19 October 2010 0 Comments

Worshiping Temple

Photo by Steve Jurvetson http://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/

This year’s Emmy Awards had some surprises. Among them was recognition given to the HBO film Temple Grandin. HBO: Temple Grandin: Home

Once considered a socially awkward outcast with no useful skills, Dr. Grandin is now credited with revolutionizing our understanding of autism and changing the way half the U.S. cattle industry does business. She still may be a little socially awkward (witness her behavior at the Emmys), but she has found a way to use her unique abilities and make invaluable contributions.

Temple Grandin lives with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurological condition affecting a growing number of Americans (now one in every 150 children). ASD can manifest itself in a broad range of conditions usually affecting the brain areas responsible for communication, emotions and senses. This can create some social challenges, even for those considered “high functioning.” For example, many with ASD have difficulty reading facial expressions or other emotional signals; for most, language is understood literally, so idioms and metaphors seem ridiculous; and some are extremely sensitive to touch, sound or light.

Grandin was one of the first people with ASD to communicate what was going on inside her head, providing parents and medical professionals with a greater understanding of how to build relationships and care for them. She endured ridicule, sexism and prejudice from a world that did not understand her. Thankfully she persevered.

Temple’s unique ability to “see and think in pictures” enabled her to design more humane equipment for handling cattle. Her perspective was so different, it was initially rejected. Now half of the cattle in the U.S. are impacted by her designs – and business is better, too.

At age four, Temple was told she would never speak and medical professionals recommended that she be committed to an asylum. Just think, we almost missed out on her amazing lifetime contributions. Don’t miss the chance to see this film.

What About You?

1. Have you been surprised by a perspective you initially rejected but later saw as valuable?

2. What can be done to create an environment where different perspectives are encouraged?

3. What roadblocks have you overcome to get your perspective heard?

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