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Dr. Temple Grandin, Autism, and How Animals Make Us Human

Updated on November 26, 2013

Animal Specialist and Genius

Temple Grandin combines a history of effective teaching skills, maximizing human potentials, industrial design, and cattle ranching to show us how to advocate for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and for animals of many species.

Her recent lectures are incredible accounts of how she accomplished unexpected and useful design and teaching methods that help people, livestock, and pets. Animal therapy and companionship have been successful in helping lessen the symptoms of a range of physical and psychological conditions, but Temple Grandin facilitates people and animals helping one another.

An Autistic Genius

Temple Grandin, PhD has been called the most accomplished person with autism in the world. She credits close educational mentoring with her parents from an early age, the accumulation of life experiences that she retains mentally and accesses like an Internet repository, and her development of her own characteristic "thinking in pictures" in choosing a career in industrial design applied in animal science. She also advocates problem-solving education and play time for children at an early age, and focusing on each child's natural inclinations in talents and gifts and developing those.

One on one attention and education from parents are vital to an autistic child and Dr. Grandin received that from her own parents in the late 1940s and 1950s. A college freshman I know received this as well, even though doctors at his birth said he would need to be immediately institutionalized with autism. The parental attention, along with small class size in his schools K-12, and extra attention from his church all helped very much in making him symptom free today in 2011. His four dogs also helped, just as working with horses helped Temple Grandin as a teen. Austin and Dr. Grandin are both geniuses.

This reminds me of the original language, Hebrew version of the Old Testament scripture in the Book Proverbs (a book of treachings about how to live among people):

PROVERBS 22:6 -- Give instruction to a youth about his way, Even when he is old he turneth not from it. Young's Literal Translation into English.

This verse does not mean to force a child to fit a mold or dscipline or a morally correct way, but to train him or her in identified natural abilities to achieve success. Parents need ot be able to see each child's talents and potentials, much like recongnizing those of the Multiple Intelligences a child demonstrates (usually three).

Temple Grandin (2010), Starring Claire Danes

Food and Dining Industry Changes

The HBO cable TV movie about Dr. Grandin's life in 2010 won seven Emmy Awards. The world of ranching and the livestock of America won in a bigger way. Fast Food Nationwell illustrated in book and film how horrible the livestock raising and slaughterhouse industry of America has been. Dr. Temple Grandin work in ranching/livestock handling systems design and audited livestock handling and slaughter of cattle used by McDonald's and Wendy's in the 1970s and 1980s and was able to bring about useful and humane changes as well as healthier animal products for consumption. She advocates free range livestock raising.

Dr. Grandin also helped to bring the livestock squeeze shute into a better final design. She spent time with horses and on an aunt's ranch in high school and saw a squeeze shute used to hold and calm an animal for veterinary examination. She was able to refine the design for greater effectiveness in her work as an industrial designer.

In addition, Grandin designed a padded edition for her own home use, since deep pressure helps to calm her so that she may think more effectively. Deep pressure is found by occupational therapists to aid Asperger's clients and others by calming down the mind and body so that sensory messages that are not being processed can make more sense.

Next Animals to Help

Dr. Grandin points out in her lectures and books that chickens need help now. Some of the living conditions on egg farms are very poor and abusive. In fact, one large egg farm was closed by the US Dept. of Agriculture in Central Ohio recently.

Chickens that are bred and treated to become prolific egg layers can become agitated and cannibalistic. Dr. Grandin feels that breeding for one characteristic such as egg-laying in chickens or an appearance trait in dogs will weaken the species, shorten life spans, and allow diseases and conditions to proliferate.


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      She's fascinating to me and the ways in which she connect the animal world with the human are indeed inspiring.

    • TrahnTheMan profile image


      9 years ago from Asia, Oceania & between

      Temple Grandin 's journey is inspiring at both a personal level and for her contribution to science and understanding of psychosis. Thanks for the great read.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Now, that's an intriguing title I'll look for - thanks for the tip.

