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Emmy Winner: Temple Grandin
Who is Temple Grandin?
Last night I did something I haven’t done in years, I stayed up to watch the annual Emmy Awards. It is the 62nd year for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to bestow favor on a lucky individual or group who have earned the coveted recognition, and in general it did not hold my attention. That is, not until Claire Danes accepted the Best Leading Actress Award for Temple Grandin, an HBO film that was aired this past February and released on DVD August 17th.
In my ignorance I thought Temple Grandin was a place and wondered where it was located. I quickly became intrigued as Claire, a sylph dressed in a dazzling silver gown, accepted her award. Included in her acceptance speech was an acknowledgement to the Temple Grandin, the person behind the film’s story.
What caught my attention, more than Claire’s words, was the delightful exuberance of Ms. Grandin as she stood and waved to the sophisticated ‘important’ people of the entertainment business, decked out in their gowns and tuxedos, while she was dressed simply in dark pants and a rodeo shirt of black, white and red. She looked as if she had just stepped out of a rodeo performance, pleased she had scored high on the bull riding event, so clear was her joy.
I had to smile and puzzle to myself, “Who is this person?”
My curiosity increased as I continued to note the film’s success. It had been awarded a variety of categories, seven in all, and held a total of 15 nominations. So, in order to satisfy my growing interest I decided to dig up some information about Temple Grandin , the person, and was met with much more than I could have ever dreamed. This 63 year old woman has led a fascinating life. Here are some of the highlights:
Big Winner at the 2010 Emmy Awards
Grandin's early autistic years
Born in 1947, in Boston, Massachusetts, Temple was the daughter of Richard Grandin, a real estate agent, and Eustacia Cutler, wife and mother who later became an actress, singer and author. When Temple Grandin was two years old she had not started talking. Not wanting to become alarmed when she observed the differences between her daughter and other toddlers her age, Temple’s mother continued to remain in optimistic denial until it was too obvious to ignore.
At age four, Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism, a neurological disorder that results in the child disconnecting with the environment around her, and turning inward to her own world. In the 1950’s little was known about autism, and it was suggested by medical professionals to institutionalize her. However, her mother opposed this decision believing that locking her daughter away was not the right thing to do. Instead, she was brought to a neurologist who suggested tools to aid in her development, including a speech therapist.
A nanny was hired to work with Temple engaging her in interactive games of categorization and thinking. Since Temple was not able to conceptualize language in the same way as other children, she created her own association of concepts through placing them in categories that she could visualize. Temple had a visual type of autism and ‘saw’ pictures in her mind which she drew from her memory. In fact, until much older, she thought this was a normal occurrence and that everyone thought in pictures.
Quote from Temple Grandin about autism:
“You have got to keep autistic children engaged with the world. You cannot let them tune out." Temple Grandin
Movie Clip: Temple speaks out
Scene from Temple Grandin: Student & Teacher
The Animal Connection
In her early school days she was supported by teachers who worked well with her special needs. Once she was in middle and high school her educational experiences were more traumatic. She describes herself as a nerd and recalls being teased by other children because she repeated words aloud to herself.
Her mother eventually placed her in a boarding school with the hope that she would get the attention she needed for her special needs while decreasing the amount of ridicule from other students. There she formed a special bond with Dr. Carlock, her science teacher, who became her mentor. He encouraged her to attend college.
While attending Hampshire Country School, she would ride horses and felt at ease around them. Prone to panic attacks she began spending summers on her aunt’s ranch in Arizona. She took part in the handling of the livestock, including the cattle, and discovered she had an affinity for animals. It was while she was observing the branding of the cattle in the squeeze chute that she became curious about how it held the livestock tightly in place during the procedure.
Having the affliction of not wanting to be touched by others, yet needing to be held, she invented for herself a type of squeeze chute she named the squeeze machine, or hug machine. It was a contraption that allowed her to self hug. She was eighteen and had created her first invention.
Animal Science Improvements
Her work on her aunt’s ranch during her teen summers resulted in a connection with animalsthat she did not have with people. Realizing that animals and autism were similar in that they shared the same fears and anxieties of being misunderstood, she was able to conceptualize a better system for livestock going into the slaughterhouses.
She redesigned the path that cattle and pigs would take to the slaughter area and thus created a calmer, more humane experience for animals being raised for food. This method has earned her international recognition as well as over half a dozen awards.
An Interview with Temple Grandin
Books of Interest
Education and Awards
Temple’s vita includes many degrees, fellows, and awards. Temple graduated with honors in 1970 from Franklin Pierce College, Rindge, New Hampshire with a B.A. in Psychology; 1975 from Arizona State University with a M.S. in Animal Science; and in 1989 from the University of IL at Urbana-Champaign with her PhD. In 2009 she was named a fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, and in May of 2010, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Duke University, North Carolina.
This award winning woman, autistic from birth, has been an entrepreneur, consultant, researcher, inventor, scientist, advocate for autism and animal welfare, activist, philosopher, and currently holds a teaching position at the Colorado State University.
The author of many books, including her autobiography, her amazing life story was written as a screenplay and presented to executive producer Emily Gerson Saines, herself a mother of an autistic child. Although it took ten years it was a project in process with a beautiful ending.
Winning the Emmy award for the Best Television Movie, it well deserves the recognition. As Grandin joined the cast and producers on stage she embraced Emily and waved back to the audience. How very serendipitous that the award was presented on her 63rd birthday. What a birthday to remember.
“I feel like a kid in Disneyland.” Temple Grandin.
Watch the inspirational clips of Temple Grandin , or purchase the DVD from HBO. I guarantee you that you will be moved by her struggles and her accomplishments.
Temple Grandin- Making the Movie
Best Leading Actress in Miniseries or Movie
The Emmy Awards for Temple Grandin
Best Leading Actress for a Miniseries or Movie: Claire Danes, (Temple)
Best Supporting Actor: David Strathairn, (Dr. Carlock)
Best Supporting Actress: Julia Ormond, (Temple’s mother)
Best Directing: Mick Jackson
Best Television Movie: Temple Grandin , (HBO)
Best Music Composition for a Miniseries or Movie
Best Single Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or Movie.