America needs all types of thinkers if it is to prosper

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“Great minds are alike” is not a truism to which Temple Grandin subscribes.

The famed Colorado State University animal science professor captured Fox Theater’s attention throughout Monday’s lunchtime — and beyond — with her life’s journey with autism and the insights that she gave him about animals and the diversity of human minds.

“The point is, we need different kinds of thinkers, and the first step is to say they exist,” she said in her high-profile Mid-Plains Community College-sponsored speech on the topic. “Great minds are not all the same”. .”

Grandin, 75, implored listeners passionately to ensure that children and young people – autistic or not – are exposed to varied experiences to help them not only find their life’s work, but also recognize their way spend.

America doesn’t make the best use of the different thinking styles of its people, and schools are too often forced to emphasize “verbal logic” when students may be more sensitive to visual thinking. or math, she said.

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Visual thinkers like her, Grandin said, “often invent a lot of mechanical equipment” and are good at art, photography, and “highly skilled crafts.”

Mathematical minds excel in engineering math, but also often in music and areas like computer programming, chemistry, physics, and data analysis. Verbal thinkers can be drawn to being teachers, lawyers or salespeople, she said.

“Don’t put someone in sales in charge (of executing) of a big construction project,” but they could be vital in another aspect of its success, she added.

Grandin, who also headlined an MPCC-sponsored talk on Sunday night in Broken Bow, interspersed observations from his 50 years working in the meat processing industry with encouragement for other people with autism and their families.

She didn’t speak until she was 4, struggled in school for many years, and didn’t begin to better understand her brain wiring until she was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. into adulthood, she said.

Further study and evolving understanding of the different varieties of autism helped her realize that not everyone on the spectrum thinks visually the way she does, she said.

“Now the problem is that when a child gets a label (like autistic), the skills tend to be really uneven,” Grandin said. “They can be an extreme visual thinker (or) an extreme mathematician. They won’t be good at both.

She lamented that many American high schools have eliminated fine arts, home skills and studio classes, saying they are vital for young people’s development, no matter how well their brains work.

“Now I know that here you have taken many workshop courses,” she told the audience. “We need to expose students to things they might be good at.”

Community colleges are generally good at training people for trades, she added.

But Grandin also recounted his conversation with a Broken Bow feedlot manager after speaking there on Sunday. “He said they had no trouble finding the cowboys, but they had trouble finding the people fixing the equipment.”

She cautioned other autistic people and their loved ones against letting their lives be defined by their diagnosis rather than finding ways to channel their unusually strong interests into productive and fulfilling lives.

“I see too many smart autistic kids in the basement playing video games when they should be building things,” she said.

Grandin said the medical community’s decision in 2013 to group deep, high-functioning autistic people onto a spectrum doesn’t always give enough attention to those who have autism but can’t care for themselves. .

But she said a diagnosis is generally more helpful for undiagnosed autistic people nearing adulthood or already in adulthood, as it helps them better understand, build and navigate relationships.

Regardless of whether they can function independently or not, people with autism typically face similar social, communication, and behavioral difficulties.

Young people need mentors, Grandin said, but autistic people especially need them. Mentors can help them find backdoors to careers that normal educational processes might exclude, she said.

She credited people, including her mother, Eustacia, a high school science teacher and construction contractor, for recognizing her gifts, guiding her into science and engineering, and giving her the chance to make a career. lasting difference.

Despite his early academic difficulties, Grandin earned his doctorate in animal science in 1989 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

More than half of all cattle handled in the US cattle industry are processed in plants designed with Grandin’s knowledge to handle them to reduce stress and improve weight gain before slaughter.

Grandin, who has written several books and more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific papers on animal behavior, said she was able to design them because animals are sensitive to sensory input and visual thinking like her.

The 2010 HBO biopic about her life, “Temple Grandin,” was specific enough to describe how she thinks and how she was able to translate it into the machines she designed, she added.

After speaking for about 50 minutes, Grandin took questions for about half an hour that came mostly from audience members who have autism, live with them, or otherwise help them.

She sparked enthusiastic applause when someone asked her what motivated her to achieve what she had despite being labeled as autistic.

“I wanted to prove to the world that I’m not stupid,” Grandin replied. “That was my motivation.”

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