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Temple Grandin provokes inspiration at Lyceum Lecture (video)

By KBell
April 5, 2012 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated April 5, 2012 at 11:06 p.m.


BOTTOM-UP THINKING

Grandin explained how animals and people with autism think bottom-up instead of top-down.

Bottom-up thinking means a person forms concepts by categorizing specific examples. Top-down thinkers form concepts first. Grandin's visual thinking helps her visualize problems and solutions.

Different thinkers have uneven skills - great at one thing, bad at another. Grandin showed what she called one of her most important slides, which highlighted different types of thinking:

Photo realistic visual thinkers, who are usually poor at algebraPattern thinkers are usually good at music and mathVerbal mind thinkers are poor at drawingAuditory thinkers are usually poor at drawing

No topic was taboo - religion, politics, education reform, even Wall Street.

Temple Grandin spoke of them all, offering unapologetic yet endearing opinions from the mind of a woman doctors said would never speak at all.

"What we want to do tonight is to get you thinking about different kinds of thinking," Grandin said at Victoria College's Lyceum Lecture Series Thursday night.

As the world's most renowned adult with autism, Grandin's perspective on the world and its problems is matter-of-fact. It's the confident perspective of a woman who came from teasing and taunting and without much expectation, to a woman whose mind has become revered and whose work has become revolutionary.

"Maybe it's time to grab the bull by the horns," she said, flashing a picture of the Wall Street Charging Bull on the screen. "Maybe we need to grab him by something else."

Grandin earned plenty of laughs with her quips on everything from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the strangeness of Steve Jobs.

Plenty of heads nodded when she explained the varying quirks of people on the autism spectrum. And more than once, the audience of some 900 people burst into applause at her no-holds-barred approach to anything and everything.

"When I was young and undiplomatic, I called it stupidity," she said about her first experiences working in the cattle industry with people who didn't understand the animals.

Grandin worked tirelessly to earn her respect in the livestock circuits. Now, she holds a doctorate in animal science and half of the nation's cattle ranches use the designs she created to ensure a more humane environment for livestock.

Grandin said she didn't know until after the torment of high school that her mind worked differently than others.

"What happens with autism is you take out the social circuits and replace it with geek circuits," she said.

When asked if she would ever wave a magic wand to make her non-autistic, Grandin said she likes the logical way her mind works. Autism can actually be a gift, she said - a benefit to the artistic and scientific worlds.

"Go back and look at mission control videos from 60s. It has Asperger's written all over it," she quipped.

That gave at least one audience member inspiration. Cassi Bales, 29, stood up from the audience to announce she has Asperger Syndrome.

"How do you cope?" Bales asked Grandin.

And for a few minutes, the packed auditorium became just a conversation between two women who were more alike than different.

Grandin told Bales to find people who share her interests and to delve into those interests wholeheartedly.

For Bales, like Grandin, that meant animals. Bales said she takes care of others' animals and volunteers at pet shelters currently. And she wants to do more, now.

"People with Asperger's just need to find their thing and go with it. It's OK to be different," Bales said, all smiles after their exchange. "I learned what I need to do with my life."

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