Different – not less
April 4, 2011
by Jenni Sebora

“I am different, but I am not less.”

This was a quote from Temple Grandin. This belief was instilled in her by her mother, some special teachers, and mentors who worked with her.

Grandin is a doctor of animal science, a professor at Colorado State University, a bestselling author, an animal behavior consultant for the livestock industry. She is also highly-noted as an autism advocate, being a person with high functioning autism herself.

Grandin was born in 1947 and was diagnosed with autism in 1950. Doctors at that time told her mother that she was brain damaged and should be institutionalized. The mom, upon hearing this, responded, “For how long?”

The doctor replied, “Well, all of her life.”

Grandin’s mom never accepted this. She was going to ensure that her daughter would realize her fullest potential. Her strengths were the focus.

Grandin’s aunt and uncle, her mom, and certain teachers believed in her and guided her to use her fixations in beneficial directions.

Grandin is a visual thinker and has great visual memory, which allows her to recall the smallest details. She used, and continues to use, these special skills to lead a very productive life.

Her insight into the minds of cattle taught her to value the changes in details to which animals are sensitive. She has used her visualization skills to design very thoughtful and humane animal handling equipment.

Her interests in animal welfare started with designs for improving standards in slaughter plants. She began with designing curved corrals that were intended to reduce stress in animals that were being led to slaughter.

Grandin earned a variety of degrees, including a bachelor of arts in psychology in 1970, a master of science in animal science in 1975, and a Ph.D. in animal science in 1989.

Grandin is listed in the 2010 “Time” 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the category of “Heroes.”

Thank goodness she had people that believed in her.

An HBO film, titled “Temple Grandin,” starring Claire Danes as Grandin was released in 2010, and at the 62nd Emmy Awards, it received five awards.

I recently rented and watched this movie with my 11-year-old daughter, who was asking me many questions about Grandin. Throughout the movie, my daughter kept saying, “Mom, she (Grandin) is cool. I like her.” She is cool. She never gave up.

I work with students with autism and other disabilities. I have a belief that all people have something to contribute. We are all individuals with individual needs, wants, and skills. I will always believe in Temple’s quote, “I am different, but I am not less.”

My love in teaching is guiding each individual I work with to reach their potential and to realize their gifts to give. Each day I am blessed by each student I work with by their own individuality.

As adults, we need to guide our young people to believe in themselves, to realize their gifts, and to direct their special skills in “fruitful directions,” as Temple put it.

(source: Wikipedia)