Other People's Words

Transcript: Autism Women's Network interview with Temple Grandin

Posted in Uncategorized by Tera on January 15, 2010

This is a transcript of the interview with Temple Grandin on the Autism Women’s Network radio show, with Sharon daVanport and Tricia Kenney.

Sharon daVanport: Well, hello and good day, everyone. So glad you could join us for our special Wednesday edition, where we do have Temple Grandin, who is going to be joining us in just a few moments. I’m your host, Sharon daVanport, and today is January 13, 2010. That sounds so strange to say that now. How are you doing today, Tricia?

Tricia Kenney: I’m doing great. How are you?

Sharon daVanport: Well, busy trying to get ready for the weekend. I’ve got some stuff planned on Friday, so just trying to get everything finished. You know we gotta turn right back around and do our regular show tomorrow morning. This is gonna be fun; I’m real excited about having Temple on today.

Tricia Kenney: It’s awesome that we can finally have her on. I can’t believe, after so many years of reading about her and hearing her name in the autism community, that she’s actually gonna be here live with us. That’s just incredible for me.

Sharon daVanport: Right. She’s so busy, too. When we had first spoken with her, we thought we would just go ahead and schedule it out in a month or two. Then she got to looking at her schedule, and she says: “Nope. This Wednesday,” and we’re like: “Oh! Okay.” So we’re just really glad that we’re able to throw it together. Are you with us, Temple? You there?

Temple Grandin: Yes. I’m right here.

Sharon daVanport: Well, hello. How are you?

Temple Grandin: Just fine.

Sharon daVanport: Good. So you ended up not getting kidnapped by the press that you thought you would when you finished your talk. What happened there in Arizona?

Temple Grandin: Everything went just fine.

Sharon daVanport: Well, good. I know that you said you had a couple different topics that you’d really like to share with us, and I know that probably the majority of e-mails that we’ve gotten, something that our listeners would really like you to talk about is how teachers really made an impact in your life, and really helped you to develop a lot of the skills you feel that have benefitted you the most. Can you start out by telling us about that?

Temple Grandin: Well, I had a wonderful speech teacher when I was two and a half and three years old, and she used a lot of the same tecniques that are used today. She was one of those older, just really experienced speech teachers. One of the things she did is she enunciated hard consonant sounds. Like she’d say: “Cup-puh!” so I’d hear those hard consonants.

Then when I was in high school, and I was kind of adrift and just wasn’t interested in studying, I gotta really thank my science teacher, Mr. Carlock. He got me interested in studying so I could become a scientist. These mentor teachers—so important.

Another thing you wanna do with these kids is take their area of strength and develop it. I was really good at art, and that was always encouraged. But I was also encouraged to do art assignments other people wanted. I wanted to just draw horses all the time, but my mother said to me: “Well, you need to draw some pictures of some things that other people want, like a beach or something like that.”

It’s really important to teach kids on the autism spectrum to do that—to learn how to do an assignment of something that somebody else wants. Some of the kids are also in some of these Lego Mindstorms clubs. It’s important that they make a robot that does an assigned task, not just anything they wanna do.

Sharon daVanport: Well, I know that with teachers, they say that they have a lot of limited time—I know that the generation that we come from, they have a lot of limited time. I always try to tell parents that we should try to encourage our children at home. You said your mother helped you to realize that you should maybe draw things that other people liked. Were your teachers really good about things like that, too? Did they really help you learn to branch out in different ways?

Temple Grandin: Well, yes. Let’s say the kid likes dinosaurs. Well, let’s use dinosaurs to teach reading. Let’s do some mathematics about how long it would take a dinosaur to walk somewhere, or how many pounds of meat he eats in a day. Then gradually broaden it out: “Well, you need to learn some biology to really understand dinosaurs.” And then you can start studying lizards, which have some similarities to dinosaurs. In other words, broaden out the fixation.

The thing about autistic kids is they tend to have an area of strength. Mine was visual thinking. Maybe another kid, it would be math. Build on the area of strength.

Tricia Kenney: As we’re talking about school, I’m curious: How do you feel about segregating autistic kids? Do you think they should be in a classroom with everyone else to pick up on many different areas from the other kids, and be exposed to the same things that other kids are? Or do you think that they should be in a separate classroom?

Temple Grandin: Well, I think it’s important for little autistic kids in elementary school to get exposure to normal kids to learn normal behavior. Now, in my little speech school that had six students in it, there wasn’t just autistic kids in that. There was also some Down’s Syndrome children in there, so it was all a special ed school.

But then at other times of the day, I had contact with normal kids. You don’t want a situation where the autistic kid’s just learning all the latest stims. They need to have contact with normal peers, and that’s especially important when they’re very, very young.

Another big emphasis in my life was turn-taking games. We played lots of board games where you learn how to take your turn. That was a really important skill for me to learn.

Sharon daVanport: That’s a really important skill, I think, for every child. I used to think that it was just something very typical for every child, but I have learned from watching my children and observing the child of mine that is on the spectrum, it is something that I believe I had to encourage just a little bit more with my son. I can see what you mean by that, because I think that if you build their strengths, it gives the child confidence, too. When they succeed at that, they’ll move on to something else and know they can do it the next time.

Temple Grandin: They’ve got to learn turn-taking, and for me, it was taught with Chinese checkers and a Parcheesi board. I also had to learn how to shake the dice fairly. You can’t just slide them in and slide them out; you have to really give them a proper shake.

I was not good at turn-taking. There was a lot of emphasis, all day, with turn-taking games. Also table manners, and saying “Please” and “Thank you.” If I went and combed my hair with my fork, that wasn’t allowed. Just the other day, I went out to dinner with a family and their eight-year-old—very high-functioning, fully verbal—started combing his hair with his fork at the table, and I said: “No. You don’t do that.” I wasn’t allowed to do stuff like that.

Tricia Kenney: For one of my sons, he wasn’t very verbal pretty much all of his life. When he started into the school system, they were amazed that he was always saying “Thank you” and “please.” For a little boy who didn’t really talk much at all, and didn’t really express himself in words, he still always said “Thank you” and “please” and “excuse me.”

Temple Grandin: Well, I think that’s good.

Tricia Kenney: Those are just things that he grew up around, and witnessed me doing. It was just part of our household. A lot of the teachers are like: “Well, that’s just so odd! He won’t have a conversation with us, but he has really great manners.”

[Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: You really focused on that.

Temple Grandin: [Unknown] you to take him shopping; take him out to a restaurant. I’ve seen kids on the autism spectrum where they’re eating mashed potatoes with their fingers in a restaurant. Well, that doesn’t go over well with the other diners at the next table.

Sharon daVanport: That’s why I’ve always appreciated when you give your talks and when I’ve seen you on YouTube videos, just how you talk about the different things. Sometimes I used to wonder—just even a couple years ago when I found some of your books and watching some of your talks, Temple—I used to wonder about some of the points that you brought out just like you are now about the manners. I wonder if it’s generational.

I just wonder if people our age, who are older, if more was expected. My parents didn’t know about Asperger’s. I wonder if even our parents parented different in a different generation. They expected more out of us and they held us accountable. I wonder if that has a lot to do with it.

Temple Grandin: It does. And in the ’50s and ’60s—that’s my generation—kids had “please” and “thank you” and manners pounded in. Today, there’s less emphasis on manners. Where I think it really hurts the most is with the autistic and the Asperger kids. It hurts them a whole lot more than it hurts the normal kids. The normal kids figure out how to muddle through it, but the autistic and the Asperger kid needs to be specifically taught. I had to learn social rules like acting in a play. If I’m not coached on how to act in a play, then I’m gonna act bad.

Sharon daVanport: Can you recall when you were in elementary school? What were the hardest social niceties that you struggled with most, and how did you learn to overcome that?

Temple Grandin: The basic “please” and “thank you” stuff and manners, it was taught with a whole lot of specific examples. I remember one time, in about fourth grade or so, we had chocolate ice cream for desert and I leaned down and lapped at it like a dog, and they just said: “Well, you’re not a dog” and they took it away from me. So I never did that again.

