By Patsy Webb, M.A.Ed.S., and FLC Career Coach
Generations of people across the world now have a better understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because of Dr. Temple Grandin. On Feb. 27, Dr. Grandin joined some of the Friends and Friends Life Community (FLC) staff via Zoom, giving us a chance to interact and learn more about her story and her current work as a professor.
Here are some of the key things we have learned from Dr. Grandin:
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Her memoir “Thinking in Pictures” gave the world insight into living with ASD as she told her personal story of growing up, going through school, and building a successful career despite the enormous barriers and challenges she faced. The HBO movie that followed, titled “Temple Grandin,” showed these challenges in detail and highlighted her mother, her family, and the mentors and friends who supported and advocated alongside her.
FLC recently offered a book club – our Master Class called “Books with Friends” – in which we read “Thinking in Pictures” together with a group of Friends. In addition to the book club, we held a movie night for the Friends to watch the film together online.
Our discussion focused on self-advocacy and finding each person’s strengths. Elizabeth Z summed up what she learned about Dr. Grandin: “She was brave. I like how she speaks her mind. Even though she was put down a lot, she kept moving forward.”
Teens & Adults with Autism
In the book, Dr. Grandin says, “The word ‘autism’ still conveys a fixed and dreadful meaning to most people — they visualize a child mute, rocking, screaming, inaccessible, cut off from human contact. And we almost always speak of autistic children, never of autistic adults, as if such children never grew up, or were somehow mysteriously spirited off the planet, out of society.” She has dedicated part of her life to helping society see adults with ASD in a new light – one that creates a place for everyone to belong.
She has continued to be a trailblazing figure in animal science and the humane treatment of livestock in the meat industry. She travels the world consulting with corporations in the livestock industry as well as trains educators and employers about working with children and adults who have various abilities.
Different Kinds of Minds
Dr. Grandin believes that you cannot lump every individual with a disability into one category. Her creativity and ability to think outside the box have given her the ability to bring people together who think differently.
“The world needs different kinds of minds to work together” is one of Dr. Grandin’s famous quotes. Every person has a set of strengths and brings a new perspective or talent to the workforce.
Entering the world of employment comes with barriers, including the interview process. Her advice is to “short-circuit the interview” whenever possible and increase connections with people in the community in order to “find the back doors.” She suggests getting creative in order to open new job opportunities.
What are Accommodations?
Many people with ASD have deep knowledge in very specific areas of interest. This can give them great talent for certain fields – technology, engineering, or math, for example. Finding “workarounds” or accommodations for others who have disabilities takes creative thinking but brings value to helping every person succeed.
For instance, using a pilot’s checklist is a way for a person who needs step–by–step instructions to work efficiently without being overwhelmed. Making accommodations in the workplace does not have to be scary, expensive or complicated.
Everyone Deserves a Place to Belong is the FLC motto, and Temple Grandin has been a lifelong champion for this way of thinking. Her perspective and creative talents are part of her life with Autism, and they are also a part of her strengths. She has been able to use these strengths in the field of animal science and behavioral management to improve the lives of animals and many other people who live with sensory issues and learning or behavioral differences of all ages!
Friends Life Community is committed to creating opportunities for adults with disabilities to develop socially, grow personally, and enjoy community as they experience life together. Our Inclusive Employment Training helps local businesses discover ways that they can become inclusive employers and broaden the diversity of their teams, giving adults with IDD meaningful opportunities to contribute to the community. To learn more or schedule a training for your team, email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Patsy Webb, M.A.Ed.S., C.E.S.P., Service Learning & Employment Specialist
Patsy Webb joined FLC in 2017, and holds a master’s degree in Special Education from the University of Iowa. As a Certified Employment Support Professional, she brings more than 25 years’ experience teaching students, from preschool to high school, with special needs.
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