#038 Dr. Temple Grandin on inclusive education

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Dr. Temple Grandin is an internationally renowned scientist, animal activist, professor and autism advocate. Dr. Grandin joins me today to talk about inclusive education, her concerns about changes to the education of students with disabilities and her recommendations for a strengths-based, trouble-shooting approach to supporting students with autism.  

This episode is sponsored by Good Things in Life’s upcoming course, Belonging in School: The What, Why and How of Inclusive Education.  

Temple Grandin

Dr. Grandin notes that on the one hand you have people avoiding an autism label because they don’t want to be seen as disabled.  

On the other hand, you have kids for whom autism is their whole identity.  

Dr. Grandin likes the logical way her mind works and appreciates that she has Autism. But…it isn’t the thing that most defines who she is and what she contributes to the world.  

A child’s autism, their strengths and their interests are all parts of who they are.  

Parents and educators can best support children with autism by identifying their strengths and building on those. By identifying their interests and using those interests to stretch and expand the child’s opportunities, their focus and their abilities.  

Overprotecting and underestimating kids with autism does not serve the child and it does not serve the world.  

Kids that previously would have ended up in creative and clever hands-on careers are now under exposed to opportunities for hands on learning.  

Students’ get interested in things that they get exposed to. And so they need to get exposed to lots of things. But schools have taken so many things out like all the trades and the arts. And instead, students are shunted into special education that fails to lead to meaningful employment.  

Dr. Grandin is concerned to note that we are losing people in what she calls  
“clever engineering”. People are retiring and there is no one to replace them. We have a generation of kids who have never used tools.  

Some children will have a very hard time during school, especially high school. Temple herself had a really hard time and was withdrawn by her parents. But she argues, this is not a justification for allowing teens to be isolated and narrowly focused with little outside exposure.  

There is great potential in making friends with shared interests.


Genia:            Welcome to the Good Things in Life Podcast, the podcast that helps parents support their children with intellectual disabilities to build a good inclusive life and community. I’m your host, Genia Stephen. This week’s podcast is part of a series about inclusive education. The episode is sponsored by Good Things in Life’s upcoming course with Marilyn Dolmage called Belonging in School: The What, Why, and How of Inclusive Education. You can learn more about this foundations course by going to goodthingsinlife.org/bis for Belonging in School.

Genia:            Dr Temple Grandin really requires no introduction, but just in case you’ve been really out of the loop for the last 20 years or so. Dr Temple Grandin is an internationally renowned scientist and the animal activist. She’s a professor and an autism advocate. Dr Grandon herself has autism and she joins me today to talk about inclusive education, her concerns about changes to the education of students with disabilities and her recommendations for a strengths-based troubleshooting approach to supporting students with autism.

Genia:            Dr Grandin, thank you so much for joining me today on the Good Things in Life Podcast. I’m thrilled that you agreed to speak with me. And honestly I’m surprised that you agreed to speak with me. I know that you’re an incredibly busy woman and professional and so I’m really grateful for the time that you’re taking this morning to speak with me. The topic of this podcast episode is inclusive education. And in our previous conversation we spoke briefly about your greatest concerns around the education system and I wondered if you just wanted to start talking about what you see as some of the greatest, you know, issues in education for people with disabilities these days.

Temple:          Well, it’s been very interesting for me in the last two or three years on, in my public speaking, doing a lot of that now going back and forth between the education world and the tech companies out in California and then also the livestock industry and going in to meet clients and seeing the contrast between the worlds. When I was out working in construction all the time, like I did 25 years of that, I would sell a job, drop the drawings and design it, then supervise construction. So, I was in these big plants when they were totaling them and basically the special ed department builds all the clever equipment. And what’s happened now is the kids are getting shunted in special ed and we have to import all the equipment now from Europe cause we don’t know how to make it anymore. There’s like three gigantic pork plants where they had to bring all the equipment over here in shipping containers and I think one of the worst things they’ve done in the schools is taking up all of the skilled trades.

Temple:          Things like welding, woodworking shop, metal shop drawing, you know, then cooking, sewing, art, all the hands on things that can turn into careers. Because I worked with people that were dyslexic, ADHD, they’d probably be diagnosed autistic today, they were building the stuff. And this is something that really concerns me is there’s too many kids that would be very talented in the skilled trade, getting just shunted off in special ed. And there’s also skilled math kids. Where nothing’s being done to develop their math, they all do working out in Silicon Valley. And then I go off to Silicon Valley to a major tech company and half of those programmers are on the spectrum, on the autism spectrum and they’re avoiding the labels. So, it’s very interesting flying around between these different worlds.

Genia:            Right. Why do you think the texts that are on the spectrum in Silicon Valley are avoiding the labels?

Temple:          Well, they don’t want to be looking at like they have a disability. I think that’s part of the reason should they avoid it. But one talk I did at a tech company really recently, they checked out my PowerPoint slides to make sure I didn’t put the autism word on their founder, which I have done in the past, but I did not do it in that talk. I use a little bit of autism, you get someone who’s running a fortune 500 company. You might want to look at the Bill Gates, antitrust depositions, Bill Gates, antitrust depositions. They were done over 30 years ago. And it’s very interesting how he rocks during some of the questions.

Genia:            Oh, interesting.

Temple:          Make you wrong conclusions.

Genia:            And so, on the one hand you’ve got people trying to avoid an autism diagnosis because they’re trying to avoid that disability label and some of the [inaudible].

Temple:          Yup, that’s right. That’s what they’re doing. And the thing where, where that, where older people that are on the spectrum, they get diagnosed later in life where the label helps them is with the relationships in their marriages. It greatly improves their relationships and, but then on the other hand, what I’m seeing today, and I don’t see think it’s very good, is I’m seeing too many kids today where autism becomes their total identity.

Genia:            Right. Let’s talk about that. I would really love to hear your thoughts on that.

Temple:          And I think that’s a problem. Autism is a very important part of who I am, but it’s secondary to doing things like designing equipment to be a college professor, those kinds of things come first. Now I wouldn’t want to change how I think cause I like the logical way that I think. And the other problem we’ve got with autism is it such a huge spectrum. You’re going from Silicon Valley computer programmer to somebody who can’t dress themselves.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          And you’ve got exactly the same label. It doesn’t, that doesn’t make any sense. And in fact, I’ve been looking at the draft guidelines for the international ICD guidelines for autism and they’re going to change that having different levels. Now they’ve taken out the Asperger name, but their level, the first highest level will be basically fully verbal with no intellectual disability, no language impairment, no intellectual impairment. And, and I, but I’m seeing kids getting kind of a, you know, almost a handicap mentality where you got a 16 year old kid who’s fully verbal and he’s never gone shopping.

Genia:            Right?

Temple:          Getting so over protected, I mean things that I was doing when I was seven and eight, he’s never done like shopping, having an allowance and learning how to save money.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          Just simple stuff like that.

