Individuals on the autism spectrum have different ways of thinking. Some are photo-realistic visual thinkers, others are pattern thinkers who view things spatially, and still others think verbally. And Temple Grandin says the world needs all these different kinds of minds engaged in solving problems.
“These different minds complement each other,” Grandin told a crowd of 800 at the Lory Student Center on the Colorado State University campus — and many more watching the online live stream — on Monday.
Marking Autism Awareness Month, the world-renowned CSU professor and autism advocate delivered the sixth installment of the President’s Community Lecture Series.
In her talk, Grandin detailed why it’s important to embrace creative thinking by bringing together diverse minds, based in large part on her personal experience with autism.
“When I learned how my visual thinking was different from verbal thinking, it gave me insight into how different people’s brains approach problem solving,” she said.
A professor of animal sciences for more than 20 years, Grandin has made enormous contributions to the livestock industry. Her autism allows her to think in pictures and that ability has made her a visionary in her field. Her insights into animal behavior shaped innovative approaches to livestock handling, including methods and designs for humane slaughter that have become the industry standard.
Show kids interesting things
Grandin also expressed concern that children on the autism spectrum are too removed from the practical things of the world, including skilled trades where there’s a shortage of workers.
“The things that really helped me were working in the horse barn, riding and carpentry work,” said Grandin. “For kids who are different, it’s really important that they learn working skills.”
She emphasized the importance of getting young people interested in different fields of study before high school.
“To get kids interested in interesting things you have to show them interesting things,” said Grandin. “This needs to start in middle school. How about making a microscope out of an iPhone? That’s the kind of cool tech stuff we need to get middle school kids interested in.”
Grandin pointed out that many of top business people have overcome such conditions as dyslexia and ADHD to go on to become highly successful. But she is concerned that in order to get help in schools, many kids are labeled.
“A lot of kids today are getting labels,” Grandin said. “I am worried that our educational system is screening out some of our brilliant kids. I’m really concerned about that. We need these kids.”
A day with Temple
The Community Lecture was just one way people were able to hear from Grandin on April 13. On the heels of a wildly successful Reddit “Ask Me Anything” in November, Grandin hosted her first Google+ Hangout.
Users could submit questions ahead of time to Grandin and she responded to them live during her session. She answered more than 100 questions from around world concentrating mainly on animal handling and living with autism. To view the entire Google+ Hangout visit #AskTemple: A Live Google Hangout with CSU’s Dr. Temple Grandin.
President’s Community Lecture Series
The President’s Community Lecture Series presents outstanding Colorado State faculty in talks that are free and open to the Fort Collins community. Previous lecturers have included University Distinguished Professors Dr. Stephen Withrow and Diana Wall, Dean of the College of Business Ajay Menon, and professors Lori Peek and Bryan Willson.
Did you know?
Temple Grandin’s “Ask Me Anything” is the most popular and highest rated AMA on Reddit’s science section. The session received nearly 4,200 up-votes and generated more than 1,300 comments.
The AMA is also a finalist for a Webby Award, which honors the best of the Internet.
You can help the Grandin AMA win the Webby People’s Voice Award by voting here.