Temple Grandin, author, inventor, and animal expert, spoke at the University of Tennessee’s Alumni Memorial Building about pinpointing the symptoms of Autism early on and stimulating people with the disability by challenging their strengths.
Grandin emphasized that people with disabilities should embrace their difference and run with their talent, because many people with Autism, like herself, have been able to turn their symptoms into something positive. She uses her artistic abilities and love for animals to create efficient and helpful equipment used to handle cattle.
“You had to sell your work, not yourself. So when I had to go in for an interview, I would just stick my drawings under their face, and they’d go, ‘Wow! You may be weird, but you drew that?!’”
To really see the impact of Grandin’s lecture and Autism itself, I asked 3 students how Autism is significant in their lives? The responses were fascinating.
Emily Mitchell, senior at UT, describes growing up with 2 family members with Autism, first her cousin, then her brother. While her cousin had a more profound case of Autism, her family was able to pinpoint her brother’s symptoms early on and provide the treatment needed to cope with those symptoms. As Mitchell’s family worked with her brother’s symptoms of Autism, they also saw his strength in math. By providing him with more challenging problems, Mitchell’s family was able to improve his already astounding skills.
Maddie Wilson, audience member of Grandin’s lecture and senior at UT, recalls an officer asking audience members standing on the rails and in the back to exit, because Alumni Memorial Building was just too packed. Wilson is an after school counselor for 2nd graders and has experience with children with disabilities. “Grandin’s lecture taught me how important it is to pay attention to children’s behavior and be more patient with them so you can spot symptoms of Autism early on.”
Savanna Price, 2017 Kamp K counselor and senior at UT, describes Kamp K as “an outdoor education program for children with multiple disabilities [and] the age range is from 7 to 21.” Price explains her struggle to interact with one of her campers and her decision to switch campers with another counselor. Her new camper, a very timid young man, absolutely lit up as they were canoeing, releasing a big belly laugh. “I work at an after school program and doing that, and working at Kamp K has made me realize that I want to work with children with disabilities, because even on my worst days, they can put a smile on my face.”
Through attending Grandin’s lecture and reaching out to students of the University of Tennessee, I realized the truly positive impact Autism and other disabilities can have, like Grandin’s own impact on the world around her.