The Denver Autism Wheel

Open Letter to Temple Grandin

Posted on: January 6, 2011

Dear Dr. Grandin,

I am the mother of two children, one developing typically and one developing autistically. We watched the HBO film Temple Grandin over the holidays. My husband and I had seen it once before but decided it was important for both boys to see it as well, so we watched it as a family.

You have mentioned in your books, and your character mentioned in the film, that you want your work and your life to mean something. I want you to know that, not only have you provided me a wealth of information as a parent and advocate, but you have also provided a role model for my autistic son. We watched the film together, replaying interactions and conversations to make sure Chris understood them. After we finished, he told me, “I’m going to start acting more like Temple Grandin.” Now, that might mean that he wants to learn to control his impulses to hop and flap when he gets excited. It might mean that he wants to attend class without a para assisting him most of the day. But it might mean more, too.

I can’t express my joy at hearing him, at 10, start to think about his ability to achieve his dreams. You have provided a vehicle for him to understand that he CAN direct his learning, he CAN advocate for what he wants, he CAN solve problems and achieve his own goals. For that, I am grateful.

We had a good laugh at the “Would you like for me to open the gate?” scene. He likes to run lines from his favorite programs, too, and was delighted when it turned out that the line from the program worked so well in real life. We’ve had those moments, too.

What struck me most, though, about his reaction to the film was his interest in your problem-solving techniques. As a fourth grader, he’s only just beginning to develop critical thinking skills, but you provided some food for thought about how to convince people that what you want is reasonable, even if it looks strange at first. While I can tell him those things, I don’t share the bond of autism. You do, and your story has galvanized him. He got to watch you refuse to give up, think of new ways to argue your point or solve a problem, and he’s realizing that he can do that, too.

Thank you for providing a concrete example of a successful, determined adult who uses her autism to solve problems and find compassionate solutions for animals and humans. You have shown him that he can be his own advocate and take responsibility for carving out his own place in the world. You have demonstrated what I can only talk about. Thank you for sharing your story with the world, but thank you, particularly, for sharing your story with him and other young people with autism.

1 Response to "Open Letter to Temple Grandin"

Next month’s GRASP group is Feb. 12 and the theme will be love and marriage. After all Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14. Cupid sometimes shoots arrows into the butts of people on the spectrum!

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