UW News

November 29, 2011

Temple Grandin, animal behaviorist and autism leader, lectures Nov. 30

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Watch a CBS “60 Minutes Overtime” interview with Dr. Grandin

See a YouTube video tribute

Read about her life

World-renowned animal behaviorist and autism spokesperson Dr.  Temple Grandin will give a special lecture, titled Improving Animal Welfare, at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 30, at Hogness Auditorium, A-420 UW Health Sciences Center.

Her talk is sponsored by the UW Health Sciences Administration in cooperation with the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research, and  is  free and open to the public.

Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple GrandinRosalie Winard

Grandin has been called revelatory and revolutionary in her ability to describe the mental consciousness of autism and then apply her own autistic awareness to the enhancement of animal welfare.

Born in 1947, Grandin exhibited early behavior that is now considered classic for people with autism. She has a form of autism called Asperger’s, which was first picked up when she was a preschooler. She didn’t start learning to speak until age four, threw temper tantrums, and had intense, unusual preoccupations. One doctor called her “an odd little girl.”

Her mother devoted the next 30 years of her life to ensuring that her daughter had every opportunity for educational success, and to finding ways to help her acquire good social skills and self-acceptance..

Through gifted teachers, patient relatives and extreme personal effort, she excelled. As a girl, Grandin became  interested in the behavior and welfare of large farm animals: cattle, cows, swine and sheep, as well as horses and dogs.

In 1970, Grandin received a bachelors degree (with honors) in experimental psychology from Franklin Pierce College (now Franklin Pierce University), in Rindge, New Hampshire; a masters degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975; and a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois – Urbana in 1989.

Dr. Temple Grandin, right, teaches a livestock handling class at Colorado State University.

Dr. Temple Grandin, right, teaches a livestock handling class at Colorado State University.Colorado State University

She is a professor of animal sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences  at Colorado State University, where she has been on the faculty for more than 22 years. She teaches courses on livestock behavior and consults on livestock facility design, farm animal handling and transport, and animal welfare.

Grandins research has resulted in the refinement of livestock handling facilities and slaughterhouses worldwide in order to minimize animal stress. Her description and scientific validation of pictorial thinking by animals and autistics alike has resulted in more than 400 scientific and lay publications, six books, and numerous awards and accolades, including being named a “Hero” of 2010 among TIME Magazines list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Grandin was also the subject of the 2010 HBO docudrama entitled Temple Grandin. The program, starring Claire Danes as Grandin, received seven Emmy Awards.  The movie shows her life as a teenager and how she started her career in farm animal welfare.

Grandin has designed lifestock handling facilities located in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and other countries. Her curved chute and race systems for cattle are used worldwide. In North America, almost half of the cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system. Her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior have helped ranchers and farmers to reduce stress on their animals during handling.

She has also conducted research on cattle temperament, environmental enrichment for pigs, bull fertility, preventing farm animal bruises, and training procedures.

Grandin is the author of  Thinking in Pictures, Humane Livestock Handling, and Genetics and Behavior of Domestic Animals. Her books, Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human, were both on the New York Times bestseller list.

She has been profiled in The New York Times, Forbes, Discover magazine, U.S, News & World Report,  People, and National Public Radio.

On Monday, Dec. 12, the cable television channel Animal Planet plans a show featuring Grandin. Please check local listings for times in your area.

Dr. Grandin giving a talk at a Colorado State University celebration in her honor.

Dr. Grandin giving a talk at a Colorado State University celebration in her honor.

This month she was named to the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame for her trailblazing work in animal science and autism advocacy, and for overcoming obstacles in her historically male-dominated career field.

She has  been a champion for people with autism and their families. This year she received the Image and Inclusion Award from The Arc, the nation’s largest community-based organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Earlier this month she was presented with the Utah Film Center Peek Award for Disability in Media for positively shaping perceptions of people with disabilities.