Genia:            Right. So, why do you think that, what do you think sort of leads towards that disability identity and the overprotection and um, sort of deprivation of experience that often comes with that over protection?

Temple:          Well, I think a lot of parents, they want what a lot of the moms, they, they just feel they gotta really protect the kid. Now what you gotta do with these kids is you gotta stretch them. You don’t throw them in the deep end of the pool. There are problems with multitasking. So, things like learning to drive is going to take longer and they need to do more practice in a completely safe place like back roads are a big field or maybe a big parking lot before they do traffic. What you’ve got, you’ve got to get them out doing things. My mother had a very good sense of just how much to push me to get me out to doing things. And, and then lot of the people that I worked with back to the 80s and 90s when I was out in construction all the time, oh, they would have been totally in the special ed department. And the thing that saved the guy was a shop teacher in the welding class. I, I’ve, I know a guy who was in his 60s, dyslexic, ADHD, stutterer, terrible student, took welding, started making some stuff, selling it at county fairs and trade shows, now owns a large metal fabrication company.

Genia:            Right? Yeah.

Temple:          You see, but do you see these people aren’t getting replaced? Sorry about all the beeping but people are trying to call me.

Genia:            That’s okay. That’s okay. It’s not really coming through on this end. So, the autism diagnosis or the autism identity, you know, there’s sort of an interesting trend that I see. It’s not really a trend. To call it a trend sounds like it’s transient and insignificant and that’s not.

Temple:          Yeah.

Genia:            But you know, I think that there is something to be said for being proud of who you are and you know, the, you know, the what disability pride advocates talk about. I think that there’s something [inaudible]

Temple:          Yup. I think there’s something to be said for that. I’d agree with that, but it shouldn’t become their whole life.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          And I’ve told a number of advocates, I said, you will be a better advocate if you have a real job and you can help the people that you’re mentoring on how to get into a real job. Your advocacy will be better if you get out and do something other than just advocacy.

Genia:            Right, right. Because the advocacy really is just sort of a, a solely disability focused, again feeds into that solely disability focused identity.

Temple:          Well, it, it’s, I like what Stephen Hawking had to say about disability and he had a very severe disability. And before he died, he was quoted in the New York Times and the BBC, he said, “Concentrate on the things your disability does not prevent you from doing well.” And he could do math in his head really well.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          And that’s what he concentrated on.

Genia:            Right. So, that’s an interesting and I think a really powerful concept building on people’s strengths and [inaudible] on their interests. And I know that you’ve spoken about not seeing fixations as being problems to solve, but being interest to capitalize on and that, those two things seem to be tied together for me – building on strengths and building on interests. I wonder if you could speak a little bit about that.

Temple:          Well, first of all, my strength was art that showed up when I was maybe second and third grade and my mother encouraged me to draw lots of different things instead of the same horse head over and over again. What you want to do is expand. So, the kid likes cars, let’s read about cars, let’s do mathematics with cars, you can do science with cars. In other words, take that interest and broaden it so it’s not going to be so fixated. You want to broad, otherwise it just gets too fixated.

Genia:            And what do you think the fixations, what are fixations about? So, you know,

Temple:          Well it’s just that I can remember in high school talking over and over again about a carnival ride and other students got sick of that. I don’t know, I just thought the rotor carnival ride was just so important and other people just don’t have the interest in that that I had. And so, I kind of had to learn that you can’t just go over and over again talking with people about, you know, the one thing you really like over and over again.

Genia:            Right. And that that’s a social skill. But the fixation itself, do you think that fixations are sort of like, sorry I’m not being very articulate here. I guess in my mind if fixation probably has some underlining, underlying intent, valuable intent. You know, like somebody gets fixated on something but they’re learning about something or they are

Temple:          Well the other thing is kids get fixated on stuff they got exposed to. I got on one of the, some of the things that got me fixated, I got interested in cattle squeeze shoots and built like a squeezing machine for myself to calm me down. You see that kind of a sensory basis there. But students get interested in stuff they get exposed to. I think a lot of kids today aren’t getting exposed to enough stuff cause I take an art out of the school theater, out of the school cooking, sewing, woodworking, metalworking, automobile shop, and we’ve got a huge shortage of skilled trades and good jobs that computers are not going to replace. You’re not going to, computer’s not gonna go up on a roof and install air conditioning equipment anytime soon, or electrical wiring or plumbing.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          What that computer’s gonna replace is going to be those high end diagnostic jobs in medicine. That’s your low hanging fruit for computers to replace

Genia:            Well that’s really, that’s really interesting, you know, what you’re saying about fixations. People get fixated on things that they are interested in things that they’re exposed to. That really speaks powerfully to the need for somebody who has a tendency towards fixation to be exposed to lots of different things.

Temple:          Exactly. And lots of different positive things they can turn into careers like [inaudible] like a art, making stuff. But I worked with all kinds of corky guys in the shop that make stuff and we are losing the skills and what I call the clever engineering department. You know, you go into an upbeat [inaudible] plant and you’ve got all kinds of conveyors and equipment and we used to make all that stuff. But the people I’ve worked with have retired and they’re not being replaced. I ran into a lady at the airport the other day, she’s a marketing manager for gigantic chicken company and she told me that they’re ripping their hair out right now because they can’t get people to fix equipment. I’ll tell you what, where the people are, they’re in the basement playing video games.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          But they never, we got kids growing up today that never use tools. That’s ridiculous. You know, now when I give talks to educators, I just bash on this.

Genia:            Yeah. Yeah. It’s incredibly important. The opportunity to experience lots of different things to get your hands on and learn those skills. And you know, I, I think that the, there’s sort of an interesting thing here around the over protection and the limits.

Temple:          Yes.

Genia:            At places on people’s [inaudible]

Temple:          [inaudible] Well, you’ve got a 16 year old boy that looks like he ought to go work for Google and the kid has never gone in a storm, fought something by himself. I mean, I’m talking about, you know, I think that’s extreme over protection.

Genia:            But it’s pretty common I would say.

Temple:          Oh, it is. It’s really common.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          And the kids are going nowhere and then the addiction to video games. And they’re not becoming designers, they’re not becoming programmers, they’re just ending up in the basement. If they were having a good outcome, like your work for video game company, I would not be criticizing it.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          And I can tell you one of the reasons why they like to play the games. I had a lot of problems with anxiety until I went on antidepressants. And when they play those games, it calms down the anxiety.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          I used to do marathons of writing and that would do the same thing. It helped calm down my anxiety, marathons of writing and reading.

Genia:            Interesting. So, do you think then that, it seems to me also that there’s, during the really early years, things often can be a little bit easier as far as inclusion in school is concerned, but then get to those high school years

Temple:          Well, high school I had good inclusion and in elementary school. I went to a small school, 12 kids in a class, the teacher explained to the other children that I had a handicap that was not visible like a wheelchair. They need to be helping me. So, I had a really good elementary, a large high schools in Massa, I got kicked out for fighting. And my parents had enough money to send me to a special school for, you know, kids, they wasn’t called kids with autism in those days, but most of the kids that probably at autism. And I learned how to ride horses and take care of the horse barn. And I think some of these kids, you might have to take them out, but as soon as the legal age, they need to be working.

