Autism Advocate Temple Grandin Reminds Us the 'World Needs All Types of Minds'

Temple Grandin, Women's HistoryWhen you think of a child with developmental delays so severe she was unable to speak until she was nearly 4 years old, you don't imagine that she could go on to become a renowned speaker and author who received a doctoral degree in animal science. But autism and animal welfare advocate Temple Grandin accomplished all this and more, which is why we are honoring her this Women's History Month.


Grandin's life story is so inspiring and filled with hope that it was the subject of a 2010 HBO film in which Claire Danes portrayed the autistic animal husbandry expert who succeeded against all odds.

Who She Is

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1947, Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4. Despite being told she suffered from "brain damage" and should be institutionalized, Grandin went on to become a professor at Colorado State University, an author, and an activist. In 2010, Time magazine named her one of its Most Important People of the Year.

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How She Is Shaping History

By sharing her personal experience of living with autism, Temple Grandin is deepening the world's understanding of the condition, which is hugely important in light of ever-rising autism statistics.

Her incredible achievements challenge the misconception that those on the autism spectrum can't learn. Through her books and speaking engagements she's altering perceptions about children and adults who learn differently and offering what is often considered the greatest gift -- hope -- to those who are often isolated because of their differences.

Temple's successful career as a livestock-handling equipment designer -- one of very few in the world -- is a testament not only to her intelligence but also to her perseverance. Entering a male-dominated industry in the 1970s, this tour de force paved a way for women to follow in her footsteps. 

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Her Words to Live By

If anyone knows about overcoming challenges, it's Grandin. Though she endured bullying in school and harassment in the workplace and says anxiety is her strongest emotion, Temple maintained her dignity and is unwavering in her constant credo:

I am different, not less.

Her message is one that resonates with all who have ever struggled: 

My advice is: You always have to keep persevering.

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Why She Inspires Me

Temple credits her mother and teachers with motivating her to achieve her full potential. She reminds me as a parent to never place limits on my children and to continually foster a belief in them that, with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.

Her ability to take her condition, which others viewed as a limitation, and use it to become a pioneer in a nearly all-male industry is groundbreaking and inspiring.

Temple's remarkable accomplishments prove how important it is to see each individual for so much more than a label. Her story brings hope to all those who are, as she eloquently says, "differently-abled."

As she works tirelessly to illuminate and educate others about autism, she has stated that if given the choice she would not change her condition, noting that autism is part of who she is.

"I like the really logical way that I think. I'm totally logical. In fact, it kind of blows my mind how irrational human beings are," she said. "If you totally got rid of autism, you'd have nobody to fix your computer in the future."

She summed it up best in a 2010 TED talk, when she stated, "The world needs all types of minds."

Amen to that!


Image via John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images

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