Autism expert shares personal experiences at Landon Lecture

Temple Grandin talks about successful education of students with different kinds of minds in McCain Auditorium on Nov. 29, 2016. (Payton Heinze | The Collegian)

Kansas State students gathered together with faculty and other students from around the area to listen to Tuesday’s Landon Lecture by Temple Grandin.

Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, an author of many books, a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior and a world- renowned autism spokesperson. She was diagnosed with autism in 1950, according to her website.

“There are three different types of thinking: photo realistic visual thinking, pattern thinking and auditory thinking,” Grandin said.

There can also be mixtures of these thinking types, Grandin said.

“By the time I was 4, I learned how to talk; I was a lot of different kinds of minds,” Grandin said.

She said there are a lot of innovators that were probably on the autism spectrum: Einstein had no language until age 3 and Steve Jobs was a weird loner — he brought snakes to school and turned them loose in the elementary school classroom just to liven things up.

“Steven Spielberg wasn’t a good student,” Grandin said. “He was bullied and teased in school and dyslexic. I was bullied in school, and the only place I wasn’t bullied was the shared interests. Things like electronics and horseback riding.”

Grandin said learning how to work at an early age is really important for success.

“I do a lot of work in the meat industry,” Grandin said. “In fact, I developed a piece of equipment called the double rail restrainer system used in all of the big plants. So, I worked in all of these large plants, and who do you think works on a lot of the really clever equipment? It’s the guys who are kind of different.”

Elizabeth Sharp, junior in animal sciences and industry, said Grandin’s life proves anyone can do anything.

“She is living proof that anyone is capable of doing anything they want, as long as they apply themselves,” Sharp said.

Grandin said employers, specifically two large agriculture employers, hire people who are a little bit different.

“Tyson is hiring right now, big billboards on the highway, and they can’t find skilled mechanics,” Grandin said. “Cargill is hiring, big banners on their fence up in Milwaukee, because the kind of quirky guys that are kind of different, they are all retiring now. And I’m concerned about where they are going, getting addicted to video games because the schools have taken out skilled traits and the hands-on stuff.”

Grandin said that was the thing that saved her, hands-on activities where she made things, like wood shop and sewing.

“She truly understands that not everyone learns the same or sees the same thing,” Sharp said. “I think that in itself is the reason she is so successful.”

Shelby Osterhaus, senior in journalism and mass communications, said she has worked with autistic children before.

“I think what (Grandin) does is amazing,” Osterhaus said. “I have worked with autistic kids before and the things they can do are incredible.”

Osterhaus said she hates when people look down on anyone just because of their autism.

“I’m glad (Grandin) used that to her advantage instead of the other way around,” Osterhaus said.

Deondra Johnson, junior in phycology, also said Grandin’s life should show college students that they have no excuses.

“The fact that she has autism and is so successful is amazing,” Johnson said. “I think she can motivate college students that might not have autism or any disability, and show them that if she can do it, there’s really no excuses for you not to do it.”

Grandin suggested that students find something they enjoy and find shared interests with others. She said that is where your friends are.

“Temple Grandin is a great example of not allowing labels to control who we are,” Ileana Cepeda, graduate student in public health, said. “Sometimes we all need a reminder that we should not set limits and that it’s okay to be different.”

Cepeda also said everyone learns differently and that it is a good thing.

“Everyone learns differently; everyone is different,” Cepeda said. “That’s the beauty of a big campus, you get to interact with different people with different minds.”