Genia:            Right. So

Temple:          [inaudible] school, high school kid, he needs to be, as soon as they’re legal they need to be out working.

Genia:            So, the idea is not to take the child out of society or out of community.

Temple:          No,

Genia:            but just to acknowledge that if a child is having a really horrific time during high school that you may need to look for alternatives. But the alternative [inaudible].

Temple:          Yeah, you may.

Genia:            the basement by themselves.

Temple:          No, that’s an alternative I don’t want.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          Yeah. Let’s get them into scolding, get them into scouts, get them into robotics, you know, get him into stuff where there’s a shared interest. Because when I was in high school, I got bullied and teased. The only place where I had friends was through shared interests in things like riding horses and model rockets. Friends who shared interests, really super important. Now, we need to get these kids out there and a things like doing, you know, boy scouts or girl scouts or or or going in a theater group or band or choir, something where they get out and do things with other people.

Genia:            And what if the kids are because of anxiety or because of just general, you know, fear or you know, not wanting to experience some of the rejection that kids with disabilities very often do experience at school or in community. What would you say to a parent whose child is saying, “I don’t, I don’t want to, I would rather just be alone”?

Temple:          Well, one thing you can do is give them choices. Like when I was 15 I had the opportunities to go to my aunt’s ranch and I was afraid to go. And the only reason I’m in the cattle industry is because I went to my aunts ranch. If I ain’t gone to my aunt’s ranch, I would not have been in the cattle industry. And mother gave me a choice. She said, you can go for a week and come home if you hate it or you can stay all summer. But I was gonna get on the plane, aunt was going to go with me and go. And when I got out there, I loved it.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          Well, there was a choice, but not going wasn’t one of the choices.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          The choice was if I hated it, I could come back home in a week.

Genia:            Yeah,

Temple:          I got out there, absolutely loved it.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          You see this is where you, we’ve got to get him out doing things and no anxiety can be a very, very big problem. And I take antidepressant medication now. I’ve been on it since my early thirties. It’s saved me. As visual thinkers are a little panic monsters and if you want to read about my experiences with antidepressant medication, you can get my book Thinking in Pictures.

Genia:            Okay.

Temple:          And even though it’s 20 years old, the medical information is still accurate.

Genia:            Okay.

Temple:          And one of the big mistakes that’s made with antidepressant medication when you use it for anxiety is too high a dose and then you get agitation and insomnia and you have to lower the dose.

Genia:            Right, right. Okay. I will make sure that links to that book are in the show notes.

Temple:          Okay.

Genia:            So this, this might be a question that you, maybe you don’t remember the answer to. It might be a better question for your parents, but when your mom said to you, “All right, Temple, you have the option of going for one week or the whole summer, but staying home is not one of those options.” Did you make that easy on her? Okay. I’m just imagining that a lot of parents feel a lot of pressure. Their kids’ lives are already

Temple:          [inaudible] Well I think I just did it.

Genia:            You just did it?

Temple:          You see I was brought up in the 50s where kids were taught to say please and thank you. You had to sit the table and have manners. Social skills were taught in a much more structured way to all children in the 50s. You know, I just did it.

Genia:            Okay. And so, just pausing here to think about what I want to ask you next. So, I think, sorry, I’m just looking at my list of questions. What do you think, so I’ve heard you speak about different styles of thinking

Temple:          Oh, the different kinds of thinking.

Genia:            different ways of thinking

Temple:          So, that’s in my book on, that’s in my book The Autistic Brain. I’m a visual thinker, object visuals. Everything I think about is the picture. When you asked me about going out to the ranch, I saw the ranch. I’m now seeing myself on the airplane and we landed in Tucson and this is before they had jet bridges. And we were, they had the door, the plane like right in between first-class and coach and we were in the first seats and coach. They opened that door up and it was like an oven. It so hot in Tucson. I remember that really well and I walked out onto that stairway and I’m going to, people actually live here.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          I remember that really well. Odd but you see, as I’m seeing it now, I’m feeling a blast of hot air when they opened up the door cause we were right by the door.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          You see it’s not abstract. Then you have your pattern thinker, your mathematical mind. They visualize things in space that are mathematical mind, pattern thinker. Some autistic kids are a pattern thinker and then others are l thinker. They often love history and they love verbal facts like everything about hockey or everything about baseball. They’re a verbal facts person. And then the thing that all people with autism have is memory. Lots and lots of memory and attention to detail.

Genia:            Yep. And so, with the different kinds of brains and the different kinds of thinking, how does that affect how someone might support a person with autism to or how might somebody understand those ways of thinking as far as how information is processed? And then therefore [inaudible]

Temple:          Well the first thing you got to understand is that there’s different kinds of thinking. And the thing is that the different kinds of minds complement each other. Let’s take the iPhone for example. Steve Jobs and artists made an easy to use interface. Programmers and engineers had to make it work. Because of the engineers that designed the phone interface, it wasn’t so complicated the phone [inaudible] failure. And basically Steve Jobs, his interface has been copied on every single phone all around the world.

Genia:            Yeah. So, if we, if a parent or an educator is thinking about how to support communication for a person who struggles with communication, how does this idea of the different types of minds

Temple:          Well the teaching social skills, that doesn’t really affect it.

Genia:            Okay.

Temple:          But when it comes to like, are visual thinkers like me cannot do Algebra. And I’m saying I’m not graduating from high school and kept out of skilled trade or have an art career because you can’t do Algebra. I can’t do Algebra. That’s too abstract. And a lot of these kids need be just jumped right straight to Geometry, which that was not done with me and that was a mistake. I’ve never passed an Algebra course. And the only reason I got through college is, thank goodness, in 67 the education, the fad of the time was finite math, which was matrices, probability and statistics. And with tutoring I could do it because it’s less abstract.

Genia:            Right, right. And so, the, does, do the different kinds of minds impact how people talk, like come to understand spoken language or be able to use spoken language? Or these things [inaudible]

Temple:          No, I think the different kinds of minds do fine on spoken language. It more has to do with what they’re going to be good in school. You know, your mathematicians, you’ve got a fourth grader, third grader is really good at math. Boot my head, give them a high school math book. But give them an old fashion Algebra book and old fashioned Geometry book, not this new verbal junk they have now. Old fashioned book, dig it up out of the attics, that’s just all numbers. And getting expose the kid to that book, they may take off. I get science in nature. I can’t believe there’s stuff that’s going on now with patterns. They’re taking and making complicated molecules on 3D printers. I look at all these patterns, a different graphene and stuff that they’re making on things or doing organic chemistry where it’s sort of like beautiful geometric patterns. Well, maybe you need to get that science in nature in the high school so the kid can look at that stuff. That gets back to exposure. It’s not for my kind of mind, but I’m looking at this man, I’d like to pattern kids to be seeing this.

