Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin

Grandin in 2011
Born Mary Temple Grandin[1]
(1947-08-29) August 29, 1947
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Institutions Colorado State University
Alma mater
Known for
  • Livestock industry consultancy
  • Autism rights activism

Mary Temple Grandin (born August 29, 1947) is an American professor of animal science at Colorado State University, world-renowned autism spokesperson and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. She is widely celebrated as one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to publicly share insights from her personal experience of autism. She is also the inventor of the "hug box", a device to calm those on the autism spectrum. In the 2010 Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, she was named in the "Heroes" category.[2] She was the subject of the award-winning, semi-biographical film, Temple Grandin.

Early life and education


Temple Grandin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, into a highly educated and wealthy family. Her parents were Anna Eustacia Purves (an actress, singer and granddaughter of the co-inventor for the autopilot aviation system, with a degree in English from Harvard University) and Richard Grandin,[3] a real estate agent and heir to the largest corporate wheat farm business in America at the time, Grandin Farms.[4] Grandin's parents subsequently divorced when she was 15 and her mother eventually went on to marry Ben Cutler, a renowned New York saxophonist, in 1965[5] (when Grandin was 18 years old). Grandin has three siblings - two sisters and a brother, with Grandin being the oldest. Grandin has described one of her sisters as being dyslexic. Her other sister is a sculptor and her brother a banker.[4]


Contrary to widely published reports, Grandin was never formally diagnosed with autism in childhood or in youth. The only formal diagnosis received by Grandin was of 'brain damage' at the age of 2,[6][7] a finding corroborated subsequently when she was 64 years old, by cerebral imaging carried out in 2010 at the University of Utah.[8] When Grandin was in her mid-teens, her mother chanced upon a checklist on autism published by Dr. Bernard Rimland, a renowned American psychologist and founder of the Autism Research Institute. Completing the checklist, Grandin's mother hypothesised that Grandin's symptoms were best explained by autism.[6] A formal diagnosis consistent with being on the autism spectrum was made only when Grandin was in her 40s.

Early childhood

The medical advice at the time for a diagnosis of autism was to recommend institutionalization, a measure that caused a bitter rift of opinion between Grandin's parents.[7] Her father was keen to follow this advice while her mother was strongly opposed to the idea. Grandin's mother, Eustacia, took her to the world's leading special needs researchers at the Boston Children's Hospital, with the hope of unearthing an alternative to institutionalization. Having the financial resources to hire specialists to ensure her daughter remained deinstitutionalised, Grandin's mother eventually located a neurologist who suggested a trial of speech therapy. They soon hired a speech therapist, and Grandin received personalised input from the age of 2 and a half.[9] A nanny was also hired when Grandin was aged 3 to play educational games for hours with her.

Grandin's mother actively sought out and paid for private schools with sympathetic staff who were willing to work with her daughter's special needs[10] and thus, she started kindergarten in Dedham Country Day School. Her teachers and class worked towards adapting an environment easy for her to adjust to.

Grandin did not begin talking until she was three and a half years old.[11] She considers herself fortunate to have had supportive mentors from elementary school onward. Even so, Grandin states that junior high and high school were the most unpleasant times of her life.

Middle and high school

Grandin attended Beaver Country Day School from 7th to 9th grade. She was expelled at the age of 14 for throwing a book at a schoolmate who had taunted her. Grandin has described herself as the "nerdy kid" whom everyone ridiculed. She has described occasions when she walked down the hallways and her fellow students would taunt her by saying "tape recorder" because of her habit of repetitive speech. Grandin states, "I could laugh about it now, but back then it really hurt."[12]

The year after her expulsion, Grandin's parents divorced. Grandin's mother remarried three years later to Ben Cutler, a renowned New York saxophonist.[5] At 15, Grandin spent a summer on the Arizona ranch of Ben Cutler's sister, Ann, and this would be a formative experience towards her subsequent career interest.

