Renowned author, autism advocate Temple Grandin to visit Gainesville and UF

By Kimberly Moore Weymouth

Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin

She is the world’s most famous farm animal behaviorist and autism advocate and on Sept. 24, Temple Grandin will be touring the beef and dairy teaching units at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and speaking about “different kinds of minds.”

“I think it’s really important to get students to understand animal behavior. They need to notice things like ear position if an animal is becoming fearful,” said Grandin, who is a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University.  “They feel pain, they feel fear – that is well documented – and we owe these animals a good life, even if they are going to wind up on our dinner plates.”

Grandin gained international fame when an HBO movie, starring Claire Danes, was made about her life, which earned seven Emmy awards, a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award.  Grandin was born with autism and her mother was advised to place her in an institution at age two when she wasn’t speaking – and didn’t speak until she was 4 years old.  Instead, her mother got Grandin speech therapy lessons and intensive teaching. Mentoring by her high school science teacher and her aunt, who lived on a ranch in Arizona, motivated Grandin to study and pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer.  Half the cattle in the U.S. and Canada are now handled in equipment she designed for meat plants as well as ranches and feed lots.

Grandin was awarded her Ph.D in agricultural engineering from the University of Illinois in 1989. She has written a number of best-selling books about animal science and also autism awareness.

“Temple Grandin’s work as an author and as a designer of humane livestock facilities can teach our students and our faculty much about the care of beef and dairy cows,” said Dr. Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at UF and administrative head of UF IFAS.  “Her life as an accomplished academic and activist with autism does better than teach – it inspires. It reminds us that we need everyone’s talents to solve the complex challenges of the modern world.”

Friday, Grandin will tour UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine and then give a talk to veterinary students and faculty Friday evening.

Dr. Carlos Risco, chairman of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s department of large animal clinical sciences, said a better understanding of animal behavior is fundamental to designing humane, effective livestock handling facilities to promote animal welfare and well-being.

“Temple Grandin’s work has improved overall awareness of these issues, benefiting animals used for food and fiber all over the world,” Risco said. “Our own programs aimed at improving the health and well-being of livestock have benefited directly from her insights. It is a huge privilege to have her in Gainesville and we look forward to exchanging ideas and sharing our work with her.”

In addition to meeting with animal science and veterinary students, Grandin will give a free public lecture at the Phillips Center at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 on “Helping Different Kinds of Minds be Successful.” Tickets can be picked up at the Phillips Center box office, starting at noon on Sept. 24 with a limit of four per person. University of Florida veterinary college faculty, staff and students can pick up tickets in the administration reception area in the Veterinary Academic Building.

She advocates for a wide community of those with autism, which she points out is a very broad spectrum of people, ranging from children who need help going to the bathroom at school to students who are “geeky,” but very gifted. She pointed out that Einstein, who didn’t talk until he was 3, and Mozart, who was composing music at 5, would both be labeled autistic today.

“You’ve got people in Silicon Valley with autism,” Grandin said.  “You wouldn’t have a cellphone if it weren’t for someone with autism.”



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