Temple Grandin

by Camille from San Diego

Temple Grandin ( ())
Temple presenting her talk "Different kinds of minds"
University of Denver / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr

  "Different, but not less" (Temple Grandin). Dr. Temple Grandin, an extraordinary individual with autism, describes herself as those simple yet powerful words.  Her life began on August 29, 1947 in Boston, Massachusetts to a caring family. At age four her doctor diagnosed her with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, due to her lack of speech and sensitivity to touch. One summer during her teens, Grandin's mother sent her out West to her aunt's ranch, which ended up being one of the most important places in her life. At that ranch she developed an interest in cattle. She observed that she and the cows viewed the world in the same way; she believes her ability to "think in pictures" like a cow derives from her autism. This later allowed her to make improvements in the livestock industry, and in 1975 after earning her master's degrees, she established the company Grandin Livestock Handling Systems. Throughout her career Grandin initiated momentous changes in the livestock industry such as designing numerous innovations at such facilities that help to reduce stress in the animals during their final minutes.  However, she did not limit herself to only improving the lives of cattle and pigs. From the early 1990s to present day 2012 she advocated for autism, touring across the nation to inform parents, teachers, and students about autism. Her presentations are empowering, causing young people to believe that they can do anything if they live passionately and work hard. Autistic animal scientist Dr. Temple Grandin proves to be an inspiring hero through her perseverance to pursue her interests, compassion for those whose voices are unheard, and selfless acts of activism.

From the beginning, Temple Grandin continuously persevered to prove her autism could not restrict her from becoming successful. As a young teen, heartless classmates of Grandin constantly taunted her because of her lack of social skills: "I started to fall in love with animals in high school when my mother sent me to a special boarding school for gifted children with emotional problems. Mother had to find a place for me because I got kicked out of high school for fighting. I got in fights because kids teased me. They'd call me names, like "'Retard,'" or "'Tape Recorder.'" ("Animals in Translation").  One can conclude that Grandin did not have very pleasant experiences in normal high school. However, instead of giving up on school all together, she allowed her mother to enroll her into a boarding school that accommodated to her needs. Even though her mother made the decision to send her to boarding school, Temple's determination to prove her disorder could not stop her from achieving great things persisted; Also, despite the jeering and mockery, she did not allow it to make her feel less of a person. She eventually found an interest in animals and pursued an education and career that brought her success. Grandin's perseverance continued on into her working adult life:  "her autism was classified as the "high-functioning" kind, and she did not have good interpersonal skills. Her communication with others was often blunt, and as a result she sometimes found herself alienated from co-workers. Grandin decided that working on her own, in temporary assignments" ("Temple Grandin"). Even though Grandin did not posses strong social skills, she did not let it stop her from following her passion, providing a more humane treatment of animals. The roadblocks heaped upon by autism did not cease Grandin from advancing in her career. With a head-strong attitude like a bull, she took on the challenge of demolishing those barriers. By seeking out a solution to continue her works she exemplifies determination and passion. Despite the limits of autism, Grandin proved that nothing could prevent her from getting a strong education and stable job. 

Temple Grandin
Dr. Temple Grandin addresses employees as the keynote speaker at Kennedy Space
Center's annual National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) event.
NASA Kennedy / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr

  Temple Grandin's ability to connect and sympathize with the ones who lack a voice demonstrates her compassion. In her book Animals in Translation she notes: "We owe them [animals] a decent life and a decent death, and their lives should be as low-stress as possible. That's my job. I wish animals could have more than just a low-stress life and a quick, painless death. I wish animals could have a good life, too, with something useful to do. People were animals, too, once, and when we turned into human beings we gave something up. Being close to animals brings some of it back." (Grandin). In this quote from one of Temple's many books, she writes in a passionate tone to emphasize the respect animals deserve. This displays her deep connection to animals that endure harsh deaths; she explains her job is to gives animals a better life, and part of her work includes designing more humane slaughterhouses for cattle. By providing a way to give animals quick and painless deaths, she demonstrates that she understands animals still have emotions -more importantly, she wants the animals to feel like they too have a purpose in life, which shows her compassion. Not only a voice for animals, she also educates the public about those who share her diagnosis: "She lectures frequently on the topic of autism, strongly urging parents and educators of autistic and Asperger-syndrome children to abide by some important rules" ("Temple Grandin"). This shows Grandin is humane because by showing her concern for autistic children she emits compassion and sympathy. As an individual who lived with autism all her life, she feels as if it is her duty to inform others how autistics behave and function. True heroes constantly are aware of their purpose in society. Grandin wants those young, awkward, and insecure autistic kids to know that she is striving to provide awareness of their gift. She can easily relate to any of their behaviors, and she clearly explains the reasons of those behaviors to parents and teachers so they can effectively raise autistic children. Through her humanely designed slaughterhouses and advocacy for autism Grandin not only embodies a kind, caring individual.

