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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

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Woman of the Week – Temple Grandin

Posted June 11, 2018 4:30 PM by lmno24

Dr. Temple Grandin is an industry expert on animal behavior, an animal science professor and an autism spokesperson. She is known as one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to publicly share and speak on her struggles.

She was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1947. Her family was wealthy: her parents both came from wealthy families and most of the money came from oil. The family was full of creative minds.

Source: TempleGrandin.com

She was never formally diagnosed with autism as a child; her only diagnosis was “brain damage” at age two. But when she was a teen, her mother happened upon a checklist of autism traits and many of them matched her daughter’s behaviors. A formal diagnosis was made when she was 40.

Her mother helped her get the specialized education that she needed and took her daughter to the Boston Children’s Hospital to meet with researchers. The family also hired specialized therapists to keep her out of mental institutions and become a productive member of society.

She had a rough time in school because her classmates ridiculed her for the way she spoke. She was expelled for throwing a book at a student who made fun of her. Her parents enrolled her in a private boarding school in New Hampshire. She met a teacher there who became her first mentor and fostered her creative ideas and resourcefulness.

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.

She went on to write and publish many books and scientific papers. She’s most known for her work and study of livestock behavior.

In 1980, she published her first two scientific articles on beef cattle behavior during handling: "Livestock Behavior as Related to Handling Facilities Design" in the International Journal for the Study of Animal Problems, Vol. 1, pp. 33-52 and "Observations of Cattle Behavior Applied to the Design of Cattle Handling Facilities", Applied Animal Ethology, Vol. 6, pp. 19-31.

She was one of the first scientists to observe that animals are sensitive to visual distractions like dangling chains. She also touched on this topic in college, where she studied the effects of environmental enrichment on pigs. The title of her dissertation was "Effect of Rearing Environment and Environmental Enrichment on the Behavior and Neural Development in Young Pigs." She wrote about these theories in Animals Make Us Human.

She also created an objective numerical scoring system for assessing animal welfare at slaughter plants. This system helped improve conditions for animals. She has spoken many times on her deep connection with animals, often noting that she feels such a connection that she can feel what they feel. This sparked her desire to make things better for animals.

In addition to her writing, she has hosted many talks and speeches on several topics – mostly animal rights and her experience with autism.

In 2010, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people. Interviews with Dr. Grandin have been broadcast on National Public Radio and she has a 2010 TED Lecture titled "The World Needs ALL Kinds of Minds." She has also authored over 400 articles in both scientific journals and livestock periodicals on animal handling, welfare, and facility design.

She is currently a professor at Colorado State University and continues to host speaking engagements.

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#1

Re: Woman of the Week – Temple Grandin

06/12/2018 11:21 AM

Interesting! I believe that's the first time I've heard of an autistic person with a doctorate!

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Re: Woman of the Week – Temple Grandin

06/12/2018 1:36 PM

They are far more common than you want to believe. Think of the character in the TV show Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper Ph.D.

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Re: Woman of the Week – Temple Grandin

06/12/2018 2:06 PM

This is a good read, on famous people who are autistic.

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Re: Woman of the Week – Temple Grandin

06/12/2018 3:45 PM

That link was problematic for me. Here is the Applied Behavior Analysis website on 30 of history's most probable or confirmed members on the autistic spectrum. Bobby Fisher is a new name for me but it fits.

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Re: Woman of the Week – Temple Grandin

06/13/2018 2:02 PM

Kilowatt0's link worked fine for me...

Now we get into levels of the spectrum of Autism...

None of those 10 fit the concept of autism I have in mind.

Undoubtedly my concept of autism reflects my age group (4th qtr century)

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Re: Woman of the Week – Temple Grandin

06/13/2018 2:21 PM

The more we learn about the autism spectrum the more complex we realize it is. I speak somewhat from experience. A family member is on the Asperger's end; she earned a BA at a good private college, has a job, friends -- a life. Friends have a daughter in her early 20s who's had the benefit of absolutely every kind of therapy. Her mother used to manage a staff of four or five people who provided all of this goodness. Now the daughter is completely off in her own head and barely interacts with anyone.

Reading Temple Grandin's books is the best way I know to gain insight into the world of someone on the spectrum -- but there is so very much more we don't understand. A novel that does a good job (so I'm told) is The Mystery of the Dog in the Nighttime.

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