[Laughter]

My worst problems with social stuff was high school. In elementary school, I had friends because I did a lot of projects. I was really good at making things—model airlplanes, kites, a whole lot of different things. But when I got into high school, the project kind of stuff, most of the kids weren’t interested in.

The only refuges that I had away from teasing were the special interest things, like Mr. Carlock’s electronics lab, model rocket club, riding horses. The students that were interested in those special interests were not the kids doing the teasing. High school was absolutely the worst part of my life.

Sharon daVanport: Really? It wasn’t junior high?

Tricia Kenney: So many have that same experience.

Temple Grandin: The thing with high school is, you take somebody that’s non-verbal, they often have an easier time. But the kid that has the worst problems is the one that’s much closer to normal.

Sharon daVanport: I think I understand that concept, Temple. My son’s in high school now, and if I look back through all the years and children that I know on the spectrum that have gone to school with him, I have to say that they’ve all struggled just as much in different ways. But the struggles that seemed to stand out were the other kids pick up on it more, so then he’s held to a different standard. And maybe he’s teased more, because they notice it because he is higher-functioning.

Temple Grandin: Somebody that’s non-verbal, they can see an obvious handicap, just like you can see a wheelchair or a leg brace.

Sharon daVanport: But that’s to my son’s disadvantage, I think sometimes. I think it’s to a lot of our disadvantage.

Tricia Kenney: Sure. Look at the way [my son] Ryan was treated, as opposed to [his twin brother] Austin. He got suspended from school and put in detention almost every day because of his struggles in the classroom. Whereas because Austin is more visibly at a disadvantage with his verbal skills, they accommodated his needs more.

Temple Grandin: That’s right.

Sharon daVanport: That’s really hard. They have IEPs now; I know how that has come about over the last several years.

Temple Grandin: They didn’t have that when I was a kid.

Sharon daVanport: That’s what I was gonna ask: How did they accommodate your educational needs?

Temple Grandin: Well, Mother found a little small rural private school that had very small classes. It was very, very similar to some of the public schools that are out in the farming areas, where you’ve got a small class, 12 or 13 students and an older, experienced teacher.

The other thing that helped is the old-fashioned, ’50s style classroom: much more organized. Everybody’s doing the math workbook at the same time; everybody’s doing reading at the same time. You don’t have kids doing different things in the classroom at the same time. I think that helped. If I’d been in a larger class with a more chaotic kind of classroom, I would’ve had to have had an aide. It wouldn’t have worked. But fortunately, in the small school, the small classes…

Elementary school I’m not gonna say was perfect, but that was fairly smooth sailing compared to high school. That’s where things got really bad. I got teased in high school; I threw a book at a girl; I got kicked out of school for throwing a book. I ended up going to a special boarding school for kids with emotional problems that were gifted. Remember, this was the era of Freud and everything was emotional problems.

Tricia Kenney: They still do that nowadays, too. If you’re at a school that’s a little bit behind the times, children who do have meltdowns and so on—reactions in their environment—are sometimes put away in juvenile centers, institutionalized, kicked out of school. It’s an awful shame. I don’t know if you’ve heard at all about the Zakhquery Price story that’s going on right now.

Temple Grandin: Maybe just tell me some of the details.

Tricia Kenney: He’s an 11-year-old boy who is facing felony charges because his teacher and principal pounced on him after a meltdown to restrain him. During the struggle, he kicked the teacher in the leg and pushed the other teacher, and they’re pressing felony charges against him. He could either end up in a juvenile center—

Temple Grandin: For assault?

Tricia Kenney: Yeah.

Temple Grandin: Oh, that’s ridiculous. An 11-year-old? That’s totally ridiculous.

Tricia Kenney: There’s a big uproar in the autism community about it right now, and so we’re really trying to get support for the family and trying to raise the legal funds for them to get representation.

Temple Grandin: I was a little bit older when I threw the book. I was 14 years old, and I threw it at another student who called me a retard.

Sharon daVanport: You know, John Elder Robison talked about that, that that was the word that he was dubbed in school—”retard.” He said to this day, it still affects him when he hears that word.

Temple Grandin: When I go to a gas station and there’s teenage boys loitering around in a little convenience store, I just get flashbacks to high school and teasing. I really like the credit card pumps, because then I don’t have to walk by them.

Sharon daVanport: I use those, too; I like them. Junior high was my worst years, Temple. High school seemed to be okay, but you know what happened is my family moved to a different state for high school. It was like I got to start fresh from people who knew when I had the most struggles and never accepted me. I was able to mature and get out of some of the things that caused me to not have friends when I was young. I no longer had that by high school. Or I did, but I knew how to overcome it publicly. High school was a lot easier, but junior high was a nightmare. Just horrible.

Temple Grandin: Of course, kids are getting puberty earlier now. Puberty for me started at 14, and that’s when everything got really bad.

Sharon daVanport: What was the worst for you, Tricia?

Tricia Kenney: Probably grade school. Grade school was the most difficult for me because I really had an issue with homework. I really saw no point to it. I understood the material and I thought it was just a waste of time to have me do homework. As far back as seven, eight years old, I was explaining this to my teachers, and they would just look at me like: “Oh, good Lord. Just do the homework!”

Socially, grade school was the worst as well. I didn’t really have any friends. If I maybe had one friend, that was a lot. I didn’t talk to anybody all day.

Temple Grandin: What saved me is, back in the ’50s kids were much more into projects like treehouses and building things and making models and stuff like that. I liked doing that stuff, so I had friends where we did these shared interests—especially building things and making things and flying kites. That saved me. I had some friends in elementary school.

Tricia Kenney: Where did you pick up those skills, though? Was that something you did at home, too?

Temple Grandin: Kids built things then. You did things. Now today, you go to hockey practice, you go to ballet class. When we were kids, we had to make up games.

Sharon daVanport: Kick the can, right?

Temple Grandin: Well, kick the can and I figured out how to stuff a coat with leaves and put it in a tree to mislead the goalkeeper. Treehouses, and we made snow forts. I was good at that kind of stuff. The other kids respected that. When I got into high school, I did have some friends because they were friends [I met?] from riding horses; friends with electronics; friends with model rockets. Again, it gets back to the shared interests. That’s where the friends are. That’s why I’m a big believer in getting kids into things like drama club, band club, robotics club, English club, the choir, whatever.

Sharon daVanport: It teaches them to do something creative. Right. Temple, I wanted to ask you before we go to the switchboard: You talk a lot about the things that really impressed upon you how to overcome things and how you were able to carry that over into adulthood—the things that really, really impacted your life in a positive way. What were just one or two things that you could talk about that impacted you in a negative way? A negative experience with a teacher, let’s say, and how you were able to overcome it. Something that you had to go to your parents about?

Temple Grandin: Well, you’re asking me questions that are starting to get too abstract, but the things that really helped turn my life around were things like Mr. Carlock, my science teacher. Then when my mother got remarried, that brought a ranch into the family when I was 15 years old, so I had a chance to go out to the ranch.

At first, I was afraid to go, and Mother said: “You’re gonna go.” Sometimes you need to push kids on the autism spectrum to do new things. When I got out to the ranch, I loved it. That’s gonna be featured in an HBO movie, all the things I built out there. But if Mother hadn’t pushed me to go, I wouldn’t have gone. Some of these kids, we’ve gotta push them a little bit. You’ve gotta get them out doing a lot of different things.

Sharon daVanport: How long did it take her to talk you into that?

Temple Grandin: I basically was given a choice: two weeks or all summer. Now again, I wanna emphasise: no surprises. The trip was being planned for three months. For three months ahead of time, I saw pictures of the ranch. By the time it got time to go, I was more interested in going. But sometimes you just have to say: “You’ve got to try something.”

