Temple Grandin (born August 29, 1947) is an American doctor of animal science and professor at Colorado State University, bestselling author, and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. As a person with high-functioning autism, Grandin is also widely noted for her work in autism advocacy and is the inventor of the hug machine designed to calm hypersensitive persons.
Grandin is listed in the 2010 Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the category “Heroes”.
Early life and education Grandin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Richard Grandin and Eustacia Cutler. She was diagnosed with autism in 1950. Having been labeled and diagnosed with brain damage at age two, she was placed in a structured nursery school with what she considers to have been good teachers. Grandin’s mother spoke to a doctor who suggested speech therapy, and she hired a nanny who spent hours playing turn-based games with Grandin and her sister.
At age four, Grandin began talking, and making progress. She considers herself lucky to have had supportive mentors from primary school onwards. However, Grandin has said that middle and high school were the worst parts of her life. She was the “nerdy kid” whom everyone teased. At times, while walking down the street, people would taunt her by saying “tape recorder,” because she would repeat things over and over again. Grandin states that, “I could laugh about it now, but back then it really hurt.”
After graduating from Hampshire Country School, a boarding school for gifted children in Rindge, New Hampshire, in 1966, Grandin went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College in 1970, her master’s degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975, and her doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.
Grandin is the focus of a semi-biographical HBO film, titled Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes as Grandin. The movie was released in 2010, was nominated for 15 Emmys, and received five awards, including Outstanding Made for Television Movie and Best Actress in a Drama. Grandin was on stage as the award was accepted, and spoke briefly on the microphone to the audience. Coincidentally, the 2010 Emmy Awards happened on Grandin’s birthday.
Based on personal experience, Grandin advocates early intervention to address autism, and supportive teachers who can direct fixations of the child with autism in fruitful directions. She has described her hypersensitivity to noise and other sensory stimuli. She claims she is a primarily visual thinker and has said that words are her second language. Temple attributes her success as a humane livestock facility designer to her ability to recall detail, which is a characteristic of her visual memory. Grandin compares her memory to full-length movies in her head that can be replayed at will, allowing her to notice small details. She is also able to view her memories using slightly different contexts by changing the positions of the lighting and shadows. Her insight into the minds of cattle has taught her to value the changes in details to which animals are particularly sensitive, and to use her visualization skills to design thoughtful and humane animal-handling equipment. She was named a fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers in 2009.