Over the weekend, I watched a movie about Temple Grandin, an Autistic woman who has become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock handling industry.
It left a deep impression on me and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Ms. Grandin’s life. She was born in August of 1947 into a well-educated and wealthy family. Temple received a diagnosis of ‘brain damage’ when she was two years old and the medical advice for this diagnosis at the time was to institutionalize the individual. Temple’s mom, Eustacia was strongly opposed to the idea of institutionalizing her daughter. So she took her to leading researchers and specialists in hopes of finding a better solution. Eustacia was able to hire a speech therapist and nanny to practice speaking and playing educational games with Temple. It wasn’t until she was three and a half years old that Temple began to talk.
Temple went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in human psychology from Franklin Pierce College in 1970, a master’s degree in animal science Arizona State University in 1975 and a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois in 1989.
Her life is a beautiful story, full of values that I hold very dear to my heart.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”
— Mark Twain
As an Autistic child, it can be extremely difficult to find the audacity to deal with a society that has little to no knowledge about how an autistic mind works. It’s extremely important to be able to stand strong in the face of adversity and confusion. The film does a beautiful job of showing how Temple got through the constant bullying and hate. Her mom, Eustacia had a lot to do with it. She instilled the right values in her daughter teaching her to ignore the negative voices and simply moving on. Another person who was an integral part of Temple’s life, Dr. William Carlock, her science teacher in boarding school, was an immensely positive influence in her life. He taught Temple many techniques to face her fears and at times, to visualize that they don’t exist. Temple’s story makes me wonder how many lives we can save if we instill this value of courage in future generations. Courage to deal with bullies and all that negativity that’s out there.
“You go on. You set one foot in front of the other, and if a thin voice cries out, somewhere behind you, you pretend not to hear, and keep going.”
— Geraldine Brooks
All odds were against Temple, or so it seemed. She wouldn’t talk to anyone, she wouldn’t play with her peers, she wasn’t able to learn when things weren’t visual. She wasn’t a “normal” child. Temple’s story is one of perseverance. It shows us what can happen if we don’t fall victims to social norms. Eustacia was adamant that her daughter will not be thrown into an institution because she was different from others. In the movie, Eustacia constantly refers to Temple as “different but not less” and this is the message that she wanted to send to the world. She fought for Temple because she knew how brilliant her daughter was and what she was capable of achieving. She didn’t give up and she didn’t let Temple give up either. Temple went on to achieve remarkable things as a result of this won’t-give-up attitude. In the movie, there are many instances where Temple’s tenacity shines through. She never took no for an answer. If someone shuts a door on her, she finds a different one to go through. She simply refuses to give up.
“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”
— Theodore Isaac Rubin
Temple loves animals. She connects with them in a way in which she’s never connected with anyone else. She is a prominent proponent for the humane treatment of livestock for slaughter. The reason why she is so drawn to working with cattle is because she believes that if we’re going to raise them and kill them for meat, the least we can do is show them some respect. She has single-handedly made a ton of progress in the cattle industry. She’s studied the behaviors of cattle: how they react to movements, objects and light. As a result, she has come up with numerous ways to make the processes around slaughtering more humane and relaxed for the cattle. Because of her, slaughterhouses are a lot less chaotic and far more kind.
Temple’s story is inspiring, her message is clear. You may be different but never less.
To get to know Temple and her story better, watch these: