Temple Grandin: The HBO Movie

Claire Danes will portray Temple Grandin in what I hope will be a film that introduces Temple to the general public and raises awareness of autism. What has been exciting about the launch of this film has been the media coverage it has received in magazines like “O” and national newspapers.

In the autism world, Temple is the person we all look up to because of what she has accomplished. Not only is she a prolific writer of books and articles, but she is also an excellent speaker.  Temple developed an impressive career that is the envy of neurotypicals. She earned a Ph.D. in Animal Science and teaches at the University of Colorado.

What many people don’t realize is the journey Temple took to become who she is today. Temple was born in 1947, a time where autism was not recognized and diagnosed like it is today. There was not the treatment back then either like speech and occupational therapy. Temple’s mother, Eustacia Cutler, had to find her own way through the autism maze and come up with the best solutions for Temple. Eustacia’s husband was unsupportive and professionals were advising her to institutionalize Temple. Even though she was a young mother, she followed her heart and did not take the advice of some of the doctors. You can read all about Eustacia’s experience raising Temple in hre book entitled A Thorn in My Pocket.

Through Temple’s writings, work and public speaking, she has raised the awareness of autism and has also let people know what a person on the spectrum can achieve with the right mentors and environment. Temple’s turning points in her life were visiting her aunt’s cattle ranch and the mentorship she received from her high school science teacher. None of us can know what our children will become so it’s important to expose them to different experiences, even if they don’t want to try them at first.

Autism Awareness Centre has had Temple and her mother speak at our conferences in both Canada and the UK. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to get to know these two women. Eustacia is an inspirational speaker and personal hero to me because of her pioneering work, courage, determination and protection of those that are most vulnerable. She has been a champion for mothers of children on the spectrum and cautions us not to lose ourselves in the autism, something I see happening to women all too frequently.

When Temple was with us in St. John’s, NL this past November, I overheard her talking on her cell phone giving advice to someone who was doing a genetic study on a certain breed of cow. I was in awe listening to her knowledge which just seemed to flow effortlessly from her mind. Could this be the same person who was a late talker and a fecal smearer when she a preschool age child? During her presentation, I saw her early draft drawings of cattle pen enclosures that were so complex. I found myself fighting tears during her talk – her advice on how to nurture those on the spectrum is the best I’ve heard.

The HBO movie will give us the history of how Temple became the woman she is today. I feel I’ve had a little glimpse of her journey through Temple herself and conversations with her mother. If the production values and attention to detail is there that so many HBO films have, I think this will be a fascinating look at someone who has changed the face of autism.

Books Temple Has Written:

Emergence Labeled Autistic

Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism – Updated and Expanded Edition

Thinking in Pictures

Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships

The Way I See It

Animals in Translation

Animals Make Us Human

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