Last week I had the opportunity to listen to a lecture given by the world renowned animal scientist, Temple Grandin at the Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, KY. Many in the cattle industry know Temple Grandin as the woman who designed many of the modern cattle handling facilities seen into today’s slaughterhouses. Many more know her now from HBO’s release of the movie about her life named simply, Temple Grandin.
When I made the decision to go listen to Dr. Grandin speak it wasn’t for any specific reason other than I have an open mind and wanted to hear what she had to say. I’m no expert on her methods or ideas as I’ve never read her books. And I know that not everyone agrees with her theories on cattle handling. The way I look at it, there’s more than one way to do something, so not everything is going to work for everyone. When it comes to cattle handling I believe that stockmanship is a necessary skill and is lacking in today’s cattle industry. More people would benefit if they listened more to great stockman like Bud Williams and Curt Pate, but that’s a whole other rant for another day.
When it came down to it her lecture covered cattle handling only briefly and more so focused on understanding different thought processes. She highlighted extensively on her childhood struggle with autism and the continued trial of dealing with it as an adult. I relate to this as my youngest brother was diagnosed with autism as a toddler. Over the years I have watched him struggle, learn to cope, and overcome many challenges. Though he’s only 9 years old today and has a long ways to go yet in life, I know the road ahead is very bright for him. If Temple Grandin can accomplish as much as she has in her lifetime and live with autism, then the sky’s the limit.
According to Dr. Grandin, there are four types of thinking: Photorealistic visual, Pattern thinking, Verbal mind, and Auditory. Autistic people are often times extremes of one or more types of thinking but can be also be a combination. Austism occurs in varying degrees, from extremely mild to extremely severe. Many people may not even know that they have a slight degree of autism because they were never diagnosed.
Dr. Grandin is the first and as she says its “thinking in pictures.” You say a word and what comes to mind is a very specific picture. Grandin compares her autistic way of thinking to the way animals think, saying that they also think in pictures. She also describes this as “bottom up thinking.” Most humans are top down thinkers, only seeing the bigger picture. While bottom up thinkers take in the whole picture, detail by detail, building up to the bigger picture.
I could go on and on about this topic for days, but I’m going to save you the pain and stop here. If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Grandin you can visit her personal webpage or her official autism website. Dr. Grandin has written several books that cover everything from her thoughts on animal behavior and welfare to her personal life story of living with autism. I plan on trying to read at least one or two of them.
Photo courtesy of Ray Bowman