Tricia Kenney: I see a lot of parents post: “No changes. We must always stick to our schedule.” I’m just like: “How can you do that? Life happens, whether you plan it or not. Things pop up that you’re not gonna be prepared for. If you’re constantly pounding it into this child that nothing ever changes, when those things do pop up, this child is not gonna be prepared in the least little bit. It’s going to devastate them.

Temple Grandin: I’ve seen smart Asperger kids graduate from college with no job skills, and I have a little book called Developing Talents that’s just on learning job skills.

One thing Mother made sure I did when I was in college was internships. I’d now been going out to the ranch for three years; I still went out to the ranch, but she wanted me to spend another month doing something else. I worked at a research lab one summer; I volunteered at a school for autistic children one summer.

She was getting me to do a whole lot of different things. When I was in elementary school, she had me taking a pottery class that I did with other people. Another thing we did was a children’s sailboating progam. I didn’t particulary like it, but she made me finish it. She wasn’t gonna make me do it the following summer, but I had to do it. I think these things helped me.

Sharon daVanport: How did art lead to your career, Temple? You say that art helped you towards your career.

Temple Grandin: Well, the thing is designing things, what you do is art. Art skills are required to be a designer.

Sharon daVanport: There you go. Was that something you just naturally were drawn to always, or was it something that was encouraged?

Temple Grandin: I was naturally drawn to drawing and art. How can you tell if a kid might be good at art? Usually by third or fourth grade, they’re drawing all kinds of beautiful drawings. You need to work on developing that. The work that I did with cow handling facilities, I used my art skills.

Now, the thing is, I had to practice. I didn’t learn this overnight. I also had to learn how to make something that somebody else wanted. I learned that I had to sell my work rather than myself, and I would sell customers by showing them pictures of drawings and jobs that I’d done. But I used my visual thinking skills to do my design stuff.

Now, I wanna emphasize that not everybody on the autism spectrum is a visual thinker. Some are pattern thinkers—they kind of think in math—and others are word thinkers. Some of the word thinkers are very good at things like being an actor in a play. Stage acting might be a really good thing for them to do.

Tricia Kenney: Why don’t we take a call? There’s been somebody waiting for quite a while. And then we have questions coming in from the chat room as well for you, okay, Temple?

Temple Grandin: Yeah, that’s fine.

Dana: Hi, it’s Dana. How is everybody? I have a question for Temple, regarding homework with my son. I have a boy who is autistic; he is seven years old and in second grade. He is definitely very far behind the other kids socially, but academically, he’s keeping up. One of our biggest challenges with school is homework and getting him to do the homework.

Temple Grandin: Homework was a challenge for me, too.

Dana: Was it the environment? Was it just not wanting to do it? We’re trying to get the motivating factor.

Temple Grandin: It was just not wanting to do it, basically.

Sharon daVanport: Was that held against you, Temple? Did your parents work that out with the school, or how did you negotiate that?

Temple Grandin: Well, when I was in high school, I goofed around for four years and didn’t do any homework. Then when my science teacher got me interested in becoming a scientist, I just overnight knuckled down and started doing it. Now I had a goal of becoming a scientist.

Dana: So there was a motivation.

Temple Grandin: That’s right. Then when I went into college, I was a real good student in college because my motivation was to go on and become a scientist.

Dana: So do you think it’s better to make him do all of his homework, or is it better to make sure that he understands the concept and then move on?

Temple Grandin: First of all, you’ve gotta look at how well he’s doing in school. When I was in graduate school, there was this one boy and all he did was play ping-pong all day and he aced all the exams with straight As; he never did any homework. Since he got good grades on the exams, he got away with it. It depends on how the classes are set up. Is the homework practice, or is it part of the grade?

Dana: It counts as part of his grade, even though he’s only in second grade.

Temple Grandin: Well, make him do it. One of the things you have to learn is sometimes you gotta do stuff you don’t wanna do. I had to go to church every Sunday and dress up in good clothes, and I hated it. But it was something that the family did, and one of the reasons why I hated it was I absolutely hated the clothes: awful petticoats that scratched and things like that. But I did it, and sometimes you gotta do some stuff you don’t really wanna do.

Sharon daVanport: Dana, I wonder if you could speak with the teacher to see if it is a motivational factor. I wonder if they’ll make a different assignment for him—something that you know he would really love to do after school.

Temple Grandin: He’s gotta have a goal. I went from doing no homework to doing lots of homework when my goal was to become a scientist. If I wanted to become a scientist, then I had to study some stuff and do some homework that i did not really wanna do. But it had to be done to get to the goal. Until he has a goal, he’s probably not gonna be very motivated to do homework. What does he like to do? What’s he good at?

Dana: He’s very good at teaching himself things. He’s teaching himself different languages by changing the language channel on his DVDs that he listens to. He’s very good at solving problems that he is motivated to solve: problems that have to do with sharks, or have to do with dinosaurs or anything like that.

Temple Grandin: So you think dinosaurs or sharks is something he’s interested in. Let’s start teaching him some more biology. You wanna understand sharks and dinosaurs, you need to learn biology. How the heart works…of course, sharks are different than a mammal. But dinosaurs, they had lungs, they had a heart. How does that work? There’s a lot of science you need to learn to really understand sharks and dinosaurs. The physics of a shark moving through the water: in fact, the way a shark’s skin is made reduces drag. There’s a lot of science that he could start learning.

Tricia Kenney: Dana, does he do well in his tests and stuff?

Dana: When he wants to, yes. His grades are good, and nobody really cares about his grades. But I think what Temple just said brings up an interesting point. I have the feeling that he’s bored in school.

Temple Grandin: If he’s bored, and let’s say he’s good at math and you’re forcing him to do baby math, he’s gonna be bored. He’s gonna have to be given more advanced work. One of the things about these kids is they may need special ed in one subject and they may need to be three grades ahead in another subject. There tends to be really uneven skills.

If he’s bored, he’s gonna be a behavior problem. If he’s forced to do stupid little baby math drills that are totally boring, he’s gonna rebel. He needs to be given the textbook for the next grade. You just can’t make them bored.

Sharon daVanport: Well, Dana, little Michelangelo’s just gonna have to be enrolled in all these different classes for language. Take him to community college in second grade.

[Laughter]

Dana: He’s got seven different languages that he’s learning right now. It’s ironic, because he’s not very good at speaking. However, this is working well for him. Maybe he’ll be an interpreter. Who knows? Thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Sharon daVanport: Great question, Dana. Thanks for calling in.

Tricia Kenney: I wanna get to a question that was asked in the chat room. This is from TwinklyT. She wanted to know: “In your experience, what are the differences between livin in Massachusetts, and living in Colorado?”

Temple Grandin: Well, one of the problems is it was in the ’50s when I lived in Massachusetts and the 2000s and the ’90s when I lived in Colorado, so it’s kind of hard to say. I really like the West. I really like the mountains and the wide open spaces. I’ve got no desire to move back to Massachusetts. People out West are really friendly; it’s sort of a “can do” area. I really like it.

Tricia Kenney: Aspieteach is a teacher and she has Asperger’s. She wanted to know: “How do you think being autistic could help a teacher connect with autistic students?”

Temple Grandin: If you’re on the autistic spectrum, you’re gonna understand better how they think. You might just be the perfect teacher to work with these kids.

Tricia Kenney: I agree. There’s an inside knowledge there that, really, you can’t get anywhere else.

Temple Grandin: The teachers that helped me the most were some of the quirky ones: the creative, quirky ones. Some of the people I got along with best when I was a kid would be labelled Asperger’s today. When I was in college and having a really hard time, the dean’s wife was really nice to me. I think she’d be diagnosed with Asperger’s today.

Sharon daVanport: I look back on stuff like that, too, Temple, and I do see a pattern in my life, my children’s lives. I think that everyone on the spectrum that you talk to, most of them will say the same thing.

Dr. Fuentes: Hi. This is Dr. Fuentes.

Sharon daVanport: Hi, Dr. Fuentes. How are you?