Following her expulsion from Beaver Country Day School (reports vary on the actual name the school Grandin was expelled from, with Grandin herself noting it to be Cherry Falls Girls' School in her first book, Emergence: Labelled Autistic), Grandin's mother placed her in Mountain Country School, a private boarding school in Rindge, New Hampshire, for children with behavioral problems. Today, Mountain Country School is known as Hampshire Country School. It was here that Grandin met William Carlock, a science teacher who had worked for NASA, who would become her mentor and help significantly towards building up her self-confidence.[13]

It was Carlock who gave Grandin the idea to build herself a 'hug box' (referred to as 'squeeze machine' by Grandin) when she returned from her aunt's farm in Arizona in senior year of high school.[14] With Carlock's assistance, Grandin built her 'squeeze machine' at the age of 18 when she was still attending Mountain Country School.[15] Carlock's supportive role in Grandin's life continued even after she left Mountain Country School. For example, when Grandin was facing criticism for her 'squeeze machine' at Franklin Pierce College, it was Carlock who suggested that Grandin undertakes scientific experiments to evaluate the efficacy of the device.[14] It was his constant guidance to Grandin to refocus her rigid obsessions with the 'squeeze machine' into a productive assignment that allowed this study undertaken by Grandin to be subsequently widely cited as evidence of Grandin's resourcefulness.

Higher education

After she graduated in 1966 from Mountain Country School, Grandin went on to earn her bachelor's degree in human psychology from Franklin Pierce College in 1970, 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.


Grandin is a prominent and widely cited proponent for the humane treatment of livestock for slaughter. She is also internationally famous as a spokesperson on autism.[16] This latter accolade, in particular, has, in recent years, attracted increasing criticism and controversy, particularly from other individuals with autism who feel that Grandin's views do not always reflect accurately on autism and may even contribute to deepening social stigma and prejudices. Grandin has been criticized for making false generalizations about how autistic people think and for trivializing the negative aspects of autism.[17]

She has lectured widely about her first-hand experiences of the anxiety of feeling threatened by everything in her surroundings, and of being dismissed and feared, which allegedly motivates her work in humane livestock handling processes. She studied the behavior of cattle, how they react to ranchers, movements, objects, and light. Grandin then designed adapted curved corrals, intended to reduce stress, panic and injury in animals being led to slaughter. This has proved to be a further point of criticism and controversy among animal activists who have questioned the congruence of a career built on animal slaughter alongside Grandin's claims of compassion and respect for animals.

Her business website promotes improvement of standards for slaughterhouses and livestock farms. The 'squeeze machine' itself remains on sale at US$2000 a piece from Therafin Corporation.[15] In 2004, she won a "Proggy" award in the "Visionary" category, from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.[18]

One of her notable essays about animal welfare is "Animals Are Not Things",[19] in which she posits that technically, animals are property in our society, but the law ultimately gives them ethical protections or rights. She compares the properties and rights of owning cows, versus owning screwdrivers, enumerating how both may be used to serve human purposes in many ways, but when it comes to inflicting pain, there is a vital distinction between such "properties"; legally a person can smash or grind up a screwdriver, but cannot torture an animal.

Grandin became well-known beyond the American autistic community, after being described by Oliver Sacks in the title narrative of his book An Anthropologist on Mars (1995), for which he won a Polk Award; the title is derived from Grandin's description of how she feels around neurotypical people. She first spoke in public about autism in the mid-1980s, at the request of Ruth C. Sullivan, one of the founders of the Autism Society of America (ASA). Sullivan writes:

I first met Temple in the mid-1980s [at the] annual [ASA] conference. Standing on the periphery of the group was a tall young woman who was obviously interested in the discussions. She seemed shy and pleasant, but mostly she just listened. I learned her name was Temple Grandin. It wasn't until later in the week that I realized she was someone with autism. I approached her and asked if she'd be willing to speak at the next year's [ASA] conference. She agreed. The next year Temple first addressed an [ASA] audience. People were standing at least three deep. The audience couldn't get enough of her. Here, for the first time, was someone who could tell us from her own experience, what it was like to be extremely sound sensitive ("like being tied to the rail and the train's coming"). She was asked many questions: "Why does my son do so much spinning?" "Why does he hold his hands to his ears?" "Why doesn't he look at me?" She spoke from her own experience, and her insight was impressive. There were tears in more than one set of eyes that day. Temple quickly became a much sought-after speaker in the autism community.[20]

Based on personal experience, Grandin advocates early intervention to address autism and supportive teachers, who can direct fixations of the child with autism in fruitful directions. She has described her hypersensitivity to noise and other sensory stimuli. She claims she is a primarily visual thinker[21] and has said that words are her second language. Temple attributes her success as a humane livestock facility designer to her ability to recall detail, which is a characteristic of her visual memory. Grandin compares her memory to full-length movies in her head, that may be replayed at will, allowing her to notice small details. She also is able to view her memories using slightly different contexts by changing the positions of the lighting and shadows.

