Temple Grandin gave an oral history at Colorado State University in 2008, and only recently has the audio for her lecture surfaced online. PBS’ “Blank on Blank” web show is running a special series, “The Experimenters,” and they decided to use audio of Grandin’s speech set to an animated video.

In the clip, Grandin explains how having an autistic brain is much like a search engine:

My brain is visually indexed. I’m basically totally visual. Everything in my mind works like a search engine set for the image function. And you type in the keyword and I get the pictures, and it comes up in an associational sort of way.

Grandin was nonverbal until the age of 3, at which point she was diagnosed with autism. She rose to fame when she developed a more humane approach for cows being led to slaughter and has designed facilities in which half the cattle in the United States are handled. Grandin currently works as a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. All the while, she’s been a trailblazer in autism awareness.

In her speech, Grandin also mentions other public figures with autism:

[Nikola] Tesla definitely today would be diagnosed autistic. If you got rid of all of the genes that caused autism, you’d be rid of Carl Sagan, you’d be rid of Mozart, Einstein today would be labeled autistic. He had no speech until he was 2 years old.

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I struggled in school every single day. When I misunderstood something, I was told to ask for help. Yet when I did ask for help, I was told I was fine and I should stop worrying so much. Had I received my autism spectrum diagnosis when I was first assessed in sixth grade, I may not have struggled for the following four years until my official diagnosis in tenth grade. However, my diagnosis was originally dismissed, and instead I was seen as this anxious perfectionist who needed to learn how to relax more. But I couldn’t relax. I was still struggling. I was still misunderstanding things. I wasn’t misunderstanding just the material, but I also totally missed the bigger concept of learning how to learn.

When I was growing up, I didn’t strive to get all As simply because I felt I could achieve them; I did it because I thought I was supposed to get them. This came at a price: many, many meltdowns. And although my parents tried to explain to me it was okay to get lower grades as long as I was trying my best, I still thought that “trying my best” meant getting an A. Because that’s how people received awards and recognition. I hadn’t received any awards for my grades yet, so I thought I must not be doing my best. I still remember the awards ceremony and seeing my classmates getting awards. I would listen for my name, but I would never hear it. When I finally did receive an award such as honor roll, I wondered how I would ever keep up with the grades.

I realize now that awards aren’t always everything, and I understand that “trying my best” doesn’t always mean getting an A. At the same time, I am still trying to find that balance between “trying my best” and “perfectionism.” But kids are impressionable, and I don’t think it helps that schools give better and better awards to those with higher and higher grades. It’s great to acknowledge students, but make sure you are acknowledging them for the effort they put into trying to do their work, not just their ability to do it.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected moment with a teacher, parent or student during your (or your loved one’s) school year. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images



Grenache restaurant in Manchester, England, wrote a “strongly worded” message on its Facebook page on Thursday, March 3, after a group of patrons made rude remarks about one of their employees, Andy Foster, who has autism.

Mike Jennings, the owner of Grenache, told the Manchester Evening News the customers refused Foster’s service, and instead asked what was “wrong” with him and why Jennings would employ him.

Citing the incident as “totally unacceptable,” Jennings wrote, “We do not discriminate. If you do… Then please do not book a table at Grenache.”

Thoughts on an incident which occurred last night….Totally unacceptable.Strongly worded but we need to get our point across.#equalopportunities

Posted by Grenache Restaurant on Thursday, March 3, 2016

Foster, who is also a registered caregiver to his mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, started working at the restaurant three weeks ago, reported The Independent.

“In our eyes nobody should be discriminated in any industry and we feel that sometimes you’re served by people and you have no idea anything about that person,” Jennings told the Manchester Evening News. “You shouldn’t have the right to judge that person or treat them any differently.”

“I try not to take it personally because it has happened so many times in the past, I have just got used to it,” Foster added. ”I’ve been in this situation a few times in the past on a reasonably regular basis and I’ve always felt that it was my fault and I needed to apologize. And with Karen’s and Mike’s support they have shown me that that is not the case. Mike and Kaz have been so supportive saying it’s not my fault. I shouldn’t be treated different to any other member of staff.”

Read Grenache’s response in its entirety below:

Thoughts on an incident which occurred last night….
Totally unacceptable.
Strongly worded but we need to get our point across.
#‎equalopportunities

Today was spent rebuilding the confidence of one of our team, after being disrespected by a table dining with us last night.