Genia:            Right. Well that’s, that’s a really strong argument for why, I mean you’ve just made it. You’ve just made the argument. I’m just going to say it again cause I’m thinking about it in this way, but that’s a really strong argument for supporting kids regardless of your perception of their intelligence and your perception of their capacity to expose them to quite high level curriculum content across multiple subjects. Because you don’t know what kind of life they have.

Temple:          [inaudible] you don’t know, but you don’t, only, you don’t find out. Now kids that are visual thinkers usually will draw it in an early age and they loved to build things. The mathematical thinkers, you know, less interested in drawing, they do like to build things. Word thinkers could care less about building things and usually don’t draw. No, that’s just kind of a generality in my book The Autistic Brain provides scientific evidence for these different ways of thinking. And the visual thinkers like me, we’re going to be into art, graphic design and skilled trades.

Temple:          And I want to talk to skilled trades, I’m talking high end skilled trades like welding, where you read drawings, plumbing, electrical on auto mechanics, all kinds of mechanical jobs, heating and air conditioning. These are good jobs that won’t go away on their perfect visual thinkers. But how can a visual thinker find out he might like to do a skilled trade if he doesn’t try it? And we need to be exposing elementary school kids to tools. I took woodworking in fifth grade when I was 11.

Genia:            Yeah. Yes. [inaudible]

Temple:          And that’s why I did my book Calling All Minds.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          My book Calling All Minds go all my childhood projects.

Genia:            Oh really? I haven’t seen that one.

Temple:          Calling All Minds. Yeah.

Genia:            I’ll check that out. So, let’s talk about early intervention for a little while. I understand.

Temple:          Really important, really important.

Genia:            I understand that you had two significant forms of early intervention. One was speech-language services, and the other was that your mom hired somebody to spend a considerable amount of time with you teaching things like turn-taking.

Temple:          A lots of emphasis on turn-taking. Had to learn how to wait and take my turn. And then they did a lot of what I called teachable moments. So, if I stuck my finger in the juice to stir it, they didn’t scream, “No”, they would give me the instructions saying, “Now, use your spoon. All the people think it’s disgusting when you put your finger on it.” They would explain quietly what you should do and why you should do it. And then the speech teacher did a lot of, she teaching me words like she’d hold up a cup and she’d go, “Cup” and then she’d go, “Cup-pah”. Where she’d say it slowly, she’d alternate between saying it slowly saying it fast. The other thing you’ve got to do with these little kids, you’ve got to give them time to respond, now like a slow phone on one bar of ??? takes time for the, bring up the language program. Give them time to respond.

Genia:            Right. And so, give them time to respond, do you mean in the moment? Or do you mean over the developmental years?

Temple:          No, I’m talking about in the moment.

Genia:            Okay.

Temple:          Okay, you want the kid to, let’s say you say to the kid, he knew, you know, the kid wants the juice. So, you say use your words to get them to ask for it. You might have to wait 15 seconds for the wheels to turn in his head for him to say it. Just think about when you’ve got one bar on your phone and you’re trying to download a website and that bar’s taken forever to go across the screen, you might, and I’m talking about in the moment you’ve got to one, you might have to wait 15 seconds. That’s a long time. Give them time to respond.

Genia:            Right. And the interventions that you’ve experienced or that you did experience, excuse me, when you were a young child, it doesn’t sound like the, that was particularly high tech or you know, like your mom just [inaudible].

Temple:          Oh, it wasn’t.

Genia:            [inaudible] just to spend some time with you. [inaudible]

Temple:          Well no, it doesn’t, it doesn’t have to be high tech. And I went to a little speech therapy school that had about five or six kids in it. There was a couple of Down syndrome kids in it and an aide would work with the kids, would turn taking games while each kid was taken out for an hour a day of, you know, intensive one-to-one speech therapy. It was similar to a lot of programs done today. And it was two teachers working out of the basement of their house for the speech therapy school. [inaudible] it was not.

Genia:            Right. One of the things that I see that really concerns me is children with autism essentially being, really their whole life is therapy focused. And I, I agree about early intervention being really important and good teaching being important. But it seems

Temple:          But then once you, you know, once I got to be about five, my life was yes, we sit at the dining room table and we’re going to have a meal together and everybody sits together and take turns talking. We had miss manners meals. We had three of them every day. And then I was allowed to just go outside and play and do what I wanted to do. But those meals, which were half an hour long each, we had to sit at the table and that we had to take turns telling about what we did that day and interacting. And that’s just the way kids were brought up in the 50s and that was extremely helpful.

Genia:            So, do you think then that kids, so do you think, I just see there’s a ton of money, a ton of energy and a ton of isolation I see happening [inaudible]

Temple:          Well, after we had the miss manners meal, we’d go out with the neighborhood kids and we will build a tree house. So, we’d go out catch grasshoppers out in the field or I go out and fly my kite out on the field.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          And I, and that, yeah, I did that, you know, but in between the meals, during the meals was very structured, but other times it was just out plan.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          And there were neighborhood kids and I was good at making things. So, other kids like to make stuff with me. [inaudible] one time we made up, we build a gas station out of a shoe box and put strings around it and put flags on it. Cause in the 50s they’d put all these pennants up. They’re not allowed to do that now, but you’d have flags all over the gas.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          And when I was a kid, I thought that was just so cool. Gas Station flags.

Genia:            Yeah, yeah,

Temple:          Yeah. And I was really into those when I was in elementary school.

Genia:            Right. So, so what I’m hearing then is that your strong recommendation for early intervention is not about keeping kids in intensive therapies, but having a sort of a conscious, intentional attention to some, some structure and teaching and then also a very experience rich opportunity [inaudible]

Temple:          Oh, I was in a regular school by age five.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          But it was a small school with only 12 kids in a class. A bigger class I would have had to have an aide.

Genia:            Right, right.

Temple:          And the old fashion 50’s core, things were structured, you know, kids took different turns reading. Then we do arithmetic workbooks and, and then we have an art class and then we’d have a sewing class.

Genia:            Were transitions difficult for you?

Temple:          When you say transitions be more specific.

Genia:            While you were talking about the structure of the class and you know, everybody would take, take a turn and then you would go from math class to art class to

Temple:          Oh, no. I didn’t have a problem with that. And then I’d line up and we’d go into the cafeteria to eat.

Genia:            Okay.

Temple:          No, I did not. You know, there was just sort of, that was not an issue.

Genia:            Okay.

Temple:          They, you know, I would line, you see that, you see this gets back to when I was a young child, we had to sit at the table and do miss manners meals. But I also have plenty of time just to go in my room and build bird kites, which were, I spent a lot of time on that and the bird kites and Calling All Minds, my new book for children on plenty of time to go out in the field next door and fly my kite. Yeah. I had plenty of time to do stuff like that and just make stuff in my room, but I wasn’t allowed to become a recluse.