Dr. Fuentes: Just fine. First of all, I wanna say it’s an honor to even speak with Temple Grandin. I follow your information to the max. I utilize your information even for my oldest son that has autism; he’s in college right now. There are two things that I took from your book that really helped my son. One was choosing the right job for people with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. And I got into your studies where you talk about algebra versus geometry, because geometry has the forms and the shapes, which you can go into music, looking at the music notes, colors and so forth. All of that information really helped my son. I wanted to commend you on that.

Temple Grandin: Well, thank you so much. I find that when I talk about that, I have people coming up to me and saying: “Well, algebra was impossible, but I could do geometry.” I’ve also had some people come up to me that said they were absolute aces at algebra and geometry was terrible. I’ve found both ways, but more commonly, I’m finding the person who flunked algebra and could do geometry and trig.

Dr. Fuentes: Absolutely. I just wanted to call you about that. I’m a teacher myself, but I’m a teacher of computer education. I do challenge students to the max; I do challenge my own son to the fullest.

Temple Grandin: That’s a good thing to do.

Dr. Fuentes: I totally agree with you that if you don’t challenge yourself, you will never ever know what all you can do. Your abilities are much stronger than you can imagine.

Temple Grandin: Well, that’s right, and one thing we haven’t talked about are the sensory issues. There are some kids that just can’t tolerate being in a real noisy environment, or they can see the flicker in flourescent lights and that just drives them absolutely crazy. I go into detail about this both in and in The Way I See It and Thinking in Pictures. Some of these senory issues can be really debilitating and challenging.

Dr. Fuentes: Yes. Like calculators for math. They love calculators ’cause they can push buttons. It’s like you said: the sensory.

Sharon daVanport: I appreciate your comments, Dr. Fuentes. How’s Eric doing? He’s going to culinary school, is that correct?

Dr. Fuentes: Yes, he is. He loves it, because he gets to taste his food.
If it’s bad, he knows it’s bad.

[Laughter]

Tricia Kenney: Be sure to say hi to Eric for us.

Dr. Fuentes: I will. Thank you so much for allowing me to call in.

Tricia Kenney: Any time, Dr. Fuentes. We love you.

Dr. Fuentes: You too. I love you too, and Dr. Temple, of course.

Tricia Kenney: We have another question in the chat room. They’re just
coming in like crazy here: “How do you feel about homeschooling?”

Temple Grandin: I think you have to look at the individual situaion, and
the individual school. When parents ask me about different educational
things, I say: “Is your child advancing? Is your child improving?” There
are some situations where the school’s really terrible and you have no
choice but to homeschool them. Then there’s other situations where the
child is doing just great in the school

I have found that where homeschooling may be the most advantagous is with
high school. You’ve got an Asperger kid lost in a big high school, getting
teased to death. Some of these kids need to be taken out of this social
pressure cooker. Socializing with teenagers is not a life skill that I need.

[Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: Amen to that, Temple.

Temple Grandin: It depends upon the particular situation. People say to
me: “What do you think? Public or private schools?” Again, it gets back to
the particular teachers, the particular principal, the particular situation.
So I tend to not get into too many generalities, except to say that whatever
you do, grade school age autistic kids need to have activities with normal
peers. That’s really important, so they can learn normal interaction.

Tricia Kenney: I think it works the other way, too. It also exposes
those other children to the differences they’re going to encounter in the
real world.

Temple Grandin: Well, that’s right. Then there’s some situations where
there’s no way the parents can change school and everything’s terrible and
the school and the parents hate each other’s guts. In that situation, you’d
probably be better off homeschooling. So much of it depends upon the
particular situation.

But he most important thing is, I wanna see advancement. I’ll always ask
parents: “Is your child making good progress?” If they’re making good
progress, then I tend to not wanna rock the boat very much.

Sharon daVanport: That’s true. I know that when people have asked me
about homeschooling—and there have been times throughout the years
that I’ve had to ask myself that question: “Is he making progress?” Even
though there may be academic progress, if he’s falling behind in other
ways now that he’s in high school, I’m starting to second-guess some
things, just for the trauma that he’s gone through with some social
situations. Is that worth it for him?

Temple Grandin: Some of the high schools are just really, reall awful.
I [unknown] and said: “Well, let him finish up high school online and let
him start getting some work experience.”

Sharon daVanport: I’m thinking about that, Temple. I know that Dr.
Fuentes’s son who’s going to culinary school, he’s doing it online,
distance-learning. She was telling me not long ago that they have a high
school diploma program there. I’m going to bring it up in a couple weeks
at his next meeting. I’m seriously thinking about it.

Temple Grandin: But let’s say you do the high school diploma online.
Then i also wanna see the kid getting out in the daytime and getting some
work experience. [A lot of kids?] are not getting enough work experience.

Sharon daVanport: I believe that, too. I think that getting the kids
into the community and volunteering is important. I’ve had my son since
he was eleven volunteering at the animal shelter, and he loves it.

Temple Grandin: Good. I think that’s wonderful.

Sharon daVanport: I think that’s important for the kids. You have to
find something that they like. Boy, the switchboard’s blowing up here,
Tricia!

Tricia Kenney: I know. We’d better take another call.

Caller: Hi. Thanks for letting me in to your show. I’m calling from
Canada. My daughter is 29 years old, and she forever goes to school. She
takes accounting; she’s good with computers, but she can’t read more than
two sentences. My question is: What can I do to stop her from taking
courses online and going to school, but she can never get a diploma
because she never accomplishes good when she has to take tests? She’s
never really able to get good grades.

Temple Grandin: There’s a point where one of the things I had to do
was make the transition from being a student to the world of work. I did
that transition very slowly, where I was doing a few little frelance jobs
and things like that. Hopefully she can start to get the whole idea of a
goal: you’ve gotta finish things.

Another thing that Mother really drilled into me is I had to finish
projects. When I remodeled the kitchen, for example, I had to finish it.
When I built a model, I had to finish it; you don’t start a model and then
not finish it. Hopefully she could get to where she’ll start to have a
goal.

I wanna emphasise: A person on the spectrum always keeps growing. It’s
almost like you never grow up. People tell me my talks are better at age
60 than they were at age 50. She could still start making the transition.
Is she doing any work-related things?

Caller: Yes. She is working at the front desk—takes phone calls
as a receptionist, and she’s really good at that. They gave her an
award. Also, she’s volunteering for people that are in wheelchairs, and
she’s playing with them and she spends time with them.

Temple Grandin: Good.

Caller: For the first time I moved her into her own apartment, and
this is of course a very big change for her. She doesn’t want to be with
people; she never had a single friend in her life. She never calls
anybody. It’s just me, so I’m just trying now to see what’s the best way
to get her to [unknown] from me and then to have a friend.

Temple Grandin: What does she like to do?

Caller: What she likes to do is traveling a lot. She’s always on the go;
she likes to get away from where she grew up, because she feels like
she’s [unknown] knowing who she is.

Also, computers. She loves computers and knows how to type very fast, but
she gets frustrated with every little thing and the anxiety is really high.
So that’s why I have her in her own apartment, but she doesn’t want no
workers or other people to even come close to her.

Temple Grandin: Well, maybe if she likes computers, she needs to get
into a computer club.

Caller: Yes, that’s right, and that’s a good thing to do. I’m looking
for one and I don’t know what is the best way to connect her so she
actually gets a little bit more brave even to connect to those other
people like her.

Temple Grandin: Mother had to push me a bit, and it’s never too old to
do a little pushing. Maybe you can find a computer club and talk to the
people there about your daughter so they sort of have a head’s-up and
understand what they need to do, and then you just bring her over to the
computer club and see if she likes it.

Caller: I hope so, because it’s on my mind. Thank you for telling me.
Also I’ve got to tell you how I’ve admired you through the years. I read
your books and I follow around. Thank you for all the input you give out
through the years.

Temple Grandin: Well, thank you for calling.

