~~~As Above So Below ~~ Be True to Oneself ~~~

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Autism 'n Animals

Oh, am I fortunate to live nearby a world class resort with world class events. I'm speaking about the Roaring Fork Valley which includes a place called Aspen, among other great towns.

Last night, in Aspen, Dr. Temple Grandin gave a great lecture titled, "Animals Make Us Human: Understanding Autism." The Given Institute was turning folks away, it was way full, and I'm glad we arrived early enough for seats.

For those of you who don't know of Dr. Gandin, I am quoting a bit about her from her website.

"Dr. Grandin is a designer of livestock handling facilities and a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Facilities she has designed are located in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. In North America, almost half of the cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system that she designed for meat plants. Curved chute and race systems she has designed for cattle are used worldwide and her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior have helped many people to reduce stress on their animals during handling.

She obtained her B.A. at Frankin Pierce College and her M.S. in Animal Science at Arizona State University. Dr. Grandin received her Ph.D in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989. Today she teaches courses on livestock behaviour and facility design at Colorado State Univeristy and consults with the livestock industry on facility design, livestock handling, and animal welfare. She has appeared on television shows such as 20/20, 48 Hours, CNN Larry King Live, PrimeTime Live, the Today Show, and many shows in other countries. She has been featured in People Magazine, the New York Times, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Time Magazine, the New York Times book review, and Discover magazine. Interviews with Dr. Grandin have been broadcast on National Public Radio."

Really, the above doesn't say enough. She is an autistic scholar who has given the world a truth about autism and many related conditions. Because of her work; cattle are being slaughtered in a humane way, scientists have learned and put into use ways of treating autism, and teachers can see the way clearer with her methods for special needs kids. She is considered as "one of the most celebrated and effective animal advocates on the planet."

I felt a personal need to see this awesome woman in person, and hear her passion. I was fortunate to work with special needs kids for 2 years, and I became quite close with the autistic child I spent the most time with. I was so reassured to see photos of and hear about ways to work with the kids that indeed I had been trained to do. The methods are very successful and revisiting them reminded me of the sensory piece of autism.

She said that fear is the main emotion in autism and animals, and explained it quite well. Since autism is extremely variant (meaning not all autistic people have the same behaviors), it is very important to research the "why" of a child's abnormal behavior in order to calm and help the child grow.

She also shared that HBO is making a film about her (Clare Dane) evidently will play her. There were some film photos, and interseting insights about the crew, the cattle, and the sets built for the upcoming film. I'm sure it will be very well received.

Her talent as a prolific author shows in over 300 articles in both scientific journals and livestock periodicals on animal handling, welfare, and facility design. She is the author of many enlightening books, some I have listed here for your convenience.

Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism, Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals, Livestock Handling and Transport, and Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior.





1 comment:

nightbear said...

Remarkable relationship between animals and autism. I have always believed we could learn so much more about human behavior if we paid better attention to our companions. I would have enjoyed listening to this. I am glad you got to be there.

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