Genia:            Right, yeah.

Temple:          That was something that wasn’t allowed. I had to be at those meals.

Genia:            Yeah. And so, I mean lots of, lots of people with autism do really struggle with transitions. Do you think that that is a sensory issue, do you think? Do you have any thoughts on

Temple:          Well, sensory is, my number one place research would be sensory. And there’s an interesting paper out now called Environmental Enrichment as an Effective Treatment for Autism and as a method where you stimulate two senses at the same time when you always keep changing the two senses. And they, I think it helps desensitize sensory problems. Also a sound like a vacuum cleaner, which a kid hates is often better tolerated if the kid can turn on the vacuum cleaner. So, give the kid to vacuum cleaner and go, “You can turn it on and off yourself.” And when they control it, sometimes they get the like the vacuum cleaner or the blenders, some other really noisy thing when they get to control it.

Genia:            Right, right. It doesn’t feel like such an [inaudible]

Temple:          And I think, you see the other thing is autism as you know, different levels. And then some of the nonverbal people, there’s Carly up in Canada, actually have a Locked-in syndrome where she can’t control her movements. And one of the best books to read about kids that remain nonverbal is Tito Mukhopadhyay How Can I Talk If My Lips Don’t Move? It’s out of print right now in paper book, but it is available as an ebook. And he describes a sensory disordered world not being able to control movement on anyone who worked with children that remain nonverbal. I’m not talking about three-year-olds here. I’m talking about kids like over six.

Genia:            Yup.

Temple:          That, that book’s a must read. That Carly’s Voice and then the sequel to The Reason I Jump is a sequel like fall down five times, get up nine times. That’s better than the first book because Naoki’s older. But he talks about being like a broken robot where he couldn’t control his movements. And he also discusses that sometimes his carers, that’s what he called his therapists, like trying to help him too much instead of letting him put the code on himself.

Genia:            I will check those out. I’ll check those out for sure.

Temple:          [inaudible] you’re working with kids that remained nonverbal, those books that must read – Carly’s Voice, How Can I Talk If My Lips Don’t Move?, and then the sequel to The Reason I Jumped when Naoki’s grown up. It’s a better book.

Genia:            Okay.

Temple:          In terms of raining teachers.

Genia:            Okay. I will definitely, I will definitely find those resources and I’ll definitely read them. I haven’t, those are not books that I know. So, I will definitely read those. So, you’ve talked about the importance of getting kids, you know, access to tools, access to experiences, building on strengths and interests, making sure that we can refill those, you know, those skilled trades and jobs, get people, you know, flowing back into the workforce. But what about, what do you see as the contribution of people who, as you’ve just said, remain nonverbal or locked into their bodies or who have an intellectual disability in addition to autism?

Temple:          Well depends on what the intellectual disability is. You know, see now I think visually, so I don’t think in generalities. I have an intellectual disability that can’t do Algebra. It’s like the Algebra circuits just are not there. And in a lot of places in the, I wouldn’t be allowed to ride with bicycle. You don’t need Algebra for skilled trades. You need, you need a wisdom. A tech taught the old fashioned way, the way I was taught in the 50s. You do need that. I was fine with that. This business, you know, when I learned some traction in the 50s, I was allowed to write on the paper when I borrowed. Now I have to try to make me do that in my head. I can’t do it.

Temple:          What’s wrong with letting the kid mark the paper? That’s the way I was taught in the 50s and I was able to do it just fine. But we have to figure out what, intellectual disability is too vague. I’ve gotta figure out exactly what, where the problem is. Now a lot of kids where there’s a brain difference, multitasking is hard. Multitasking can be just sometimes impossible. You know, so busy, super busy McDonald’s at lunch rush would probably not be a very good job.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          Now, the multitasking can really be an issue. But there’s a lot of things you can do like the things I did in design work, there’s no multitasking.

Genia:            Yeah. Okay. So, I’m trying to rethink how I asked the question of [inaudible]

Temple:          Well, I have to, I have to, I have to go with specifics.

Genia:            Yes. I understand.

Temple:          I have to go by specifics. Like, okay, is this person an adult, a child? I’m going to ask you a lot of questions.

Genia:            Great. That’s helpful.

Temple:          So I can fill up a visual image of what this person’s like, then I can visualize the job he could do.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          And I’ve had lots of experience with the business world. I’ve been lots of places. So, I’ve got a big library of workplaces. I, you know, I’ve been in all kinds of industrial stuff. And so, let’s say the person’s working age. Okay. How well can you talk? I’ve got to, I’ve got to know a few things.

Genia:            Sure. Let’s say

Temple:          In order to figure out a job that’s appropriate. How well can you talk? What level can they read?

Genia:            Let’s say.

Temple:          Can you read it sixth grade level? He could do just about any job.

Genia:            Right. Yeah, I totally agree with you.

Temple:          [inaudible] to six grade level. Does he have a mobility issue?

Genia:            Right. Okay. So, let’s say

Temple:          No, I have to know what the problem is. You see now I’m seeing a lady works at the airport at the newsstand and she’s a little person. Well she has a 2-steps stool that she stands on at the cash register and that works just fine.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          Okay. Now that’s an example of a simple accommodation and she’s a cashier at the newsstand.

Genia:            Right. Okay. So, let’s say we’re talking about a 23 year old woman who can’t speak with words and has, uses a communication system, a symbol based communication system. So, perhaps is unable to read but certainly wasn’t taught in the education system and is considered to have a significant intellectual disability that affects their ability to understand.

Temple:          Well, first of all, these people know the difference between real work and busy work and they don’t like busy work. It’s important to have a real job. Then you get into the issue about, you know, sheltered workshops and, and I’m, I’m now seeing a, like some ladies that were stuffing ski brochures into envelopes. I don’t think I’m going to say where this was, but this was probably, you know, five years ago, doing it very, very slowly. There’s no way that they could get in a regular job doing that. And, and, but it was real work that the ski resort needed to have the brochures put in the envelopes. And, and they were very slow. I mean, it must’ve taken a minute to do one brochure.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          Real, real slow, you see. But I’m seeing that as something specific, but that is useful work. But then I don’t want to see a kid that should be in something higher level than that in that realm.

Temple:          One thing I really hate is I see a kid that ought to be going into a skilled trade on in a row, you know, with the kids with a lot more challenges and he’s going nowhere.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          Or she’s going nowhere. But there’s things these people can do. Then I asked what’s the person like to do? Okay. Then you get into things can they tolerate a noisy environment.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          I now seeing a case, this is at a farm community. They would take the kid, they told me about a kid who’s probably early twenties, nonverbal, every behavior problem in the book, you know, binders full of behavior plans. And the kid was a runner. And they just tied some ribbons on the trees and said, “Well, if you want to run, you can just run between these trees.” And they, they gave him the job of stacking wood. And he was did just fine.