Sharon daVanport: Those are some really good questions. You know,
Temple, the questions that she asked are probably in the top five of
questions that I get, too. People ask: “What can we do?” It’s that social
aspect.

Temple Grandin: They’ve gotta be pushed out of it. This is where Mother
made me go out to the ranch; this is where she’d get me out doing things.
What I would do with [the caller’s daughter] is find a computer club or
some other hobby that she might like. I’d talk to the people at the
computer club and explain the situation, and then I’d bring her over to it.

Sharon daVanport: Tap into what she likes, like you said earlier.

Tricia Kenney: We have a question from Melissa Barton, mother to Alex
Barton who was in the news quite a bit this past year. She wanted to know
if you’ve been ever able to sense things that were about to happen. She
said her son seems to be able to do that.

Temple Grandin: What sort of things?

Tricia Kenney: If you have a sixth sense about things—maybe a
precognition sort of…

Sharon daVanport: Like, you’re intuitive, because we take language
literally, so we tap into our other senses more. We can kind of sense if
people around us are maybe happy or sad. Even if we can’t tell from their
facial expression, we can kind of sense it.

Temple Grandin: The thing about a person on the spectrum is, I’m a
bottom-up thinker. I take lots of little bits and pieces of information
and I put them together like a puzzle to form a whole. I’m really good at
sensing where something might go wrong in business in the future.

Take for example when all the dot-coms back in the ’90s went broke. I
looked at that and I said: “Well, how can you have a business with some of
the stuff they’re doing?” I couldn’t figure out how people could use it.
That kind of visualizing how people might use a service. I wrote in my
Developing Talents book three years ago that the future jobs are gonna
be in health care. Now that’s just coming out in the business magazines.
That, to me, was obvious five years ago. But the way I figured that out is
by reading a lot of stuff in the paper and putting a lot of bits and pieces
together.

Sharon daVanport: I have to ask this one question that just came in.
Now I just wanna say, as a disclaimer, I’m not making fun of this question.
I love this question. That’s why I’m gonna ask it. But I have to admit,
if I start chuckling, I just want somebody to know that I’m not laughing
at the question. I really think that I’d like to know the answer to
this, as well. It says: “Can a friend be a special interest?” The thing
that comes to my mind is “stalker.” People are gonna think you’re a stalker
if you’re obsessed with somebody, but that’s a good, fair question. Can a
friend be a special interest?

Temple Grandin: Well, I think it could be in a positive way and I think
it could be in a negative way, like stalking. When I was in high school,
my best friend and I were just both obsessed with horses. So that was very
positive. Another friend does some other activity I really like to do, and
you do the activity together. That’s positive.Now, the stalking kind of
thing, that’s the kind of thing that’s gonna get you in trouble.

Tricia Kenney: You have to know where to draw the line on that.

Temple Grandin: One thing I was taught as a very young kid was the
concept of not wearing out your welcome. When I was a little kid, I used
to like to go to the next-door neighbor’s house, because their teenage
daughter would give me junk out of her room. She called it “de-junking
Ann’s room.” My nanny said to me: “You can’t go over to their house too
often, because you’ll wear out your welcome.” So I limited it to once
every two weeks, so I wouldn’t wear out my welcome.

Sharon daVanport: How old were you, then, Temple? Do you find you were
drawn to older people?

Temple Grandin: I was definitely drawn to older people, very, very
definitely. I used to like to go over to this other house and talk to the
lady there. I was drawn to older people, and I loved to talk to them just
about all kinds of things.

Sharon daVanport: I’ve had parents express a concern that they don’t
always know how to handle that. I said: “My son’s always been drawn to
older people.” I look back on my childhood, I was, too. I think it can be
okay and appropriate.

Temple Grandin: I think it can be fine. The other house, I used to go
over there several times a week, and the lady was fine with it. It was
all very positive.

Sharon daVanport: What is your take on why those of us on the spectrum
are like that?

Temple Grandin: I liked to discuss a lot of factual things that some of
the other kids didn’t want to discuss.

Sharon daVanport: So they had no interest in it, but adults, they will
discuss it.

Temple Grandin: Adults did. What I’ve often said, especially with some
of these kids that are on the real smart end of the spectrum is you go
from being a child to a grown-up overnight. You can just skip being a
teenager. Out in Silicon Valley, they apprentice these kids into the
computer industry. They just go from childhod to working at a job and
being a grown-up.

Tricia Kenney: I seem to always have had all older friends when I was a
child.

Sharon daVanport: Isn’t the HBO movie coming out?

Temple Grandin: February 6th, which is a Saturday.

Sharon daVanport: How long were they working on that? Do you think they
came close to your actual story, Temple? Are you pleased with the outcome?

Temple Grandin: Well, I’m very pleased with what Claire Danes has done.
The whole movie is staged in the ’60s and the ’70s, when I was in high
school, college, and getting my business started. Let me tell you: I was
acting a lot more autistic than I do now. Claire Danes worked very, very
hard, and watching her be me was like going back in a really weird time
machne. The way Claire learned it is I found a 25-year-old VHS tape and I
found some 20-year-old tapes of me. I copied them for her and gave them to
her, so that she could have those to see me when I was more autistic than
I am now. Then I met with her.

The other thing I think is really cool in the movie is they duplicated a
whole bunch of my cattle projects and things that I built. They built the
squeeze machine from the original drawings; they built a cattle handling
facility from the original drawings.

Tricia Kenney: Wow. That’s so cool.

Sharon daVanport: So it’s less than a month that it’s coming out? You’re
pleased, then. That’s good to hear.

Temple Grandin: I’m very, very pleased.

Tricia Kenney: We’re gonna take another call. Hi, you’re on the air.

Carole Reynolds: Hi there. This is Carole. I was wondering if your guest
is aware of the problem that’s going on with Zakhquery Price in the Fort Smith area of Arkansas?

Temple Grandin: They told me about that earlier.

Carole Reynolds: I’m the grandmother of this boy, and what I’m seeking
is your help. We’re having trouble getting this out to the media; we’re
having trouble getting the funds that we need for his defense. I’m frankly
desperate to call in and ask on this radio station if there’s any way in
your heart that you could look into his situation and help us out.

Sharon daVanport: You mean, like, tell people what she knows about it
and stuff?

Carole Reynolds: Yes. Tell reporters of him; advertise him.

Sharon daVanport: We’ll make sure that we do that for this show, too,
Carole, you know we will. We’re getting the word out there and just for
the fact that we were able to briefly touch on it while Temple’s on here.
We’ll try to get it promoted out there for you.

Carole Reynolds: I know you will.

Sharon daVanport: I know you’re getting scared; I know it’s in a
couple days. But a lot of positive things have happened too, right? You’ve
got an attorney.

Carole Reynolds: Oh, yeah. It’s been awesome, the support out there. His
website has over 1600 people on it now.

Sharon daVanport: Good. And I’m sure that now that you’ve mentioned the
name, the next time Temple hears it, she’ll recognize that name and will
be looking into it, won’t you, Temple? That’s what I did; I heard the name
and I started looking into it. Just for the fact that we have a lot of
listeners today, especially with Temple being on, there’ll be a lot of
people who hear about it, Carole. I don’t want you stressed out; you’ve got
so much to think about.

Temple Grandin: Absolutely. It’s horrible that an 11-year-old kid would
have a felony charge put on him.

Carole Reynolds: Did they tell you the injuries? I didn’t get a chance
to listen to the beginning.

Temple Grandin: No. What were the injuries?

Carole Reynolds: The principal got kicked once when they cornered him
and wouldn’t let him out of his quiet area. The teacher, he pushed, and
in her own words she says that she “fell into the bookcase.” She didn’t
say he pushed her into the bookcase. Her injuries were she felt pain where
she was pushed. That’s it.

Temple Grandin: Did they fully recover from these injuries?

Carole Reynolds: Nobody missed a minute of work. No medical attention,
no doctor, no hospital. Nothing.

