Temple Grandin inspires and informs at Delta College

Published in Delta Collegiate, February 16, 2019

The article written below is my original, revised coverage of Temple Grandin's presentation at Delta College. I didn't like how the last two paragraphs were edited in the published version, so I'd like to share my version here.

Temple Grandin informs and inspires at Delta College
By Crystal Gwizdala
Collegiate Correspondent

UNIVERSITY CENTER -- Temple Grandin brought her autism advocacy to Delta College on Valentine’s Day, and although she gave two presentations – one in the Pioneer Gymnasium --  seats were scarce.

“The fact that it was free was much appreciated,” said one attendee. “Parents of children with autism don’t get to go out too much and we spend so much money taking care of our kids’ treatments. We know Temple Grandin doesn’t talk for free.” 

Grandin is well-known nationally for her autism advocacy – receiving a diagnosis herself – and is also a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She has received numerous honors for her research and breakthroughs in animal health.

As part of the President’s Speaker Series at Delta College, Grandin’s talks drew educators, parents, children and students alike, including Sam Anderson of Grand Rapids. Anderson works in Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, the primary treatment method for autism, and was excited to hear Grandin’s presentation.

From the crowd’s frequent laughter and applause, targeted questions about Grandin’s books, and the standing ovation, it was clear that Grandin’s talk resonated with the audience.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.

Rather than demonizing weaknesses in how people’s brains process information, Grandin says we should focus on building strengths that will lead to jobs. Grandin describes herself as a “photo realistic visual thinker,” whose strength is in object visualization but weakness is in algebra.

“When you find out that different people think differently,” says Grandin, “then you can figure out how to work together.” 

Grandin gave this advice for working with different minds: never overload working memory, stretch them slightly outside their comfort zone, give them choices, and limit screen time.

“Kids need to do more real stuff,” says Grandin. “It’s fine to do electronics, but that shouldn’t be all you do.” 

Grandin recommends kids take up creative hobbies or skills like art, sewing, cooking, musical instruments, or creative writing. 

Beyond hobbies, Grandin hit hard on teaching children with autism the value of work. 

“They need to know how to do a task on a schedule outside of the family.” Grandin explains.  “There’s too much handicapping and coddling.”

Grandin stressed the importance of separating diagnoses more by functionality, such as speech delay, social awkwardness, or the ability to do basic skills like getting dressed.

Diagnosis & treatment
Diagnosing autism spectrum disorders is not easy, and guidelines are in flux. In 2014, the Center for Disease Control estimated 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder -- a 600% increase in prevalence from the past two decades.  

“Early intervention is absolutely essential,” asserts Grandin. 

As your child develops, experts at AutismSpeaks.org encourage parents to be alert if their child fails to meet milestones such as:
  • No big smiles or warm, joyful expressions by six months
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or facial expressions by nine months
  • No babbling or response to name by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, reaching or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age
Applied Behavior Analysis is the most successful therapy method, according to AutismSpeaks.org. Based on the science of learning and behavior, ABA increases communication skills, improves focus, social skills, and memories, and minimizes problematic behaviors. The main strategy? Positive reinforcement of good behaviors and successful completion of tasks.

ABA therapy can vary based on the provider so it is important to find what works best for your child. What’s most important is starting. 
“Doing nothing is the worst thing to do,” Grandin says.


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