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Activist Temple Grandin: Autism Does Not Define Me

"I am a scientist and college professor first and a person with autism second," the author writes.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from an opinion piece by Temple Grandin on TakePart.com; visit the site to view the entire article. Visit the Royal Oak-based Judson Center's website for more information and local resources.

I live in two worlds. 

One day I am visiting the engineering campus of a university, and the next day I am at an autism conference. What I have learned from this is that many technical and creative people are often undiagnosed autism spectrum, Asperger, dyslexia, or have learning problems. Many of these successful individuals are aged 40 and older. They are in good jobs, and they have succeeded because their sense of identity is as a statistician, artist, computer programmer, musician, engineer or journalist. 

This is similar to me. I am a scientist and college professor first and a person with autism second. Autism is an important part of me, and I do not want to change, but my career is my identity, not autism.

I get concerned when young kids come up to me and all they want to talk about is “their autism.” I would rather talk about their interest in animals, science, or history. They are becoming their label.

Visit TakePart.com to view the rest of Temple Grandin's opinion piece.

Dr. Temple Grandin’s achievements are remarkable because she was an autistic child. She was motivated to pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer. Temple lectures to parents and teachers throughout the U.S. on her experiences with autism. She was honored in Time magazine’s 2010 “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.”

Dale Murrish October 22, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Over half the beef produced in North America is fed or slaughtered with methods designed by Temple Grandin. The amazing story of how she overcame her autism with the support of her family is documented in an inspiring film: Temple Grandin. Well worth seeing for everyone; it’s humbling to see the power of perseverance and love.
John David October 23, 2012 at 12:46 AM
She did not overcome autism. Nobody overcomes autism, at least no autistic people i have ever met. It doesn't go away or get cured. People with autism learn to deal with their individual issues to the extent they can, hopefully with the help of their families or others, like the Judson Center. Temple Grandin is an exceptional case. She has skills and capabilities and resources to help her continue to manage her autism. While she refuses to let her autism define her, and while some are able to develop skills to live relatively normal lives and obtain employment, many adults who are autistic have difficulties leading normal lives or obtaining adequate employment. Judson Center has been a leader in providing some programs to help to large autistic community.
Patrice Rowbal October 23, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Where can I post a photo of my interviewing Dr. Grandin? I was privaledged to be able to meet her at the Troy MET Hotel on the very day she was named one of Time Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential People of 2010......
Patrice Rowbal October 23, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Thank you, Henry, Dale, and John David for your estute observations.....as a mother of a child on the autistic spectrum, I can attest that they truly do think "differently." And like John says, it is not about "fixing," "curing" or pretending it doesn't exist. Each person (child) needs to be accepted for who they are, and for where they are on the journey. My son is......pardon the boast.....brilliant. But can't find his shoes, and doesn't know how the food he is chewing got into his mouth. He has trouble reading people, but can read books like lightning, comprehends anything he has encountered via the written word, and remembers it all VERBATIM. Not such a bad set of skills to have. If we could just get people to see past the social/non-verbal challenges, to what these children/people CAN do, without judgement, life would be so much easier. We're getting there. It just takes a little bit of mind expansion and a reset of traditional expectations. Peace.

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