Temple Grandin: That’s just ridiculous.

Carole Reynolds: And they’re following through on it.

Sharon daVanport: Do you hear that a lot from parents, Temple? That the
schools are punishing instead of working to find a solution? I hear that a
lot.

Temple Grandin: I find there’s a lot of regional differences in some of
these problems. I find that you get down to the southeast, that’s where
they just don’t understand it.

Carole Reynolds: Yeah. We’re Arkansas, and they don’t really understand
it. You’re exactly right.

Temple Grandin: I think that’s the problem. I don’t think this would’ve
happened in Wisconsin. That’s a state with much, much better services.

Carole Reynolds: When they found out that we went public with this
information and it’s all over the Internet, they got extremely angry. The
legal system got angry; his public defender screamed and hollered at me. I
was told that the district was livid, and that they had had an offer, but
now it was off the table because of my behavior, having gone public.

Sharon daVanport: You didn’t back down, did you, Carole?

Temple Grandin: What was the offer?

Carole Reynolds: The offer I would not have taken, but it was
misdemeanor and probation. And no one was hurt.

Sharon daVanport: He was already calmed down, and they waited till after
the meltdown and just lunged for him.

Carole Reynolds: When he was done, he went into his designated quiet
spot, which is a bookcase by a window. He was in that corner when they
went after him. They watched him do that fit for 25 minutes, and it was
after that that they went after him. That’s when he was calming down.

Sharon daVanport: I’m glad to hear you have an attorney.

Temple Grandin: Do you have a good attorney?

Carole Reynolds: A great attorney. We’re raising funds and we’ve only
got half her fee. She took that to start with, and we had a seven hour
meeting with her on Sunday. She’s filed for due process already. What we
need is publicity. We need this out to the public. We need people like
yourself that are well-known that can help even with a little bit of
fundraising or just getting the publicity out there. Here in Arkansas, they
won’t cover it.

Sharon daVanport: I can tell you how Temple’s already done you a favor.
It’s unreal how many people are listening right now to this show. Just the
fact that Temple’s the guest today, and you were able to call in and just
ask her if she knew about the situation. People are gonna listen to this
show; this is gonna be on Blogtalk from now until whenever.

Temple Grandin: I think it’s absolutely horrible.

Carole Reynolds: Thank you.

Tricia Kenney: I know why Carole wanted to bring it up to Temple is
because the big hitters in the autism community—the authors, the
public faces, the people who do the books and the talks and the
conferences—not a one of them is stepping up to support what
everybody else in the community is dealing with and trying to help this
family. We’re all going: “How come nobody’s talking about this? How come
Temple Grandin and John Robison and all of these big hitters in the autism
community, nobody’s stepping forward to help?”

Sharon daVanport: Because they don’t know. They didn’t know about it. I
know when John doesn’t know something when I talk to him; he’ll call to
verify things too or e-mail me. He’ll even say: “No; I didn’t know about
that.” When he was on as a guest a month ago on the other radio station,
he didn’t know. Just like Temple today—she just didn’t know.

It’s not that nobody’s wanting to. I just want you to know that, Carole.
When people haven’t said anything in the autism community, I can guarantee
you, it’s just because they haven’t heard.

Carole Reynolds: And that’s what I would really like—her help
getting the word out. Like you said, she’s very well-known and I can’t seem
to get it further than where it is right now.

Tricia Kenney: Right. We’ve been trying to get Holly Robinson and Jenny
McCarthy, all these people that are in the media all the time, we’ve been
trying to have them help, and nobody is stepping up. Everybody’s ignoring
the messages. We’ve tried CNN, and Fox News, and everybody.

Sharon daVanport: Now that you’re saying this, Tricia, that you’ve
talked to all these people, I want to just ask Temple something to make a
comparison. You were 14, right, Temple, when you threw that book?

Temple Grandin: I was 14, and I got kicked out of a large girls’ school
for throwing a book at a girl who called me a retard.

Sharon daVanport: What happened immediately after you did that?

Temple Grandin: She called me a retard; I threw the book at her. There
was no fight but the book hit her on the head. Then the principal called up
the next day and said I was kicked out of school. I ended up going to a
special boarding school for kids with problems.

Carole Reynolds: Yeah. He’s been in a mental hospital for two and a half
years.

Sharon daVanport: I just wanna clarify this when you say that on air.
When we’ve checked into this, in the state of Arkansas, a child under the
age of 13 can’t be in a state institution.

Carole Reynolds: They’re not the state-run ones; there’s only one state
one. But they were three privately-run mental facilities, behavior problem-
type facilities. They refused to acknowledge that he has autism. I showed
them the three reports that we have, and they ignored me.

Temple Grandin: Is he verbal?

Carole Reynolds: Yes. And the judge ignored me. The attorneys ignored
me. Two and a half years later, he finally got out of the hospital,
because Medicaid called me at home and asked me if this was doing him any
good. I told her that he was so much worse. It was really hard. I can only
assume the funding was cut off and he was released. Now it’s not seven
months later, and the same district is trying to have him put away again.

Tricia Kenney: They had him so heavily drugged that he could barely lift
his head.

Carole Reynolds: Yes.

Temple Grandin: Well, this is the other thing on medications. In my
book Thinking in Pictures, I have a whole chapter where I talk about
medications. I take an anti-depressant to control my anxiety and my panic
attacks, but there’s way too many kids that are just made into drug zombies.
I hate to say it—the southeastern United States is the worst part of
the country for turning kids into drug zombies. I do talks all over the
whole United States and Canada, and most of the worst drug horror stories
that I hear come out of the southeast. They are just in the Dark Ages.

Tricia Kenney: Are you willing to help, with your connections in your
own community in some way, with raising awareness of this issue, and
helping with the fund-raising, so that he can be represented?

Temple Grandin: Well, all I can do is tell people about it. How would I
contact you?

Tricia Kenney: There’s a website. There’s a Facebook group as well.

Carole Reynolds: The good news is I do have a radio interview tomorrow. Before the show started, I got something from our local newspaper. I can’t wait to find out what they’ve said. It’s the third time they’ve communicated with me. I’m hoping that they’re going to run the story. But I have been warned, in the good ole boy state of Arkansas, not to make waves because it won’t be good for Zakh.

Temple Grandin: I hate to say it, but it’s southeast—one of the most backward areas.

Carole Reynolds: Yeah. We need to fight this.

Temple Grandin: All the worst drug horror stories I hear come out of the southeast.

Tricia Kenney: We’re gonna dedicate a big part of the Autism Women’s Network to working on cases like this, to helping families in situations like this, and women who’ve been abused and taken advantage of. None of these people get legal representation; that’s a tragedy. If you wanna be a part of AWN at at any point, just let us know, because this is something we’re really passionate about.

Carole Reynolds: Okay. Well, I appreciate anything you can do, and I’ve enjoyed talking with you. Bye-bye, gals.

Sharon daVanport: Wow. Her story’s pretty powerful.

Tricia Kenney: It is. And it’s so imortant, because it’s not just happening to her; it’s happening to so many kids. It’s tragic and it’s horrific.

Sharon daVanport: Temple, when you were a child, did you hear a lot of people getting threatened with institutions, too?

Temple Grandin: Oh, yeah. In the ’50s, they just would put kids like me in an institution. One of the things that saved me, my parents had enough money so I could go to a private school. But the teaching and things that was done with me was not the most expensive program. There’s programs out there that school districts are paying for that actually cost more than what was done with me as a little kid. People probably don’t have very good financial means. If I was in that situation and I had the financial means, I would move out of that state.

Sharon daVanport: Right. And she kind of can’t right now. I wanted to tell our listeners where they can find some of your books.

Temple Grandin: One of my main autism books is Thinking in Pictures. Then I have another autism book called The Way I See It. I have an autism book that I did with Sean Barron: The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships. Then my book on careers for people with Asperger’s and autism is called Developing Talents.

