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Well-Known Animal Activist Dr. Temple Grandin Speaks at UWRF

By Kendra Knutson

MARCH 23, 2007-- Renowned author and animal activist Temple Grandin, Ph.D., spoke at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls on March 8 in North Hall Auditorium, which was packed with students, faculty and the public eager to listen as Grandin told her story of living with autism along with the impact it has had on her understanding of animals when designing livestock facilities.  

Grandin explained how autistic people and animals think in similar ways. Autism spectrum disorder is usually characterized by delays in human social development. "People with autism have a sensory-based mind and think in pictures rather than words," said Grandin. She then went on to state that animals do the same.  

According to Grandin, both animals and people with autism think in details.   Animals notice things that ordinary people would not, such as dark spaces or even the slightest motion of objects. This is the main reason animals will not move forward during handling in meat factories or on farms.

Grandin said that the animal caretaker should walk the animal's path so they can see what is s scaring the animal from its point of view. Once the problem is discovered, something should be done to fix it, like securing flapping items or moving them out of sight, or adding something that might decrease the animal's fear, such as lighting a dark space.

She also outlined certain rules that should be followed when seeking to restrain an animal. These were: 1. Make sure animals are on a non-slip floor; 2. Be sure your grip on the halter is neither too tight nor to loose; 3. Don't make jerky motions; and 4. Try not to get the animal scared or it will take at least half an hour for it to calm down.

According to Grandin, animals possess three types of stressors: fear, pain and physical stress. If animals don't have a good first experience they will constantly remember the bad things that have happened to them.  

Grandin stressed her concern with problems that she feels animals are developing due to people's actions. She feels animals are not getting enough socialization and novelty when they are growing up; in turn these "so-called" problem animals are created.  

Another issue that worries Grandin is over-selection and emphasis for a single production or appearance trait without concern for the overall resulting animal. This can cause problems like lameness, excitable temperament, and neurological defects to surface.  

Grandin currently works as an associate professor at Colorado State University but gives presentations all over the world. She is author of the current best-seller "Animals in Translation" and has developed several other books, DVDs, and articles. Her newest book, "Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism," won the Foreword Book of the Year Award for 2006.

Grandin has been featured on major television programs including: "ABC's Primetime Live," "The Today Show," "Larry King Live," "48 Hours," "20/20," and "The View."   She has also been profiled in "Time" magazine, "People" magazine, "Forbes," "U.S. News & World Report," and "The New York Times."  

Born in 1947, Grandin didn't talk until the age of three-and-a-half. She was diagnosed with autism in 1950 at a time when not much was know about the condition. She credits her mother along with excellent teachers and mentors for helping her to develop her social and professional skills.

Through years of training and perseverance, she has been able to develop her perceived disability into an advantage in her field. She has become the voice of autistic accomplishment and has given hope to many people with autism and other disabilities that they can reach both their goals and dreams and find their path to success.  


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:08:06 Central Daylight Time


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