Temple Grandin speaking at TED ( (Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA))
Temple Grandin speaking at TED
Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA / CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia

  Temple Grandin's selfless acts of activism that provide a betterment of the autistic community and animal life depict a true hero. In an interview, Grandin makes a point of explaining the main purpose of her books and presentations: "One of the things I hope they'll learn is that students who are a little bit different can go out and achieve and really do good things." ("Animal scientist, autism advocate to speak at St. Scholastica"). Temple is saying that her lectures are designed to empower young children with or without autism. She wants them to assimilate her powerful words so they can believe that no matter how different they are they can still reach success and make an impact in the world. By working tirelessly to positively modify the minds of individuals across the nation, she demonstrates selflessness. Those with autism especially need someone like Temple Grandin to prove to them that they have a purpose in this world. In another interview, when asked if becoming a celebrity rather than a household name worried her, Grandin replied "no," and stated: "What turns me on is helping a parent of an autistic child, or having someone say my work [with animals] helped them understand their dog better. Something that makes a beneficial change is what turns me on." ("Temple Grandin on Her Struggles and 'Yak Yaks'"). This shows that Temple is much more concerned about how her inventions, writing, and presentations affect the ones she tries to help. Her main targets include people who have or know somebody with autism and animals.  Even though she received some fame and attention, she cares more about helping those who need recognition; she dedicates her life to improving the lives of others and making a positive impact in the world. When Grandin states, "Something that makes beneficial change turns me on," she lets the public know that the improvement of our world captures her mind. She does not care for fortune and a celebrity status. Temple Grandin deserves admiration by people today because she travels throughout the country and gives inspiring presentations to motivate a variety of individuals to make a difference in the world.

     Temple Grandin possessed an attitude that allowed her to never let anything prevent her from following her passion. She fought for the humane and ethical treatment of animals and created brilliant innovations that gave respect for animal life. Grandin also rose to become a well known member of the autistic community. Temple Grandin is an inspiration to me because despite the limits of her autism, she proved that she could still make an impact in the world. "Some children may have a mild form of the disorder, yet have difficulties holding down a job in adulthood. Others may never be able to live on their own." ("Temple Grandin on Her Struggles and 'Yak Yaks'"). Rather than allowing her disability to prevent her from succeeding, she discovered that her autism allowed her to see a fresh new perspective on the world, and used it to improve the quality of life for cattle. She is an example of a woman did not let her diagnosis define her. Temple Grandin taught me that we all need to stop pointing out our differences and start implementing substantial change to the global community. During those rough times when I feel I will never attain success, I reflect on my hero Dr. Temple Grandin. Grandin is a true hero because she encourages young people to work hard and persevere so when the time comes, they too can make a positive change in the world. Charles Harper once said: "Real heroes take us one step closer to fulfilling our human potential." ("Heroes"), and Temple Grandin does exactly that. Her life story, exceptional achievements, and enlightening lectures inspire people today to live their lives to the fullest no matter what obstacles step in their way. She proved that possessing a mind that functioned differently did not make her an individual of lesser value. 

Page created on 5/31/2012 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/7/2021 4:06:10 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Dr. Temple Grandin's Official Autism Website - Advice and responses to autism from Dr. Temple Grandin
Grandin Livestock Handling Systems - View pictures of systems deigned by Dr. Grandin
Autism Society - Learn more about autism
The Internet Movie Database - Information about Temple Grandin's biopic

Extra Info

Works Cited

"Animal scientist, autism advocate to speak at St. Scholastica." Duluth News-Tribune [Duluth, MN] 5 Feb. 2012. Gale Student Resources In Context. DEL NORTE HIGH SCHOOL. Web. 27 Mar. 2012.

Grandin, Temple, and Catherine Johnson. Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. New York: Scribner, 2005. Print.

Raymond, Joan. "Temple Grandin on Her Struggles and 'yak Yaks'." Msnbc Digital Network, 02 Feb. 2010. Web. 22 Mar. 2012.

"Temple Grandin." Newsmakers. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Gale Biography In Context. DEL NORTE HIGH SCHOOL.Web. 21 Mar. 2012