Early Intervention Key, Says Activist Temple Grandin
Aug. 14, 2012 | Early intervention is the key to treating a child who may be autistic, says Temple Grandin, Ph.D., who overcame a number of barriers after being diagnosed with autism at a young age.
Temple Grandin, who has autism, overcame barriers to become one of the nation’s leading experts in the treatment of livestock.
Temple Grandin, Ph.D., (left) and Molly Gathright, M.D., of the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute, take questions after Grandin’s presentation.
Temple Grandin autographs a copy of her book for Victor Jacuzzi, an honorary co-chair of the UAMS-sponsored luncheon where she was the guest speaker.
Grandin went on to become one of the nation’s leading experts in the treatment of livestock as well as an outspoken activist in the field of autism spectrum disorders.
“The worst thing you can do is nothing,” said Grandin at a luncheon Aug. 13 at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. “You don’t want these kids sitting around in a vacuum. We’ve got to start working with these kids early; we can’t have them getting their first services at 5 or 6 years old.”
The event was sponsored by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ (UAMS) Psychiatric Research Institute and the UAMS College of Medicine’s Division of Genetics.
Recognizing that a child has a problem is the first step, said Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. It’s also important to determine what kind of problem the child has, since autism spectrum disorders have a wide range of symptoms.
“A lot of kids with learning problems can have sensory problems, not just those who are autistic,” said Grandin. “And not everyone who is autistic has trouble processing things visually. When I was a little kid, I had a lot of problems getting my speech out. That’s because my mind is totally visual. As I got older, it was a really big surprise to find out that most people don’t think in pictures like I do.”
Grandin said it was not unusual to find that many young people diagnosed with autism, even those diagnosed with a high-functioning variation of the disorder, have problems with math skills, reading and drawing. “You know what? They think differently; let them do it,” she said, urging parents not to push their autistic children more than necessary.
“I’ve seen a lot of kids graduate from college and they’ve got no work skills,” said Grandin, who believes that more emphasis should be placed on traditional courses like home economics and wood working. “We need to be putting this stuff back into schools.”
Named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2010, she received a master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975, and a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989. The HBO film about her life and early career, “Temple Grandin,” earned five Emmys in 2010.
The luncheon concluded with a question-and-answer session featuring Molly Gathright, M.D., of the Psychiatric Research Institute and G. Bradley Schaefer, M.D., director of the Division of Genetics.