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Temple Grandin is a noted animal expert and advocate for autistic populations who has penned the books Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human.
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Born on August 29, 1947, in Boston, Massachusetts, Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism as a child and went on to pursue work in psychology and animal science. She has become a leading advocate for autistic communities and has also written books and provided consultation on the humane treatment of animals. In 2010, HBO released an Emmy Award winning film on Grandin’s life.
"Nature is cruel, but we don't have to be."
Temple Grandin was born to parents Richard Grandin and Eustacia Cutler in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 29, 1947. At the age of 2, Grandin was diagnosed with autism, considered a form of brain damage at the time. Cutler, initially blamed by physicians for her daughter’s condition, worked tirelessly to find the best care and instruction for Grandin. Her treatments included extensive speech therapy, which helped to draw out and reinforce Grandin’s communicative abilities.
Grandin began to speak at the age of 4. Although her parents sought the best possible teachers, social interactions remained difficult in middle and high school, where other students teased Grandin regularly for her verbal tics.
Despite these difficulties, Grandin achieved considerable academic success. She earned a degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College in 1970, followed by a master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University and a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She then worked as a consultant to companies with large animal slaughterhouse operations, advising them on ways of improving the quality of life of their cattle.
Grandin became nationally known after appearing in Oliver Sacks's 1995 book, An Anthropologist on Mars, the title of which is derived from Grandin's description of how she feels in social settings. By that time, she had already made a name for herself in autism advocacy circles. Grandin first spoke publicly about autism in the 1980s, at the request of one of the founders of the Autism Society of America.
In addition to autism advocacy, Grandin is well known for her work regarding animal welfare, neurology and philosophy. In the essay "Animals Are Not Things," Grandin argues that while animals are technically property in our society, the law ultimately grants them certain key protections. Her books, including Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human, have garnered critical acclaim.
Grandin's willingness to work with fast-food companies and other slaughterhouse owners is controversial within the animal rights community. In her books, Grandin makes the case that the alleviation of anxiety, rather than the maximum extension of life, should be the priority for those keeping any animals. She notes the high degree of anxiety suffered by domestic animals left for long periods of time without human or animal interaction as an example of the ways in which animal welfare is neglected outside of the slaughterhouse.
As a high-functioning autistic person, Grandin has been able to make sense of and articulate her unusual life experiences with rare depth.
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