Genia:            Yeah. Yeah. And so [inaudible]

Temple:          And it’s a real job or you get out of a job at [inaudible] horse stalls. I mean, that’s a real job.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          I did horse stalls in high school. I did horse stalls for three years, but I did no studying. I went to the very expensive school of horse barn management.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          But the thing that I learned in that I learned how to work.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          They, these kids, kids got to learn how to do stuff on a schedule outside the family.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          It could be a church volunteer job. Let’s start at 11 church volunteer jobs. And if there’s a paper route, let’s get them on it.

Genia:            Yeah. So, what I’m hearing you say is that regardless of the degree of impairment, that building on strengths and interests and expecting people to contribute and learn to work hard

Temple:          Yeah.

Genia:            [inaudible] a universal, universally [inaudible]

Temple:          Well, and they, and they need to be doing work that’s so wanted and appreciated.

Genia:            Right. Yes.

Temple:          And there’s a lady in Colorado who’s running a brew pub and some of the people there are nonverbal. Now, her biggest problem has been getting them transportation. That’s gotten to be kind of a costly mess. But then somebody criticized it for being a sheltered workshop because you’re gonna, you’re gonna tend to get clusters. Okay. Take a blind person that’s not intellectually impaired, but a large corporation, I think we’ll keep it the name of the corporation out of it. But it’s a large corporation that put, puts blind people in their reservation center and it’s a job that they can do. It’s a real job with a nice career path, paid full wages, full health insurance, which is really important in the US.

Genia:            Yup.

Temple:          And, and it’s a job where being blind is not, their disability doesn’t affect the ability to do telephone reservations, so they put them into telephone reservations.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          Well, I could see somebody a lot coming along and saying, “Well, you just created a sheltered workshop at this big corporation.” You know, they are gonna tend to cluster on, but it’s a real job.

Genia:            Yeah. Yeah. And I think [inaudible]

Temple:          [inaudible] blind people don’t have a real job. I don’t want to commend this corporation for doing that. And again, I didn’t, there’s people out there that might criticize that corporation. I’m not gonna give you the name of it, but this is going on right now.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          And they’re being very successful. I’m going to be going and visiting this company and I’m going to learn more about this.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          About the reservation center.

Genia:            Yeah. Well it’s kind of interesting, right? Because you can see that piece of “Is this real work?” is really [inaudible]

Temple:          [inaudible] stuffing ski brochures even done slowly was real warm.

Genia:            Absolutely. Yeah. It’s a job that needs to be done and it’s making a [inaudible].

Temple:          That’s right.

Genia:            Yeah. And the thing with sheltered workshops, this sort of traditional sheltered workshop is that very often it, it was busy work, like you were saying. Or it was real work that was under compensated, dramatically under compensated so that people [inaudible]

Temple:          Yeah, you see, well and that’s wrong. But in that same sheltered workshop with the ski brochures, they had a, they had a paper recycling business in banks hence they will shred paper in a paper, big paper sweater. And the ones that are nonverbal, their job was to pull the colored paper and the staples out then and all the paper. This is business paper, this real clean paper. The banks love them because these people can’t read. I was standing in the conveyor and I go, “Ooh, here’s a document here from a bank.”

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          I’m the worst, I’m the worst nightmare. But their job was to pull the colored paper out before the paper wants the shredder.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          Now, that’s real work.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          Now the, and then, then somebody had a, that had a higher intellectual level, ran the shredding machine. But then the ones that were lower level pulled the colored paper out.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          That is real work. Now the problem, you know, if they can do the, see then you get into the issue on the compensation. If they can do the job at the regular speed that most people can do with that, yes, they absolutely should get full wage. But what do I do with the lady that stuffing the ski brochures? I mean she’s doing like maybe, she’s doing it to like one fourth of the speed of a regular person.

Genia:            Yeah. Well I would think that the, I would think that the one way to look at whether or not paying somebody a different rate is okay or not is looking at whether or not somebody is experiencing benefits from the work that they’re doing that is, that, that is appropriately impactful for their lives. So for example, some people may spend most of their adult life in volunteer roles and have great [inaudible] and experience [inaudible]

Temple:          And that’s fine. And that’s fine because that’s, that’s real work too.

Genia:            Yes, exactly.

Temple:          [inaudible] real work, doing real tasks that other people want and appreciate.

Genia:            Yeah. Yeah.

Temple:          But you’ve got some disability advocates were like, if we’re, some store gets like more than three or four people with a disability, the store then, they accuse the store of running a sheltered workshop. And then go after them.

Genia:            Yeah. I mean [inaudible]

Temple:          That’s why I won’t give out any names of companies.

Genia:            Right. Yeah. I think there’s some, there’s some black and there’s some white and then there’s an awful lot of gray as far as how come [inaudible]

Temple:          This is the problem, this is the problem. And I can think of things I don’t want to see, smart blind people that ought to be working in the reservations department of this company on working in some sheltered workshop and getting substandard wages. That I don’t want to say.

Genia:            Yeah. Yeah, sure.

Temple:          That’s not acceptable when they can be doing a real reservations job at full pay for a real company with a normal career advancement path.

Genia:            Yeah. Yeah. I agree. So, what, what do you think, what do you think, so I’m thinking about going, I’m swinging back to your childhood and thinking about your parents. Probably your mother specifically just given the time and also given that it’s still very often moms who are doing majority of the a child [inaudible]

Temple:          Well, mother, mother, mother never babied me. She had a very good sense of just how much to stretch me. And she always gave me choices and she knew she had to kind of stretch me just outside my comfort zone. She had a very good instinct about that.

Genia:            Where do you think that came from? Because at the time that you were born, most [inaudible]

Temple:          It came from old fashioned 50s parenting.

Genia:            Yeah. But parents were putting their kids in institutions in the 50s. Like in [inaudible]

Temple:          Well, she could see that, she could see that I could do stuff. Mother’s also a visual thinker and she could see that I could do things.

Genia:            [inaudible]

Temple:          Mother was a bit of a rebel. She was a bit of a rebel. She was in kind of a theater group when I was a little kid. She had beatnik friends. I mean, she, she’s a little bit of a rebel herself.

Genia:            Did anybody ever tell her that you would be best if placed in a [inaudible]

Temple:          Oh, yes. She was, they told, yeah. They were, yeah. The normal procedure in the 50s was to put a full nonverbal kid, when I was three, I was totally nonverbal, would be institutionalized. That’s what they normally did in the 50s. But fortunately, mother went to a neurologist, not a psychologist, but a neurologist who recommended the little speech therapy school that the two teachers taught out of their basement. And she checked me for epilepsy and she checked me for deafness. It was a neurologist, not a psychiatrist.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          Bronson Crothers at Boston Children’s hospital. And it, this is one place where the movie’s really wrong.