These books are all available on Amazon. The Way I See It, Thinking in Pictures and my first book Emergence: Labeled Autistic are all available at Barnes and Noble. Then I have an animal book, Animals in Translation that has quite a bit of autism stuff in it. Any bookstore can order my books—any bookstore. It doesn’t matter who they are.

Tricia Kenney: Are they available on Kindle?

Temple Grandin: Thinking in Pictures is avaiable on Kindle; it’s also available as an audiobook.

[Transcriber’s note: Here are the search results for “Temple Grandin” in the Kindle store.]

Thinking in Pictures is my main, main autism book, and I redid it about four years ago, an updated edition of it.

Sharon daVanport: Before we go on to one more caller, I wanted to ask you if they took a combination of your books to get the script for the HBO movie Temple Grandin, or did they actually talk to you to get the script?

Temple Grandin: Oh, they talked to me. The writers came and visited; Mick Jackson, the director, came and visited; they talked to me a whole lot. I read scripts. They did have to compress some events to make it work. They had to change some events around, but the way Claire Danes became me is really accurate, and the way they duplicated my projects was absolutely accurate.

Sharon daVanport: When you said you got things from back in the ’60s and the ’70s, did Claire Danes have only that?

Temple Grandin: I had no tapes from the ’70s and ’60s—they didn’t even have video stuff then. We didn’t have any old movies; we just didn’t have them. Our family didn’t do the 8 milimeter movie kind of stuff. We didn’t have anything like that, so I had to give her these 25-year-old video tapes that I had.

That was the oldest VHS that I had. She made my mannerisms more pronounced. I sent her pictures of what I looked like as as a kid. The main books that were used were Emergence: Labeled Autistic and Thinking in Pictures. Plua, they interviewed me in detail. I probably spent altogether over a week with different writers and the directors.

Tricia Kenney: You were the first person that I was reading excerpts from your books, and you were actually the first source that I was like: “Yeah, that makes more sense.” Because everywhere else I looked, it was doom and gloom and misery. I’m like: “Well, that can’t be.”

Temple Grandin: Where else were you looking?

Tricia Kenney: Just online: all the different sites, all the different groups and things that are online. It was just all very daunting. Then they were talking about these methods of helping your children that were just astronomically expensive, and some very damaging. I would hear very strong opinions about how kids were damaged using this method or that method. So I was really scared and lost, and didn’t know which way to approach things.

Then when I was reading stuff about you, I was like: “Yeah. That makes more sense. That is something helpful. That is not something that’s telling me my child doesn’t have a chance and a future, and they’re gonna live at home forever, and all of the bad messages that are circulating out there.”

Temple Grandin: The problem is, you get in the high Asperger end of things. Where are all the 40 and 50-year-old Asperger’s? Most of them are employed. One of the reasons they’re employed is because they had manners and stuff like that pounded into them.

The thing is, a little kids’ program is not that hard to do. One of the things you need to do is you need 20 to 30 hours a week of one-to-ones with a really effective, good teacher. I’ve observed that some teachers have the knack to work with these little autistic kids—the three, four and five-year-olds—and other teachers do not have the knack.

You kind of have to be gently insistent; you’ve gotta pull them out of it. You play games with them, and you teach them language. There’s a lot of argument over what method you use. A good teacher tends to use a variety of methods, but every expert will agree that an autistic three-year-old needs a lot of hours of one-to-one teaching. The worst thing you could do with an autistic three-year-old is nothing. That’s the worst thing you can do. Everybody agrees on that.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Very true.

Tricia Kenney: I agree.

Sharon daVanport: What recommendations do you have? You talk a lot about people on the spectrum who have great abilities to find a job. What do you encourage in that area to get someone out there? Like the mother who called earlier about her 29-year-old daughter who limits herself?

Temple Grandin: Well, you’ve gotta get her out doing things. One thing that was done with me when I was 13 years old, I had my first job. I worked for a seamstress who did freelance sewing out of her house. When I was in high school, I was goofing around and I wasn’t studying, but I was cleaning the horse barn and making signs and doing a lot of really good work-related things. I think we need to be teaching work skills young. I think that’s really important.

The other thing is, I never got a job through the traditional front door interview route. Every cattle project I ever designed—and half the cattle in this country are handled in equipment I designed—the way I sold those jobs is I sent people portfolios of work: drawings, pictures of projects, articles that I’d written for Beef magazine and The Cattleman. I sold my work, not myself. You’ve got to make a portfolio to show off your work.

I didn’t put a whole huge dictionary-sized book in this portfolio; I put four or five of the best things. When the person opened it up, it was like: “Wow!” Today, you would put that stuff up on a webpage.

Sharon daVanport: Right. That’s true.

Temple Grandin: That’s how I sold jobs. Some of the biggest meat companies—Cargill corporation, they have my facilities in all their plants in North America for beef and pork. The way I sold that job—that would’ve been over 20 years ago now—was I sent a beautiful, professionally-made brochure I had. (You gotta remember, this is pre-Internet when I did this). I had two plastic pages with gorgeous pictures of some of my other jobs. I put a full-sized blueprint in, and a list of satisfied clients. I sent it right to the head of Cargill Beef. He opened it up, went “Wow!” and two weeks later, I got the call.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Temple Grandin: It needs to be something where the person can open it up and then goes: “Wow!” You have to send the right stuff. I made sure that since this was the meat plants, the slaughterhouses, I didn’t send them ranch corral stuff. I sent them meat plant stuff.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Temple Grandin: There needs to be a lot more emphasis when kids are younger on: “What are we gonna do when this kid grows up?” Work skills need to be taught young. They’ve gotta learn stuff like being on time. That was taught to me when I was in first grade. My mother got me an alarm clock and I was expected to wind it every night—cause back then they were wind-up clocks—and set it and get up.

Sharon daVanport: There you go. So it’s basically just making sure that your children really have some expectations and goals.

Temple Grandin: Exactly. But then on the other hand, you’ve got to be careful about sensory overload. Let’s say our church had been an electronic, blasted-out church with drums and things like that. I would not have been able to tolerate that. Fortunately, it was an old-fashioned, organ church, and I did not have any sensory problems. But a real loud, electronic church today, I would’ve had problems with that. If the family wanted me to go to church, they would’ve had to pick a quieter service, or a quieter church, because that just would not have worked.

Sharon daVanport: Right, somebody’s asking because you went to church and developed a routine, if it’s still something you do as an adult? Becasue you developed going to church as a routine that you have stuck with?

Temple Grandin: Well, I’m afraid I haven’t. What’s happening to me on weekends now is I’m traveling so much that when I get home on weekends, it’s all I can do to get the bills paid.

Sharon daVanport: I’ve been there, to try and just organize everything.

Temple Grandin: To try to get the bills paid and the mail answered and meet with my students. That’s what I do on weekends. It’s like I’m busier on weekends than I am when I’m out on the road. I’m on the book tour right now, and I had a day to just be in the hotel room, and that’s when I’m doing this.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Before we wrap everything up, can you tell everyone a little bit about your upcoming talks and where you will be?

Temple Grandin: I’ve got two websites. I’ve got templegrandin.com, which should have my talks on it. Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of traffic and the host crashed, and they’re in the process right now of moving it to a bigger server. [Transcriber’s Note: On January 15, I got on it just fine.] We had some problems getting all the speaking engagements up. Then my livestock website is grandin.com, but that’s strickly my livestock work.

I do a whole lot of conferences for Future Horizons. They have my talks. I do about eight or nine conferences a year for Future Horizons.

Sharon daVanport: Do you have any upcoming talks that you know of offhand?

Temple Grandin: Well, I’ve got my book talks that are coming up next week. On Monday, January 18, I will be at Barnes and Noble in Fenton, Missouri at 7:00. On Tuesday, January 19, I will be at the Chicago Public Library at 6:00. Then on January 20, I’ll be at Borders in Madison, Wisconsin at 7:00.

