents, adults… a paradigm for us all. Now would be a good time to learn more about her, to use her books to show us the road to what is possible.

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