Genia:            Okay.

Temple:          And they, they, the movie, in the movie, an HBO Movie, the most accurate stuff, the work stuff. It shows visual thinking accurately, sensory accurately, all my projects are accurate. Like the one scene in there with a doctor that was kind of a fabrication but historically, that’s what happened to most severely autistic kids. [inaudible] that wasn’t the advice she got.

Genia:            Right. So, she did, she risk, part of what helped her to make that different decision for you was speaking to a professional that supported that where you belonged was in your community.

Temple:          Yes. And fortunately I went to a school that was in my community. And it was a small school. And mother, mother talked to Mr Ladd, they had master and he felt that they could work with me on, he actually turned down another family cause he didn’t think the fact that parents would cooperate enough with them.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          The small school happen to be private but I think the thing that was the main thing that made it work is it was small.

Genia:            Right. And so, at that time then when you were three or, you know, the age three, four, five, you, you began speaking around the age of four. But I understand that, you know, whether it was the, the, wording used then or now that essentially you would have been considered to have quite significant, you’re quite significantly affected by autism. Like it wasn’t

Temple:          Oh, yes. When I was, when I was three years old, I had no speech. I brought. I had, oh, I was severely autistic. Now the one thing I did not have is I had no epilepsy.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          And, and Bronson Crothers checked me for that.

Genia:            Yeah. I just, I break this up because I think that parents, some people look at you now and they think, “Well, this is all wonderful that Dr. Grandin is, you know, so successful, but my kid is just more severely affected.”

Temple:          Now, the thing is in some kids are doing more, what happens with the little kids is you work really hard on early intervention. You, some of the kids, you kind of pull them out of it. Now let’s take an older kid that’s fully verbal. And I was still pretty autistic acting, you know, when I was older and Claire Danes did a great job of becoming me as a teenager. That was really accurate. And, and what you, you get these kids out doing things, they blossom. I’ve had several parents that got their, their kid out, like got ’em in a job, you know, working at an office supply store or some other job and they’ve said he just blossomed.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          You see, you get, you see, the thing about the autistic brain is it’s the bottom up thinker. Same as a computer, as a bottom up thinker. You’ve gotta load the database with information and the more stuff that get out and do, you’ll load the database and then they’re going to be more flexible as you put more and more information into the database. And I’ve heard over and over again when they got them out doing things and they go, “Oh, he just blossomed.” But you’ve got to make sure you don’t chuck them into that busy super busy McDonald’s or that super busy Christmas madhouse store.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          That’s not gonna work.

Genia:            Because you have to put all the information, all the data in [inaudible]

Temple:          No. Multitasking, forget multitasking. You’ve got no working memory. Okay. Any task that involves a sequence like cleaning the Starbucks coffee machine, you need to give them a pilot’s checklist. There’s no sequence memory. Do not do long strings of verbal information and there are certain jobs that will not be appropriate. There’s just too much multitasking. That is a real issue and that’s an issue for many different intellectual disabilities in jobs and multitasking, adjusted mess.

Genia:            Right. And is that universal or nothing’s universally true, but you know, is that universally true for people with autism? That working [inaudible]

Temple:          It’s usually, usually multitasking is an issue. Yeah. Usually. Even normal, I can’t multitask. And I can’t do math in my head and I can’t, If someone gives me verbal instructions and there’s more than three steps, I can’t remember them even now.

Genia:            Right. Yeah.

Temple:          I have to write them down.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          He leaves this person a pilot’s checklist, that’s simple to do.

Genia:            Right. Yeah. That the principle [inaudible]

Temple:          The engineering, that’s called a workaround. Now working memory is a real issue and multitasking and some of the other disabilities that are not autism are going to have the same problem. Working memory issues and multitasking for many intellectual disabilities is going to be a problem. And you have to do a work around and avoid it.

Genia:            I want to switch gears a little bit. Lately I have seen, often on social media, people are online, people, parents saying, you know, autism won today when their child has had a difficult day. And I’m, I really don’t, I don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel like there’s this perception that autism is something that is sort of happening to a kid and to a family. And it also, and partially why that bothers me is because it makes me feel like perhaps there’s, it’s not a question that says how do we unpack or untangle [inaudible]

Temple:          Well [inaudible] what you’re telling me about this, I’m thinking about all, I’m going to call the geeks and nerds and weirdos I worked with in construction. Let me tell you, every geek there was, I worked with them, socialize them within job trailer, sometimes would use bad language or someone I won’t repeat now, always talk about how stupid the suits in the office were. And we had fun building stuff. And, and now that kids in the basement playing video games and we don’t know how to build a pork processing plant anymore. I think there’s a problem there.

Genia:            Right, right. So, how, so the thing that I think parents are talking about when they say autism, one are things like meltdowns.

Temple:          Well that’s right. And you’ve got to do something to try to prevent meltdowns. And, and lots of times that’s brought on by sound sensitivity. Then you’ve got people that have extreme anxiety, they’re gonna need some medication. And, and younger the kid is, the more careful you have to be about medication.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          Powerful drugs given out to five-year-old’s a real bad idea.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          But on the other hand, medication saved me.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          But I started taking it as an adult. My brain was fully formed and I, you could read about my personal experiences in Thinking in Pictures and the drug information is still accurate even though it’s 20 years old.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          The medications you have not changed much.

Genia:            Yeah. So, parents who are struggling to give their, to help their kids to have a rich experiential life, you know, not keep them isolated and to help them to be out there and putting all the data in. Like you’re saying, like you’re suggesting.

Temple:          Yeah. You got to fill the database, the bottom up system, just like artificial intelligence.

Genia:            How does, how, how would you suggest that a parent figure out how to support their child to [inaudible]

Temple:          [inaudible] I can’t, I can’t even answer that. I can’t even answer that. The first thing I got to know is age. First question I’ve got is age.

Genia:            Let’s say eight.

Temple:          Alright. Eight. Is he fully verbal or she fully verbal at this point?

Genia:            Let’s say mostly.

Temple:          All right. Now I want to try to figure out do they have a skill like art or something they’re good at?

Genia:            Yes. Let’s say taking things apart and putting them back together.

Temple:          All right, well then, then let’s, let’s work, especially on the putting things back together again, building things. They can do activities for the other kids doing that. They need to be getting out and doing things.

Genia:            But what do you, how if the child, if the parent is, is working on interests and strengths and they’re, they’re trying but their child’s experiencing a ton of meltdowns, perhaps even aggressive behavior.

Temple:          All right. First of all, we gotta figure out what’s bringing on the meltdown.

Genia:            Okay.