Sharon daVanport: Well, I appreciate you giving out these dates, ’cause we had a lot of people hoping you’d be in their area and we’ve already had three respond that you are.

Temple Grandin: On the 21 of January, I will be in Atlanta at Barnes and Noble at 7:00. The book events are free. There’s no charge to go to the book events.

Tricia Kenney: Dr. Fuentes wants to know if your salary increased or decreased when you first started as a professor, because of autism. If the label affected your pay.

Temple Grandin: I’m only a part-time professor. The rest of my work’s been freelance. Autism now’s been more of my work than livestock, but I still do livestock. I think it’s important that I still have my real job. I still teach my class at Colorado State University; I still do livestock consulting.

Tricia Kenney: I’m sorry; the listener was wondering if you’d be in Athens, Georgia. Not Atlanta.

Temple Grandin: I have a veterinary meeting in Athens on February 2. I’ve got an evening talk; it will be at the veterinary college.

Sharon daVanport: That’s an evening talk, so that our listener who’s asking in the chatroom, they can attend as well?

Temple Grandin: Yeah, they probably could go. It’s a talk I’m doing for the veterinary student club. It will be a livestock talk; it will not be an autism talk. It will strictly be about animals.

Sharon daVanport: Now, Temple, if someone wants to get you to speak in their area for something, where would they contact you?

Temple Grandin: I have a phone number. It’s (970) 229-0703; that’s my answering service number.

Sharon daVanport: They can just leave a message there, correct?

Temple Grandin: They can leave a message, and I will try to call them back, if I hopefully don’t get 100 phone calls.

Sharon daVanport: I have just enjoyed this. Is there anything that we didn’t touch on that you really wanted to say to our listeners?

Temple Grandin: We’ve talked about early intervention; we’ve talked about sensory problems; we talked a little bit about medication issues and I cover that in detail in my book Thinking in Pictures.

Another thing is, people need to stop doing this fight between conventional medication and the alternative things. Little kids, one of the most important alternative things to do are the special diets. They help a lot of little kids, like the casein and gluten-free diet, the low sugar diets. People need to be logical, because I do gluten-free, but I also take a little bit of conventional medication—the anti-depressant.

I wanna tell you a little secret about anti-depressant drugs like Prozac. People on the spectrum often need a much, much lower dose. The doses that are normally given for other people are too high, and they’ll cause agitation and insomnia. Low, low, low doses.

Tricia Kenney: That’s if they have issues that require medication.

Temple Grandin: Yeah. That’s right. There’s way too many powerful medications given out to little kids. Basically, I wanna try other things like special diets on little kids, but there are some older children and adults that need some medication. There’s way too many powerful drugs given out way too casually. On the other hand, I can’t be totally against medication, because anti-depressant medication stopped my panic attacks and I would not be functional if I hadn’t gotten that stopped.

Sharon daVanport: Right. I agree with you, Temple. I think that people need to stop bickering about: “Oh, don’t say that you need to be on this diet or that diet.” Nobody knows what helps somebody else. I really think it’s important to understand that what you put in your body can affect you in an adverse way. Some things that affect my son would never affect my daughter, because she’s an individual. I may not feed her certain things that I do him. When you see parents doing this, I think we should be encouraging to one another in the autism community, and not be bickering.

Temple Grandin: I wanna emphasise sensible stuff to do. Little kids I think doing the diets is a really good thing. But there’s other stuff, some really far-out stuff, or stuff that costs $100,000 a year. That’s just ridiculous.

Tricia Kenney: I agree. Most of us are not rich. Most of us are pretty poor, and there’s no way. That’s like saying: “Your kid can be great and succesful and have nothing wrong with him if you have the means to pay for this or that. Otherwise, expect your child to live at home forever.” That’s not fair to do to somebody.

Temple Grandin: Little kids’ programs are not that hard to do. When I do talks, especially down in the southeast where they have absolutely no services, I say: “Go to your church. Get some grandmothers; get some students; get somebody to work with that kid for 20-30 hours a week, because nothing’s the worst thing that you can do.”

Now, where they get into a lot more problems is if the kid has problems when he gets older, and then Granny isn’t gonna be able to deal with them. But little kids, the important thing is many, many, many hours of one-to-one teaching. It doesn’t have to be some jillion-dollar expert. It could be a church granny. The thing is, one grandmother’s gonna have a knack, be really effective with this kid, and another granny won’t know what to do with him.

Sharon daVanport: I just wanna thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today, Temple.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah, thank you, Temple. I really appreciate you getting involved. I do hope that you do consider joining in with the AWN and supporting what we do for the general masses that are in the autism community.

Temple Grandin: I would be very happy to be on your show some other times, because I wanna talk to the general masses. I wanna help people come up with logical, sensible things to do.

Sharon daVanport: We’ll sure come up with some different topics, then. I’ll be in touch with you, Temple, and we’ll get you squeezed in between your tours and stuff.

Temple Grandin: That sounds really good.

Sharon daVanport: Thanks so much.

Tricia Kenney: Thank you.

Sharon daVanport: Travel safe.

Temple Grandin: I will.

Sharon daVanport: Okay, Tricia, we’d better just say goodbye ’cause we’re going at 10 seconds, it says.

Tricia Kenney: Don’t forget to join us tomorrow, with Eric Chessen.

Sharon daVanport: All right. Thanks for joining us, everyone. We’ll talk to you later. Bye-bye.

Tricia Kenney: Bye-bye.

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3 Responses

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  1. ender said, on January 15, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    wow. thanks so much for posting the transcript. i don’t do well with radio or podcasts or stuff, so reading it was very helpful for me.

    and wow – so many of the discussions about school sound so familiar to me.

  2. Bonnie said, on January 29, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Thank you so much. It is very encouraging to know that the approach that my daughter and her husband are taking with my grandson is what is really important for him. He is six and has had one-on-one since age four. He is also on a very strict diet and is mainstreamed into the public school system.

    It is a constant battle to retain services. The services that the State is willing to provide get less and less.

    Thank you again. I have read several of Temple Grandins books and think she is a marvelous person, for her care for people and animals, and for what she fights every day.

  3. Linda said, on February 5, 2010 at 4:29 am

    What a wonderful transcript so full of interesting information. I have a friend whose nephew has asperger’s and is also deaf. He had one job for many years in that he worked w/numbers and sorting mail. He was good at his job but when they ‘changed’ to a computerized system where he was to learn a whole different way of doing his job, he could not take the pressure and they let him go (after about 20 yrs there)..

    His social skills are poor and his interviews are a disaster.

    He can name what sports person is on what team, his averages, touchdowns, batting averages, etc. but that does not get him in the door for a job. He is on disability, now, and is in his 50’s. He lives in the house where his late parents lived but cannot keep a decent house so his sister who lives several states away, hired a cleaning lady for him for once a month.

    His sister has Bipolar disorder and some physical ailments along with it. Her husband is a saint and does all in his power to make her life bearable. She adores her cat, Henry.

    She does take classes to try to keep her mind on things other than her problems and her brother’s problems.

    It is such a shame that her brother didn’t have a diagnosis until later in life and we live in a very conservative area of PA (Lancaster County where there are many plain sect and Amish….oh, and puppy mills).. They are the kind of folks who put people into categories and you are to behave in certain ways or else you are ‘odd’ or crazy or lazy or whatever they want to label you.

    This interview w/Temple was so very enlightening and I am hoping that I can find it somewhere in print so that I can show my friend and help her understand her nephew. She tries but just can’t seem to understand how autistic and asperger’s people think, learn, and the reasons for not fitting the molds. I can’t wait to get the book on tape called Thinking in Pictures! Iwant to share that with my friend. (She is 81 so is in a different generation but I know it will help her w/understanding what her nephew has and goes thru day after day)….BTW, nephew’s late dad said ‘There is nothing wrong with Ted’…..Everyone thought he was just stubborn and deaf.

    Thank you and thanks for Temple for her work in this and the animal field. She is a gem.

    Linda


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