My Lunch with Temple

Dr. Temple Grandin and momof3au

We faced each other across the linen-laid table; her police-siren blue eyes locked with mine.  We were smirking and guffawing together over the propensity of the English language for visual thinkers.

“Temple, I’ve been thinking about working memory and autism.  You see…”

“Oh, I have a horrible time with working memory!”, she retorted.  And off she went, telling me about the redesign of a packing plant and how it took her 12 visits to get the sequence of steps down in her mind properly before she could work on the project.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t just me and Temple Grandin dining, but Susanne Harris, Temple, a few talented service providers and agencies, a handful of awesome Duke research scientists…and me.

How did it happen that I should be one of the fortunate few?  If the Rock Star of the Autism World happens to be honored at Duke University, which happens to be in Durham, North Carolina, and you just happen to have three children with autism living in Durham, you may just happen to stick out like a sore thumb and luckily happen to be included.  And what a happening it was.

Highly acknowledged for her accomplishments in the fields of animal behavior, humane livestock facilities design and autism, Temple Grandin is, well…Temple Grandin IS.   Aside from being simply brilliant, she’s a very funny woman.  I think I may have slightly colored her well-attended public presentation by her drilling me with questions about my boys’ accomplishments, current interests, and the challenges I now face in raising three teenagers on the autism spectrum.  Negative examples of too-narrow interests such as heavy metal and sex peppered Temple’s speech as she wove her thoughts on how to encourage skills in people with autism for the work force along with her perspectives on engineering, animal behavior, and brain function.  Somehow, in a style unlike anyone I have ever met, she made it all work beautifully.

Temple Grandin, one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People, has also been closely following media reports on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, her latest deep and focused interest.   She punctuated her comments at the end by saying if she was in Congress, she wouldn’t want to hear from the president of BP, she’d want to talk to the engineers!  I say Temple Grandin for Congress.

Did you see HBO’s Temple Grandin?  If you haven’t or even if you have, the DVD will finally be available on August 17th, 2010.  You can pre-order it now through ASNC by calling 1-800-442-2762, dial Extension 1130. She thought they did a fabulous job (I did too).  I also hear Temple is again invited to Durham by Duke next year, but this time by Women’s Studies.  They’ve reserved a big hall.  I know it will be filled.

Our host for my lunch with Temple was the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS).  And Dr. Fitzpatrick?  I hope you’re reading this.  This is my formal note of thanks.  THANK YOU!  Thank you for giving me a life-changing experience, but now I’ve got to get to work on Temple’s advice for my boys.  Like Temple’s mom, I’m going to make it happen.

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9 Responses

  1. Alison, I know that you will make it happen with those three very lucky boys. I have a copy of the HBO’s Temple Grandin and I plan on watching it very soon. Thanks for sharing your happenings of your lunch with Temple Grandin with us.

  2. Fabulous post. Just Tweeted it all over town. Kim

  3. Hey there – I just sent you an e-mail in response, but I love the blog! What an honor to meet Temple Grandin. I hope to read more of your entries very soon. Thank you so much for the info.

  4. A-
    Can’t think of anyone more deserving in Durham to get a few personal minutes and thoughts from Temple. How cool is that?

  5. Me too…it CAN happen! Thx for sharing, b.

  6. Since my 60’s Saturday morning TV developed a Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, John Wayne, cowboy fetish Ive pretty much been enamored with anything and everything in cowboy attire. Combine that with an obsession with anything/everything autism related and you might find me someday in the crime blotter having stalked her hotel. Glad I didnt know she was in town! 🙂

    • she does have beautifully embroidered western wear…I feel an urge to purchase some Lee Riders and I’ve only been on a horse once.

  7. That’s great, Alison! Crazy to get this today since just about half an hour ago I was telling my dad who Temple Grandin was. Crazy.

  8. What a wonderful opportunity for you and Sus. Wish I could have been there, I would have been awestruck! Maybe one day I will be as fortunate as you to meet her. We will be purchasing the movie, we try to get all the movies we hear about that relate to autism.

    Later lucky lady, Zack’s mom

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