By Christopher Hartwell @SILIENCESEEN
The crowd was surrounded in din of conversation all around awaiting Temple Grandin.
When Ernie Jones stepped onto the stage to introduce Grandin, the crowd went silent.
He stated that he would like to introduce “a person who needs no introduction.”
And as Temple Grandin took the stage as the audience went into an uproarious applause.
Grandin, for those unfamiliar, is famous for her work as a leading spokesperson for Autism and her work with cows. Her achievements are complementary to her fame.
What truly sets Temple Grandin apart is how different, yet relatable, to the average person she really is.
In her own words, Grandin said “When I was a little kid, I had severe autism, I had speech delayed until I was 4.”
She went on further to explain her differences from the average person by saying “When I was young I thought everybody thought in picture, I thought everybody thought exactly the way I thought. It was really interesting for me to learn that not everybody thought exactly the way I think.”
This was highlighted by her slideshow where the scans of a normal brain were compared with her brain. It was obvious to see major differences in the visual cortex between the two different brains.
A different brain meant that her way of think about things was very different.
Her point was that differences in how people think is one of the most important things about society today.
Grandin portrayed the side of these differences, and explained conflicts she has witnessed herself.
Grandin said “Out in the world there’s a lot of conflicts. The techies who work in the fields can’t stand the suits in the office. Us techies used to call the suits stupid. That’s what I did until I was in my twenties, it’s not exactly a good thing to be doing. Then I discovered, some of these conflicts are differences in the way that people think.”
From there, the lecture took the audience in an entirely different direction from the way society has looked at autism and the differences of thinking.
Grandin spoke strongly about the importance of neuro-diversity through her words, saying, “I get asked all the time about curing autism. If you got rid of all autism, you wouldn’t have a silicon valley.”
She continued stating, “I just gave a talk at Colorado state to our incoming freshmen honors students, they are about 75% STEM fields, engineering, biomedical, computers, electrical engineering, all that kind of stuff. Well, let me tell you, plenty of kids on the spectrum there!”
She knew that without a difference in thinking, we would not have inventors, entrepreneurs, or computer programmers.
What Grandin saw as the real problem in today’s world was not Autism, but rather the lack of understanding of different ways of thinking.
The lack of understanding has not been helped by the over the generalized labels that are used. She described that in the past, autistic kids were not seen as autistic. “Back in the fifties, they were what we called geeks and nerds.” she said.
Grandin explained that with all types of thinking, especially in autistic people, the best way to make a change is, “You give them choices, you can do a sport or you can do robotics or you can do theatre or you can do some other thing, you give them some choices! Staying at home and playing video games? Nuh-uh!”
She went on saying, “These kids are not going anywhere, and they get awful outcomes, then they end up on social security when they should be doing something a whole lot better than that!”
When a parent asked about how their child are to navigate today’s world, Grandin made a comparison, stating that “If you park a concrete truck in the middle of the road, when the police come around you should ask them to direct traffic for you. That’s what I learned from doing contracting in Cincinnati Ohio in 1980.”
Likewise, with children, the problem is often that of society accepting them, not the other way around.
Grandin best explained this, saying “There really needs to be teachers and the parents working together for these kids. I think it’s too bad that just because a kid is a little quirky he gets a label.”
Temple Grandin had a way with people, making her lecture and presentation gripping, relatable, and eye-opening also allowing the crowd to engage in a way that few speakers have the capability of doing.
With this being one of the many things that makes Grandin “different”, she knows that differences in how people think are what makes our world so special.