Her insight into the minds of cattle has taught her to value the changes in details to which animals are particularly sensitive and to use her visualization skills to design thoughtful and humane animal-handling equipment. She was named a fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers in 2009.[22]

As a partial proponent of neurodiversity, Grandin does not support eliminating autism genes or treating mildly autistic individuals. However, she believes that autistic children who are severely handicapped need therapy with applied behavioral analysis.[23]

In 2012, when the American beef industry was struggling with public perception of its use and sale of pink slime, Grandin spoke out in support of the food product. She said, “It should be on the market. It should be labeled. We should not be throwing away that much beef."[24]

Personal life

"I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life, and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect."

—Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin at TED 2010

Grandin says that "the part of other people that has emotional relationships is not part of me", and she has neither married nor had children. She later stated for example that she preferred the science fiction, documentary, and thriller genre of films and television shows to more dramatic or romantic ones. Beyond her work in animal science and welfare and autism rights, her interests include horse riding, science fiction, movies, and biochemistry.

She has noted in her autobiographical works that autism affects every aspect of her life. She has to wear comfortable clothes to counteract her sensory processing disorder and has structured her lifestyle to avoid sensory overload. She regularly takes antidepressants, but no longer uses a squeeze-box (hug machine), a device which she invented at the age of 18 as a form of stress relief therapy,[15] stating in February 2010 that: "It broke two years ago, and I never got around to fixing it. I'm into hugging people now."[25]


In 2010, Grandin was named in the Time 100 list of the one hundred most influential people in the world in the "Heroes" category.[2] In 2011, she received a Double Helix Medal.[26] She has received honorary degrees from many universities including Carnegie Mellon University in the United States (2012), McGill University in Canada (1999), and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (2009), Emory University (2016).[27] In 2015, she was named an Honorary Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication.[28]

In a TED talk given in 2010, Grandin stated, "The world needs all types of minds."[29]

Grandin has been featured on major media programs, such as Lisa Davis' It's Your Health, ABC's Primetime Live, the The Today Show, and Larry King Live and Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She has been written up in TIME magazine, People magazine, Discover magazine, Forbes, and The New York Times.[30][31] In 2012, Grandin was interviewed on Thriving Canine Radio to discuss "A Different Perspective on Animal Behavior."

She was the subject of the Horizon documentary, “The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow,” first broadcast by the BBC on June 8, 2006, and Nick News with Linda Ellerbee in the spring of 2006.[32] She also has been a subject in the series First Person by Errol Morris.

Grandin is the focus of a semi-biographical HBO film, entitled Temple Grandin,[33][34] starring Claire Danes as Grandin.[35] The film was broadcast on February 6, 2010. The movie was nominated for 15 Primetime Emmy Awards and won seven awards, including Outstanding Television Movie and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Claire Danes.[36] Grandin was on stage as the award was accepted, and she spoke briefly to the audience. Coincidentally, the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards happened on Grandin's birthday – August 29. On January 16, 2011, at the 68th Golden Globe Awards, Claire Danes won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film.

Grandin was featured in Beautiful Minds: A Voyage Into the Brain, a documentary produced in 2006 by colourFIELD tell-a-vision, a German company. She was named one of 2010's one hundred most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.[2] In 2011, she was featured in an episode of the Science documentary series Ingenious Minds.[37]

She also was interviewed by Michael Pollan in his best-selling book, The Omnivore's Dilemma,[38] in which she discussed the livestock industry.

