Taking the Scenic Route

Awesome Temple Grandin Article

2nd February 2011

Awesome Temple Grandin Article

Temple Grandin and her mother have been major influences for me as I have raised my Autistic son. Her words have pushed me to require more of him, and understand where I need to focus my energies. It is nice to finally see her recognized in the mainstream media, to counteract all of the “voices of doom” that are more common in the Autistic circles.


Temple Grandin Warns Against “Curing” Autism

Temple Grandin on her struggles and stardom
Msnbc.com talks to autism advocate about a different kind of life

Author, scientist and professor Temple Grandin is portrayed by actress Claire Danes in the upcoming HBO film, “Temple Grandin.” (Chris Pizzello / AP)

By Joan Raymond | MSNBC

Temple Grandin knows she’s different. But she wouldn’t have it any other way. In 1950, Grandin was diagnosed with autism. The disorder, seen in about 1 in 110 U.S. kids, spans a range of complex neurodevelopmental problems: an inability to make social connections, language difficulties and bizarre, repetitive behaviors. There is no known cause or cure. Some children may have a mild form of the disorder, yet have difficulties holding down a job in adulthood. Others may never be able to live on their own.

And some, like Grandin, defy the odds.

Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, a noted lecturer, best-selling author and an autism advocate. Her designs for creating a more humane livestock slaughter process earned her recognition from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Now actress Claire Danes is playing Grandin in an HBO movie airing on Saturday. The film “Temple Grandin” is based upon Grandin’s memoirs, “Emergence” and “Thinking in Pictures.” That’s heady stuff for a woman who admits that at age 62 she still relates better to animals than she does to humans. She talks to msnbc.com about how autism affects her life, a life that she believes is different, but not less.

Msnbc.com: Where do you fall on the autism spectrum?

Temple Grandin: I am much less autistic now, compared to when I was young. I remember some behaviors like picking carpet fuzz and watching spinning plates for hours. I didn’t want to be touched. I couldn’t shut out background noise. I didn’t talk until I was about 4 years old. I screamed. I hummed. But as I grew up, I improved.

What made the difference for you?

I had people in my life who didn’t give up on me: my mother, my aunt, my science teacher. I had one-on-one speech therapy. I had a nanny who spent all day playing turn-taking games with me. For the last 30 years I’ve been on a low-dose antidepressant. I’ll never give it up. It helps with the panic attacks. The most important thing people did for me was to expose me to new things. I was so afraid to go out west to my aunt’s ranch. But the only choice my mother gave me was to go for two weeks or all summer. I wound up staying all summer. And that’s where I learned about cattle. I could relate to their behavior, their fears.

Why do you think that is?

I’m a visual thinker, not a language-based thinker. My brain is like Google Images. If someone says the word factory, most people think of a vague place. I think in detail of every factory I ever saw, like the John Deere plant in Moline. Animals are sensory thinkers, thinking in pictures, smells, sounds. They don’t think in terms of language. I don’t either.

Didn’t observing cattle give you your idea for the “squeeze machine” you developed to help autistics reduce stress?
I saw cattle held in a squeeze chute while they were waiting to get some veterinary attention. Some of the animals relaxed once pressure was applied to their bodies. I built a prototype for myself when I was 18, and found that if I used it for about 15 minutes I would feel better, calmer. Now a lot of people and programs use the machine.

What help do you think most people with autism need?

Little kids, especially ages 2 through 5, need one-on-one interaction with an effective teacher. I don’t care who that teacher is. It could be the mother, an aunt, a grandma, someone from a church, a synagogue, maybe a student. You just need someone who clicks with that kid. The worst thing you can do is nothing. You can’t let these kids sit and watch TV all day.

Actress Claire Danes in the HBO film “Temple Grandin.” (HBO)

The other thing is, teach these kids manners. I was raised in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and manners were drilled into me. I see kids [on the spectrum] today that have no manners. That’s going to hurt them. You can’t punish a child who is acting out because of sensory overload. But it’s unacceptable to see kids throwing things and slapping people. I see kids with Asperger’s [a mild form of autism] who can’t hold a job because they are constantly late. Teach kids to use an alarm clock. This is common sense and sometimes we forget about common sense. Autism is used too much as an excuse for bad behavior.

Cases of autism are rising. Why do you think that is?

Some of it is probably due to the way autism is diagnosed. I saw people on the HBO lot that probably have Asperger’s but never got a diagnosis as a child. There has been an increase in regressive autism, children who develop normally, have speech, and then lose it. I think there’s something going on with some type of environmental contaminant. Some insult is getting to the child whose genes are susceptible to autism. I think we are going to be hearing more about epigenetics and autism. With epigenetics you look at how the genome responds to the environment. How things like toxins and diet and other things turn on the switches that regulate how certain genes are expressed.

“Autism pride” or neurodiversity is a growing movement. Do you think there needs to be a “cure” for autism?

I believe there’s a point where mild autistic traits are just normal human variation. Mild autism can give you a genius like Einstein. If you have severe autism, you could remain nonverbal. You don’t want people to be on the severe end of the spectrum. But if you got rid of all the autism genetics, you wouldn’t have science or art. All you would have is a bunch of social ‘yak yaks.’

Have you gotten more social as you’ve gotten older?

I have friends now. But it’s about shared interests. We talk about engineering or animal behavior. Chit-chat bores me. I’m always sure about science. I had to learn about social cues. But I’ve learned to talk about the weather a little bit.

What was it like to see someone portray you?

