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Emmy Winner: Temple Grandin

Updated on August 23, 2013

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

7 Awards including Best Leading Actress
7 Awards including Best Leading Actress

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

Claire Danes and David Strathairn in: Temple Grandin
Claire Danes and David Strathairn in: Temple Grandin
Claire Danes as Temple Grandin-an autistic scientist & activist
Claire Danes as Temple Grandin-an autistic scientist & activist
Temple Grandin surrounded by the animals she loves.
Temple Grandin surrounded by the animals she loves.

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.

print of the livestock design created by Temple Grandin
print of the livestock design created by Temple Grandin

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

Claire Danes won an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Temple Gradin.
Claire Danes won an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Temple Gradin.

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.


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    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      4 years ago from North Carolina

      It's an intriguing movie, which I highly recommend. I hope you seek it out. I have a copy I'll send you, LOL

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 

      4 years ago from West Virginia

      I've seen previews for this movie at the theater, but haven't seen it yet. From what I've seen in your article, it sounds very interesting.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks-your work on the subject is fascinating. I'm intrigued in reading more about Asp. symptoms and plan on doing so if I can sneak a peak while I'm at work, hee hee.

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Cheers again.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      thewritingowl-thank you for such a kind and enthusiastic review of this hub. You've shared some personal information here that I appreciate knowing. Kudos for you and all that you have accomplished without letting what is different and unique hold you back. I can certainly appreciate your interest in Ms Grandin and her life.

      I was fascinated with her and mesmerized watching her on television being part of the award ceremony. A lovely tribute to someone who has risen above her challenges. May we all take notice of her successes and apply them to our own lives. :) Thanks for the vote up and the lovely fan mail. I will be checking out your information. :)

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Well done lovely article. Temple Grandin is a favorite of mine too. When I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome I read her book, 'Thinking in Pictures,' and I was fascinated to realize a lot of the things I do or think are just common characteristics in autistic people. I too thought everybody played back recordings in their heads of past events? I was amazed to realize that they don't have this library of life recordings? I loved the movie too and observed with particular interest as my then 3 year old son has Autism too and I could relate very well to her childhood and her mothers frustration at not being able to get the young Temple to concentrate on the pictures and the words she was trying to get her to say. That's me at the minute! I am going to vote this article up and please check out my hubs on the subjext sometime, latest AS and Depression

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Gavin, Thank YOU for reading and commenting. My nephew, whom I am currently raising, is also on the autism spectrum. I was absolutely fascinated with this woman when she stood up at the award ceremony. I knew immediately, through her quaint mannerisms, that "there is an interesting person" and my curiousity was picqued. Thus, the start of my investigation to learn more about her, obtain the movie, and then share this fascinating woman with others. Glad you read it. Thanks.

    • Greenheart profile image


      6 years ago from Cambridge

      Hi and thanks for the Temple Grandin connection.

      I loved the film about her.

      It was inspiring. and it was interesting as it stimulated me to find out more, having 2 nephews on the autsim spectrum, or as one site is called, the awetizm spectrum!.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Gail, I sure hope you do watch the movie. I was absolutely blown away by this woman and, as I stated in the hub, was intrigued with her behavior from watching the Emmy's, which led to my investigation. Thanks for reading and commenting. I actually ended up buying the dvd and enjoy it from time to time. Claire Danes did an outstanding job as you can tell by the clip.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      What a fascinating biography. I loved the film clips and your descriptions of Temple Grandin's amazing life and am going to make sure I see the movie. Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks Steven. I'm surprised I reviewed a movie you have not seen, LOL YOu write awesome reviews. Let me know how you like this one and if Claire Danes deserved the award.

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 

      7 years ago

      Wow, I have to admit, I've never even heard of this movie before until I read this hub. Let alone knew who Temple Grandin was too. Which is a shame, as you'd think I would've known who she was or at least heard of this film. lol. Now that I have read it, I'll definitely be sure to check it out then. Thanks for for writing this Denise, as you've given me another film to add on my must watch list. Unfortunately, it might be a while, as there's a lot of films on my must watch list that I still need to watch. lol. Anyways, thanks for writing this, as i'll be sure to vote it up!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi deb-thanks for reading and commenting. I can't recommend this movie enough. It is a fascinating story about one woman's life and the barriers she overcame. I agree with you completely. Claire Danes well deserved her impersonation of Temple. She had her down so well.

    • deblipp profile image


      7 years ago

      I have long been fascinated by Temple Grandin. Claire Danes did a great job.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Kitty, thanks for reading and commenting. I first 'met' Temple during the Emmy's and was absolutely fascinated by this very unique and obviously quirky woman. So intrigued that I had to research her to find out about her. It is truly a remarkable story.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Kitty Fields 

      7 years ago from Summerland

      awesome hub! love temple grandin! good job on the write-up. keep hubbing. voted up.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks Cara. Please let me know how the movie affected you. I was blown away with Claire's portrayal of her esp after seeing this woman and hearing her speak.

    • cardelean profile image


      7 years ago from Michigan

      I know that you had mentioned this movie a while back. I have not had a chance to watch it and actually forgot about it. I was watching an older Oprah that I had not yet had a chance to watch and it was about veganism and the treatment of animals. Needless to say that they mentioned the method of slaughtering animals that Grandin had designed. led me back to your hub to read and watching the movie on my "soon" to do list. Great job!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Dale-wow! what a great surprise. Thanks for reading the hub. I became intrigued with the woman after catching the Emmy's. My curiousity got the better of me. Interesting info about your guitar player. Pretty fascinating stuff.

    • profile image

      dale gregg 

      8 years ago

      Hi Denise. Read your blog on the movie Temple Grandin, and spent the rest of the evening into the wee hours watching UTube interviews and documentary with Temple Grandin. Amazing. Did I tell you that the guitar player in my jazz band is autistic? She graduated from Calvin College with a B.A. in music, plays saxophone, guitar, and writes music. She drives to rehearsal from Kalamazoo. She is a bit quirky, and communicates in a very literal way, but she plays the guitar well and seems to be functioning in the world. Thanks for bringing Temple Grandin to my attention!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Thank you Fetty and Blaise for your comments. I agree with you both, LOL. It was delightful watching her at the Emmy's. What accomplishments in her lifetime with her 'condition'. It puts us 'ordinary' people to shame when we do not strive to use all of our potential...which is infinite.

    • blaise25 profile image

      Fehl Dungo 

      8 years ago from close to you...

      Such a beautiful woman inside and out.. :)

    • fetty profile image


      8 years ago from South Jersey

      I didn't watch the Emmys but I saw Temple Grandin's reaction to Dane receiving the award and it was so moving. I loved reading about Grandin's background this really adds to the appreciation of the film. Thank you for another fine read.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hey Krissy & Kaie, thanks for reading the hub! It's fun reading your comments. Let me know if you do get the movie and what you think-is it Emmy worthy???? :) I can hardly wait to get the movie myself.

    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 

      8 years ago

      I haven't seen this, but I will put it on my list! Thank you ~ Kaie

    • profile image

      Kristina Parker 

      8 years ago

      I'm going to Netflix RIGHT NOW to see if I can get this movie. GREAT WRITING, Denise!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Lilly, thanks for the feedback. I was so taken aback by the Emmy presentation and she was delightful to watch. I am looking forward to getting the movie. Congrats to you on all of your hubs and work. You've been a busy lady!! :)

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      This moved me more than any movie in years. I read a paperback about Temple many years ago, and when this movie showed, I watched it...then the Awards came. Yes, there are happy endings.


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