Mar 242011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Professor Temple Grandin said that autistic kids need to be pushed in order to succeed.

“Now, you don’t push to panic –– no surprises,” the world-renowned expert on the subject explained to a small group of individuals speaking with her after she presented to around 100 university students and Fort Collins residents on the disability. “But you’ve got to push them. If you don’t push them, they won’t develop.”

As a successful designer of animal care facilities who herself has autism, Grandin was a keynote speaker on March 23 as part of a two-day conference –– organized by the Committee for Disabled Students, Center for Community Partnerships and Resources for Disabled Students –– titled “Transition and Transformation: Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the College Environment.”

Other speakers at the event included Jane Thierfield Brown from the University of Connecticut School of Law and Lorraine Wolf from Boston University, who focused on the transforming understanding of autism and its implications in college environments.

The event marks the first of its kind to be hosted at the university and sought to illuminate the ways CSU should address the needs of students with autism’s spectrum of disorders.

Grandin’s talk, while technical in nature, also offered encouragement to attending mothers and fathers with autistic children who see her as an example of someone who has overcome stigma attached to the disorder in a professional setting.

“Temple, you are an inspiration. Thank you!” wrote an audience member to the speaker in the moments following the speech’s conclusion.

“She’s a really good speaker. I wasn’t expecting that,” said Betsy Bosley, a CSU graduate student studying food science and human nutrition. “She had a very interesting perspective …
There were a lot of learning impairments that I wasn’t aware of.”

Referencing the conference’s title, Grandin said autism is too often seen as a condition without varying degrees of intensity. In schools, for example, special education teachers are trained in how to instruct severely afflicted individuals, “but not in how to work with the (autistic) guy who ought to be taught computer programming.”

Also central to her discussion was the charge that autistic individuals who learn visually need to be given more attention in college settings than they are currently receiving.
Traditional lectures –– characterized by heavy reliance on spoken word –– leave behind students who would otherwise grasp material if it were taught through images.

“I was working all the time remodeling stuff, and when I would go out to a job, I’d have to figure out what they were going to keep and what they were going to rip out. And I’d spend about 20 minutes doing what I call ‘downloading’ the image where I would just look all around the site,” she said, explaining how she was successful in the workplace. “I would just stare at everything.”
Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at

Grandin’s Speech

  • What: Dr. Temple Grandin, considered one of the “100 Most Influential People” by Time Magazine in 2010, spoke about CSU’s ability to address the needs of students with autism spectrum disorders.
  • When: March 23 – 24
  • Missed it: Grandin’s address is available online at
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