Temple Grandin is an American scientist and animal behaviorist. She is best known for her work of creating a humane system for the slaughtering of livestock. Her experience with Autism aided her in creating this system.
Mary Temple Grandin was born on August 29, 1947, in Boston, Massachusetts. As a child, Grandin did not speak until she was three and a half years old. When she was young, the only formal diagnosis she was given was brain damage. Grandin was not formally diagnosed with autism until later in life.
Grandin attended many different schools up until high school. School was occasionally difficult for her as she was taunted by some of her classmates. In fact, she was expelled from Beaver Country Day School at the age of 14 for throwing a book at a classmate who made fun of her.
After Grandin was expelled from Beaver Country Day School, she went on to attend Mountain Country School. It was here that she came up with her idea of the “hug box” or the “squeeze machine.” She had many supportive mentors at the Mountain County School.
When Grandin was 15, her parents got divorced. A few years later, Grandin’s mother married Ben Cutler. Grandin spent her summers on his sister’s ranch. This experience was key in shaping the rest of her career.
Grandin is known widely for her research and ideas on the humane treatment of livestock, specifically in the case of slaughter. She is also recognized worldwide as a spokesperson on autism.
Living with autism allowed Gradin to connect with animals and think in different ways. As mentioned previously, Gradin did not speak until she was three and a half years old. She expressed herself in nonverbal ways. Verbal communication is not needed to interact with animals. Grandin’s experience with autism enabled her to connect with animals because she thinks in pictures. Similarly, there is scientific evidence that animals also think in pictures and have sensory-based memories.
“Animal cognition has similarities to autism cognition. Animals are very aware of small, sensory details in the environment. People on the autism spectrum excel at work involving details.”Med.Stanford.Edu
When reflecting upon her childhood, Grandin recognized that she often sought out “deep pressure stimulation,” like a hug, when she felt overwhelmed. When working on her aunt’s ranch, she realized that this might apply to slaughtering livestock as well. During this time, the animals are overstimulated, so “deep pressure stimulation” would calm the animals down.
After several prototypes, Grandin developed a “hug machine”/ “squeeze chair.” Grandin’s invention has been proven to have a calming effect and is now used in several different scenarios. This has been adopted with slaughtering livestock and in some therapy programs for children and adults living with autism.
Despite facing many challenges when she was growing up, Grandin used her experiences with autism to her advantage. Living with autism allowed her to think differently and see issues from another point of view, eventually leading to her success. In 2010, Grandin was named 100 of the most influential people in the world under the category of “Heroes” by Time 100. She also starred in her semi-biographical movie. Today Grandin is a faculty member at the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University.