LOMBARD – Temple Grandin knows firsthand the challenges those diagnosed with autism face.
But Grandin, who was diagnosed with autism as a child in 1950 and was told she should be institutionalized, also knows challenges can be overcome. These days, Grandin speaks around the world on both autism and cattle handling. She has had a successful career as a livestock-handling equipment designer.
Grandin related her story as part of a presentation she gave Sept. 21 at Glenbard East High School entitled "Different...Not Less," the title of one of her books. The presentation was part of the Glenbard Parent Series.
She has become a leading advocate for the autistic community. In 2010, HBO released an Emmy Award-winning film on Grandin’s life.
As Grandin told those in the audience, there are different types of specialized thinking. Grandin said she is a visual thinker.
"I used to think everybody thought in pictures, exactly the way I did," she said.
Grandin said her visual thinking has given her the ability to "test run" in her head a piece of equipment she has designed, along with giving her insight into animal behavior.
"An animal is a visual thinker," she said. "Visual thinking has been a huge asset."
Along with the challenges that come with autism, Grandin said she was teased growing up for her verbal tics.
"I got kicked out of ninth grade for fighting," she said. "Art class was my salvation in elementary school. Camping and horses saved me in high school. I was exposed to the cattle industry in high school."
During her presentation, Grandin voiced her concerns about kids becoming further and further removed from agriculture, with many of them never having visited a farm. Grandin also said she was concerned children these days are being "overprotected."
"I'm seeing too often 12-year-olds that have never ordered their own food at McDonald's," she said. "If you don't let go, they won't grow."
Above all, Grandin stressed those diagnosed with autism can achieve success.
"Different kinds of minds working together created the iPhone," she said.
After hearing Grandin's presentation, Melanie Salinas of Westchester waited in line for her to autograph a copy of "Different...Not Less." Her 8-year-old daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was 4 years old.
"She is high functioning, but she has struggles," Salinas said. "I love how much work Temple has done to be an advocate for autism."