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 

      9 years ago from US

      I love Temple's books, and was fortunate enough to hear her speak at Duke. I highly recommend her mother's book, Thorn in My Pocket, for a "bird's eye" view!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation


    • NateSean profile image


      10 years ago from Salem, MA

      Temple Grandin is proof that people are not defined by the labels we are given, but by the choices we make and the accomplishments we achieve.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I can't thak you all ENOUGH for your great comments! I really felt fortunate to hear some of Dr. Grandin's lectures and then to see her on YouTube.

    • Purple Perl profile image

      Esther Shamsunder 

      10 years ago from Bangalore,India

      Interesting read, Patty. Particularly helpful for all parents of autistic children.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      10 years ago from London, UK

      I have never heard of Dr. Temple Grandin and therefore it was twice as interesting and informative. Thank you for writing such a great hub.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Maria Giunta 

      10 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I heard about Dr Grandin whilst researching some of my hubs on Autism and Aspergers, she is amazing as you have shown in this hub. Anyone that helps the cause to make life with Autism 'easier' deserves praise and not only does Dr Grandin have the condition she has used her skills with animals and design to serve others. Awesome, thanks Patty for highlighting a truly great lady.

    • stars439 profile image


      10 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Wonderful Hub. GBY

    • profile image

      Gigi Thibodeau 

      10 years ago

      What a great topic for a hub. I admire Temple Grandin's work tremendously, and I'm interested to hear that she is now advocating better practices for breeding and raising chickens. Thanks for this informative piece!

    • gypsumgirl profile image


      10 years ago from Vail Valley, Colorado

      Thank you for a great hub! I fully believe in using animals for a range of therapies, including autism. I think it's good for both the animal and the human. I wrote a hub for the animal HubMob this week on Equine Therapy. Didn't think of cows in the therapeutic context.

      Kudos to Grandin!

      I truly enjoyed your hub!

    • viking305 profile image

      L M Reid 

      10 years ago from Ireland

      I saw Dr. Grandin's life story on tv and it was amazing what this woman has done with her own life and how she has helped others. Great hub and hopefully a lot more people will now become aware of her story

    • susannah42 profile image


      10 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for sharing this informaton. I have a son who is autistic. Although he does seem to respond to animals, his conditiona is severe and he has not had any breakthrough.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      10 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Temple Grandin's story and accomplishments are awe-inspiring. What she has done and continues to do to help animals is wonderful.

      Everyone in the world could help stop the cruelty to animals that is inherent in factory farms if they would stop eating meat, or at least, so much of it. I know that, realistically, most individuals are not going to embrace the vegan lifestyle. However, just choosing not to eat meat three or four days a week, or to purchase only fresh eggs from small farmers where one can SEE they are grain-fed and roam range-free (rather than to actually trust those phrases on commercial product packaging) would be a step in the right direction. The USDA in the U.S. does not exist to prevent cruelty to animals or even to protect citizens from the harm from food. It exists to protect the beef, poultry and pork industries. my soapbox now! Thanks for the good hub. JAYE

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for commenting, Ruby, fuscia and KKG!

      Horses provide some sort of gentle vivid power for these kids, KKG and I envy your experiences. We had a couple kids speak for the first time in martial arts classes, the power of movements and repetitive structure helping complete sensory processing. It's like a miracle - the birth of a baby is another example of this the of awe, where nurses say they can feel life coming into the infant.

    • fucsia profile image


      10 years ago

      She is a great woman. Thanks for sharing her story: it demonstrates that despite difficulties we can do the difference.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      10 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Great hub Patty. We have had some luck with autistic children when pairing them with horses. It is amazing to see the difference an animal can make in a child's life. Especially one that has autism. I heard a little girl speak for the first time after she rode a particulr pony a couple of times. When she came back to ride again the aide tried to put her on a pony that was not familiar. She yelled out the ponies name. Of course, she was placed promptly on the pony of her choice. It was a great day.

    • Ruby Benjamin profile image

      Ruby Benjamin 

      10 years ago

      Great hub. I love Temple Grandin's story. It's a great idea for a hub and well-thought out!


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