‘What is wrong with him?’ and ‘Why would you give him a job?’ they asked…

Here at Grenache, we employ staff based on experience, knowledge and passion for the job…. NOT the colour of their skin, or the way they look, how many tattoos they have, their dress size, religious beliefs or illness. We do not discriminate!

If you DO…. Then please do not book a table at Grenache. You do not deserve our team, effort or RESPECT!

#teamGrenache #equalopportunities #fairrightstojobs #respect


To the parents out there who spend their weeks consciously trying to attend to their child’s needs (special or otherwise) and still feel like at the end of the week it’s not enough – I see you.

To the parents who cut their children’s sandwiches up in specific ways and serve them on certain plates and pick out all the peas or only serve white food on Wednesdays – I see you.

To the parents who cut off tags, shop for non-scratchy shirts, buy four different pairs of shoes in the wish that one will help their child feel comfortable – I see you.

To the parents who throw their hands up in the air in utter desperation and frustration because you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel and nothing seems to be helping – I see you.

To the parents who attend meeting after meeting, appointment after appointment, trying to make more sense of their child’s depth of need – I see you.

To the parent who will sleep on the tile floor all night long and use a towel for a blanket so their child will sleep in their own bed and not be awake all night long – I see you.

To the parents who actively advocate and spread education and awareness in the vain hope their child may feel a little less segregated from the rest – I see you.

To the parents who feel isolated and alone but also daunted at the prospect of friendships – I see you.

To the parents who carry guilt because they can’t give their children equal attention – I see you.

To the parents afraid a label may place limitations on their child – I see you.

To the couples who are trying to scratch out chunks of time for themselves so they can identify as more than mother and father, but often feel like it’s a fruitless exercise – I see you.

I see you all. You are not alone. It is hard and you are doing such a wonderful job by your children. They may not recognize it now or even for a few years, but they will and they will be so thankful and proud. You never ever once gave up on them.

And finally:

To the child with autism who may feel lost in a world that is overwhelming and confusing – I see you, and believe me when I say you are loved and supported and your world will gradually make more sense one day because we live in a world slowly beginning to embrace the beauty of neuro-diversity, and you have so much to teach it.


I’m so very proud of my son today.

He had an outing planned with a local Scouts group; it was to be the first time he would go on a trip with them, and he was excited but also anxious.

What would the other kids talk about? 

Would he have fun? 

Would they hold his hand on the roads on the way there? 

Would he be bored? 

Last night he had a bad attack of nerves but soldiered through, and woke up this morning indecisive as to whether he wanted to go or not.

We had breakfast and got dressed while he continued changing his mind back and forth. I said whatever he chose was fine and that I was proud of him for trying something new.

It became time to put his coat and hat on, and then he became distressed and announced firmly that no, he was not going.

And I am proud of him! 

We spoke about why it’s important to have been able to say he is not comfortable going, how it would have been worse to go and internalize the ensuing meltdown that occurred.

For a child to have that option, to choose whether to do something or not can mean so much. It can promote independence and freedom of thought, preference and strength of character. It’s not about upsetting others; it’s about being strong enough to care for themselves.

Was I disappointed he didn’t go? 

No.

Would it matter if I was? 

No.

It’s not about me; it’s about how he feels.

My son asked me just now after I read out what I had written, am I still proud of him? 

I replied, “Of course, it takes a strong person to admit something is not right for them, to not go with the flow because it’s ‘easier’ not to say anything.”

Proud doesn’t even cover it.

Too many times I’ve read despairing posts on Facebook:

1. Why won’t my child go to school? 

2. Why won’t they wear this outfit? 

3. Why are they so picky with food? 

My answers would be:

1. Something may not be going well at school and they don’t know how to tell you. Yes, your child’s school maybe “fully inclusive” with a million plans in place, but something is still not working for them. It may be too loud, too crowded or just may not be the right place.

2. This may be sensory issues. The texture of the fabric may overheat them and make them uncomfortable; it may even prove painful. Let your child pick clothes with you, feel the textures, and compare wool, cotton and corduroy. See what they like. If that means they go out dressed in a fancy dress occasionally because it feels best, is that such a bad thing? They are children once only; applaud and encourage their individuality.

3. The feel of the food in their mouth may feel repulsive, provoking the gag reflex. Would you want to eat something that tasted and indeed felt disgusting? I don’t think so. Ask your child’s doctor about vitamin options. Maybe blend fruit smoothies together to encourage a good diet.

For us, it’s not about having a compliant child; it’s about having a happy child who feels confident enough to change his mind occasionally. So what if you had planned a coffee with a friend while your child was out? Invite the friend over, get out some sensory play and relax!

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