Temple:          Is it noise? That’s sound sensitivity. Does that bring on a meltdown? I was more likely to have a temper tantrum when I was tired.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          Well, at what’s bringing on the meltdowns. Now, the other thing that a lot of people don’t realize is you can have a meltdown that’s like a switch where maybe the kid was outside laying on the lawn and listening to music, your budge, and all of a sudden he just blows a fit. That’s epilepsy. It comes on like a switch. That’s something you treat with an epilepsy drug. If it’s noise induced.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          Then sometimes very tiny doses over spiritual work in, and the doses need to be tiny, you know. But again, if the kid’s a three-year-old, then that’s like two year old [inaudible] that’s why I have to know the age. You don’t want to get powerful drugs to two year olds.

Genia:            Sure, Yep. So,

Temple:          See this is where I have to get much more specific to try to troubleshoot, I’m going to use the engineering term troubleshooting, try to troubleshoot exactly what the problem is, what’s bringing on the meltdowns. Sometimes kids bring, do meltdowns because they just get out of doing stuff.

Genia:            Sure. Yeah.

Temple:          Well the first thing I got to rule out is sensory overload. Is this happening in a really noisy environment? You know, then you’ve got a kid that’s maybe wearing headphones all the time. Then we want to work on not wearing them all the time. You can have them with you.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          You still have to go on that super horrible bathroom with the super powerful toilet flusher that goes off when you don’t expect it. You can put the headphones on for that, but then take them off when you get out. I’ve got to figure out exactly what’s triggering the meltdowns. Does he do it or he pitch one when I ask him to do something? You know, then I might reward him for if he can go a little while without having a meltdown are you going to get rewarded.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          The first thing I got to do is I got to rule out is it sensory,

Genia:            Right. Yeah. So, you’re sort of taking a real sort of deconstructive approach, like.

Temple:          That’s right.

Genia:            Yeah. Figuring out where [inaudible]

Temple:          Engineering it’s called troubleshooting.

Genia:            Yeah. A real troubleshooting.

Temple:          And I have to get down and get into a lot of detail because also have people say to me, “Well, how do you deal with autistic kids in the classroom?” Well, I don’t even know that age when you asked me that question. It’s too vague.

Genia:            Right. Yeah. That is a very vague question and I imagine just as you’re saying

Temple:          [inaudible] it all the time.

Genia:            Yeah. Just as you’re saying about the specifics and the, the extremely broad continuum of autism, that that is so vague as to be unanswerable.

Temple:          Yup. That’s right.

Genia:            Is there anything that we haven’t covered or any sort of real core piece of advice that you would have for parents of young children with disabilities or parents of young children with intellectual disabilities?

Temple:          Well we have to look at what they can do rather than what they cannot do. And the first thing with a very young child, I’ve got to deal with what I call the foundation of the house, dressing, eating potty. I’ve got to, you know, I’ve got to get the foundation of the house built first. So, I want to try to get, you know, that land, if they can learn it. And this is where the Tito book’s going to be really helpful cause it discusses on his son’s re-jumbling and to learn how to t-shirt goes on, he had to be put on very slowly. If it was put on him fast, he couldn’t process how the head-hole and the arm-holes worked, you know. But first of all wanted to just, you know, the real little teach basic skills.

Genia:            Right. Got It. And

Temple:          [inaudible] do that first and then I’m gonna go ahead and start, well let’s see what they can, it needs to be what they can do.

Genia:            Yeah. Excellent. And Dr. Grandin, and if people wanted to learn more about you and your work, I will definitely be listing your books in the show notes, but is there some, would it be appropriate to refer people to your website?

Temple:          Yes, they can go look at the website templegrandin.com and there’s a lot of frequently asked questions answered there. I also have another book called The Way I See It, which has a lot of little short articles that people can read. And if you have a young kid, that’s a good book to get.

Genia:            Okay.

Temple:          A lot of just basic information, you know, that would be good.

Genia:            Okay, excellent.

Temple:          So, we gotta start looking at what they can do. There’s a tendency, I see if a doctor’s lessons, the most kid will never do anything. Well, you got to see what they can do. But the thing you’ve got to be really careful about is working memory. That, brains with problems have bad working memory and the multitasking will be an issue. The long strings of verbal information will be an issue and often slower to process. You’ve got to give them time to respond. The wheels turn more slowly,

Genia:            Right. But they turn.

Temple:          But they turn.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          They turn and it’s just like your phone on one bar, like you’re getting annoyed cause that website doesn’t download and then it freezes. But the way, the way that a brain was a poor working memory works is once you got the website up, then it’s fine.

Genia:            Right.

Temple:          It’s when you have to shift websites, that’s when there’s a problem. I think a phone with one bar is a really good visual analogy.

Genia:            Excellent.

Temple:          You’ll then see the, when I was working on my design work, I’ve got the cloud computing open. The working memory doesn’t bother me. I’ll need working memory to design work.

Genia:            Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Temple:          It’s one of the reason why I went into that field because the working memory issues and the multitasking issues don’t affect it.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          But a lot of brains that have problems are going to have a very bad working memory and very bad multitasking.

Genia:            Yeah.

Temple:          But they have huge amounts of, you know, data storage. So, basically your phone with one bar and you’ve either got the Amazon cloud or the Microsoft cloud, whatever one you prefer, and once you got the cloud open, everything’s fine.

Genia:            Yes.

Temple:          That’s when you have to switch.

Genia:            Yeah, that’s a really, that’s a really excellent visualization of that brain function.

Temple:          I like to visualize it so I can explain it to people.

Genia:            Yeah, that’s really helpful. Thank you so much, Dr Temple Grandin. I am incredibly grateful for your time today. Thank you so much for agreeing to be on the Good Things in Life Podcast.

Temple:          Okay. It’s been great to talk to you. Thank you so much.

Genia:            I love how Dr. Grandin gave me a piece of her mind twice and took me down a peg or two when I asked generic questions that really needed to be more specific. How often do we do this? How often do we sort of think of a group of wide range of varied group of people in a single generic and vague way and how often do we apply education and support concepts and strategies in a generic vague facts fashion? I just, I really appreciated her bringing that in particular to light. All of the links resources that Dr. Grandin mentioned are in the show notes and you can find all of those at goodthingsinlife.org/038 remember that this episode is sponsored by our upcoming course Belonging in School: The What, Why and How of Inclusive Education. So, if you’re wondering how you can take concepts of inclusive education and really bring it home specifically to a child or students that are important to you, then that course is an excellent place to start. And the membership that follows will then get more and more deeply engaged in specific implementation, actions, steps and tools that you can take in order to support somebody to reach their full potential and become a contributing citizen. Now to find out more information about that course and membership, you can get on the wait list. It’s not currently available, but it will be opening very soon. And you can go to goodthingsinlife.org/bis for Belonging in School. Thanks very much until next week. Take care.

Thanks for Listening! 

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Special thanks to Temple Grandin for joining me this week. Until next time! 

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Genia Stephen
Genia Stephen

Sister, mother, midwife, writer, speaker and perpetually curious. Dedicated to bringing you the voices, ideas and conversations of world class mentors and thought leaders in the field of disability.