Folk-punk band AJJ, formerly known as Andrew Jackson Jihad included two songs called "Temple Grandin" and "Temple Grandin Too" on their LP Christmas Island.[39]


See also


  1. Montgomery, Sy (April 3, 2012). Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. ISBN 0547443153.
  2. 1 2 3 Marc Hauser (April 29, 2010). "The 2010 Time 100. In our annual TIME 100 issue, we name the people who most affect our world: Temple Grandin". Time. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  3. "United States Federal Census". Geni - a MyHeritage Company. August 5, 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  4. 1 2 Grandin, Temple (n.d.). "Autism Research Institute". Autism Research Institute. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  5. 1 2 "Ben Cutler, 96, Whose Bands Entertained the Society Set". The New York Times. 2001-01-15. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-09.
  6. 1 2 Scariano, Margaret (1986). Emergence: Labelled Autistic. Arena Press. ISBN 0710400632.
  7. 1 2 Grandin, Temple (January 2, 2006). "Wrong Planet". Interview with Temple Grandin. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  8. Grandin, Temple (2013). The Autistic Brain. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0547636458.
  9. White, Randall (2005). "Autism First-Hand: An Expert Interview with Temple Grandin". Medscape Psychiatry.
  10. "Encyclopaedia of World Biography". Encyclopaedia of World Biography. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  11. Mayo Clinic staff. "Language development: Speech milestones for babies". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  12. 'Temple Grandin Inducted into Colorado Women's Hall of Fame', http://www.wherefoodcomesfrom.com/article/2281/Temple-Grandin-Inducted-into-Colorado-Womens-Hall-of-Fame#.UdA8G2thiK0, retrieved 30 June 2013.
  13. "How the squeeze machine came to be - Aspergers Test Site". Aspergers Test Site. Retrieved 2016-03-09.
  14. 1 2 "How the squeeze machine came to be - Aspergers Test Site". Aspergers Test Site. Retrieved 2016-03-10.
  15. 1 2 3 Temple Grandin (Spring 1992). "Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patients with Autistic Disorder, College Students, and Animals". Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2 (1): 63–72. doi:10.1089/cap.1992.2.63. PMID 19630623.
  16. "Temple Grandin – Speaker Profile and Speaking Topics". apbspeakers.com.
  17. Osborne, Lawrence (2002). American Normal : The Hidden World of Asperger Syndrome. New York: Copernicus. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-387-95307-6.
  18. "2004 PETA Proggy Awards". PETA. 2004-09-30. Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  19. "Animals are not things". Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  20. The Way I See It: A Personal Look at … – Temple Grandin – Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
  21. Grandin T (2009). "How does visual thinking work in the mind of a person with autism? A personal account". Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 364 (1522): 1437–42. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0297. PMC 2677580Freely accessible. PMID 19528028.
  22. "2009 ASABE Fellows". American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  23. Wrong Planet – Aspergers and Autism Community. "Interview with Temple Grandin". Wrong Planet. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
  24. "Animal scientist Temple Grandin supports 'pink slime'". Washington Post. 2012-05-23. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  25. Claudia Wallis: “Temple Grandin on Temple Grandin”. Time, February 4, 2010
  26. "Double Helix Medals of 2011". Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  27. Grandin, Temple. "Professional resume". Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  28. Society for Technical Communication: "Temple Grandin Named Honorary Fellow".
  29. Grandin, T. (2010, February). Temple Grandin: The world needs all types of minds [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/temple_grandin_the_world_needs_all_kinds_of_minds
  30. "Dr. Temple Grandin". Templegrandin.com. Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  31. "What Do Animals Think?". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
  32. "The Woman who thinks like a Cow". Horizon. BBC. November 2006. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  33. “Temple Grandin Talks About Her Upcoming HBO Biopic”. beefmagazine.com, October 31, 2008
  34. Harris, Will (April 2, 2010). "A Chat with Temple Grandin". premiumhollywood.com. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  35. Temple Grandin at the Internet Movie Database
  36. CBSNews.com, August 30, 2010
  37. Ingenious Minds at the Internet Movie Database
  38. http://www.us.penguingroup.com/static/pdf/.../OmnivoresDilemmaTG.pdf
  39. "Andrew Jackson Jihad's "Temple Grandin" Video – Premiere – Fuse". Fuse.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Temple Grandin.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Temple Grandin
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.