Grandin emphasizes differences in thinking between humans, animalsWritten by Sarah Herold
Laramie – On March 24, the University of Wyoming (UW) Range Club hosted special guest Temple Grandin on campus. UW students and locals were able to attend the event free of charge, thanks to the UW Range Club and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Ever since the moment Temple Grandin realized “not everybody thinks the same,” she found her calling in life. This led her to become a passionate autism advocate, a prominent author and speaker for autism, a successful designer of livestock handling facilities and a professor of animal science at Colorado State University.
Her success has been built off of each of her unique talents and chosen careers.
Many know Grandin has designed the cattle facilities that almost half of United States cattle producers now use, including clients who produce for Burger King, McDonalds, Swift and many other smaller businesses. At the same time, she has also brought a new understanding in helping out those who struggle with and study autism.
Consistent, calm handling
Grandin gave two presentations at the University of Wyoming.
In the first presentation, Grandin discussed her livestock handling theories and facility designs. She urged producers to try to recognize the importance of consistent techniques and calm livestock handling and how it can make a huge difference in the fields and at slaughter.
“Temple showed me that how we treat animals affects them at the slaughter plant,” says Eilish Hansen, UW student government senator for the College of Agriculture. “She also emphasized that previous experience affects the meat quality.”
Grandin’s understanding and skills for livestock have touched the cattle industry in the United States and across the nation, and she mentioned that, no matter where she goes, she runs in to the same problems.
The biggest topic she stressed is the different ways livestock can handle certain situations.
“Animals tend to associate bad things with certain events that have happened before,” stated Grandin.
This is a typical topic that Grandin speaks about. She told students that the first experience an animal has with a human, pick up, chute, etc. should be as close to perfect as possible.
“A good first experience with something new for an animal is the best thing that can happen for them and the producer,” finished Grandin.
Passion for ag
The passion that Grandin holds for the livestock and agricultural industry is obvious to her audiences, according to Hansen. She has spent most of her life designing facilities to better the livestock industry as a whole.
Grandin believes in the industry, but along with many others in the ag industry, she is concerned for the future.
“What worries me today is students are more and more removed from agriculture,” Grandin said. “Thirty-one percent have never been on a farm.”
When Grandin was a teenager, her mother sent her west to her aunt and uncle’s ranch. That is what brought her to love and understand animals. She acknowledges that, without that opportunity, she would not be where she is today. It also alarms Grandin when thinking about those who are not given that type of opportunity.
“Children of all kinds need to be exposed to different things. That is how they become interested in them,” Grandin said.
She believes that if a child doesn’t experience some type of agriculture, then they will never truly be interested in it, let alone understand it.
She also talked about how children need to know that “values matter more than facts.”
Different not less
The second session of Grandin’s presentation focused on her opinion and experience with autism. Since Grandin has experienced first-hand the struggles that come with autism, she is open and honest about it and helps others in the process.
“When I first learned how my visual thinking was different from verbal thinking, it gave me insight into how people’s brains approach problem solving,” explained Grandin. “I may be different, but I’m not less.”
“A lot of kids are labeled as dyslexic, autistic or as having ADHD or Asperger’s,” Grandin said. “People shouldn’t hold kids back with these labels. They need to take what a kid is good at and use it.”
Grandin’s concern for these children was emphasized as she noted that it is difficult to go through life after being labeled. However, she adds that she was able to overcome her label. She has preached this same message through her books and presentations for many years.
If a child is not good at a certain curriculum, Grandin encouraged adults to push them to do what they are interested in and are good at.
“Schools need to bring back more of the art, sewing, wood shop and auto mechanics classes,” Grandin said. “Bringing back more of the hands-on activities will allow students to become more involved.”
Everyone understands differently, she added, noting that if schools focused more on the way students think rather than what they are supposed to learn, students would have a better perspective for what their purpose in life is.
Whether it is with the cattle industry or people who suffer from autism, Grandin has reached out to those around her to help them with their issues.
“I was very inspired by Temple Grandin. I agree with her ideas on livestock handling, and she makes me more passionate for agriculture,” commented Hansen. “She opened our eyes to different ways animals think and how we, as producers, should be treating them ethically.”