It was like going in a weird time machine. The movie was set in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and I was very severe back then, very anxious. This was before I went on antidepressants for the panic. Puberty and high school were horrible for me. I spent time with Claire [Danes], and her portrayal of me back then is very authentic. She was me.

You are well known within the autism community. Are you worried about becoming a celebrity, more of a household name?

No. I think about the responsibility. There was a responsibility to get this right. I’m very pleased. The things I do, my work, it gives meaning to my life. I don’t understand people’s fascination with celebrity and all the psychodrama. What turns me on is helping a parent of an autistic child, or having someone say my work [with animals] helped them understand their dog better. Something that makes a beneficial change is what turns me on. But I did meet Steven Spielberg. He was nice. He told me he liked my book. That made me happy.

Joan Raymond is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Newsweek, the New York Times, MORE and Woman’s Day.

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35150832/ns/health-mental_health/

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30th January 2011

BOO! Chic-Fil-A

Sad that I can’t eat at Chic-Fil-A again. I loved their nuggets and waffle fries, but will not support such ugly political stances, especially when they are cloaked in “Christian” ethics. Hate should never be a Christian ethic.


Yes, Chick-fil-A Says, We Explicitly Do Not Like Same-Sex Couples

Bet Chick-fil-A wishes this month would end. Over the past few weeks, the restaurant chain’s deep ties to the anti-gay movement have been exposed and uncovered by a number of activists, most notably Jeremy Hooper at Good As You. Whether it’s Focus on the Family, the National Organization for Marriage, the Pennsylvania Family Institute, or Exodus International, Chick-fil-A ties run deep.

Of course, the President of Chick-fil-A wants gay people to share no hard feelings. The restaurant will gladly feed homosexuals gobs of chicken sandwiches, after all. But when it comes to marriage, Chick-fil-A believes strongly that same-sex couples just don’t deserve equal rights.

As we wrote about a few weeks ago, Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation, has been particularly active in the fight against marriage equality. They’ve hosted conferences with some of the leading opponents of gay marriage in this country. A higher up at WinShape has even praised the efforts of anti-gay activist David Blankenhorn for working against marriage equality, and for articulating a solid reason why American culture should reject same-sex couples.

Now comes some email correspondence that Good As You has shared on their blog, where the WinShape Foundation’s Retreat Center — a center run by the charitable arm of Chick-fil-A — admits that they have a severe distaste for LGBT people.

The email correspondence goes a little something like this. Someone writes WinShape an easy question about whether their retreat center is open to LGBT people. WinShape’s response:

“WinShape Retreat defines marriage from the Biblical standard as being between one man and one woman. Groups/Individuals are welcome who offer wholesome, educational conferences and programs that are compatible with Biblical values and WinShape’s purpose,” WinShape wrote back.

Kind of some corporate speak, right? So the activist wrote back: can you just give a clear-cut answer? And WinShape confirmed:

“We do not accept homosexual couples because of the statement in our contract.”

And so it goes like this: Chick-fil-A is a restaurant where franchises frequently donate to anti-gay organizations like the Pennsylvania Family Institute, Focus on the Family and others. The restaurant’s charitable arm, WinShape, holds conferences for opponents of gay marriage and praises their work. And this charitable arm’s Retreat program puts a blanket ban on gay couples using their facilities, because they “do not accept homosexual couples.”

Yet the President of Chick-fil-A still says that all people, including LGBT people, are treated with respect by the restaurant? Huh, what a funny definition of respect.

Meanwhile, check this story out. So the Human Rights Campaign’s NOMExposed project tried to submit an equality-minded video to the Ruth Institute’s “Reel Love Video Challenge.” The Ruth Institute is an affiliate of the National Organization for Marriage, and they’re running a contest where folks can submit videos talking about what love means. The video below was originally accepted, but then promptly booted out of the project once the Ruth Institute became aware that it actually championed equality for same-sex couples.

Here’s the kicker: the Ruth Institute’s “Reel Love Video Challenge” has a tie-in to Chick-fil-A’s WinShape Foundation. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear why the Ruth Institute and the WinShape Foundation find the below video so offensive? After all, what is love if it isn’t equal?

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17th January 2011

“This is America…” quote

‎”This is America, where a white Catholic male Republican judge was murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean-American combat surgeon, all eulogized by our African American President.” Mark Shields, PBS (Happy MLK Day) -Sydney

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9th January 2011


It is time we hold politicians & pundits responsible when they put crosshairs on people they don’t agree with, state “don’t retreat, reload” and a child born on 9-11 dies in the crossfire. It is reprehensible to promote violence instead of peaceful conflict resolution. You should encourage voting and petitions, not assassination.

Exhibit 1:  From Sarah Palin

Exhibit 2:


(Reuters) – A congresswoman was shot in the head and seriously wounded and at least five other people were killed by a man who opened fire at a meeting the politician was holding in Tucson on Saturday, officials said.

Gabrielle Giffords, a 40-year-old Democrat in her third term in the House of Representatives, was airlifted to a hospital in Tucson after being shot at close range outside a grocery store in the Arizona city.

Giffords underwent surgery and one of the doctors who treated her said he was very optimistic about her recovery.

President Barack Obama said five people had been killed in the attack, including federal judge John Roll and a 9-year-old girl. Obama said Giffords was battling for her life.

“We don’t yet know what provoked this unspeakable act,” Obama told reporters at the White House after dispatching FBI Director Robert Mueller to Arizona to oversee the investigation.

A federal law enforcement official identified the suspected gunman as Jared Loughner, 22, of Tucson. The official said the suspect was tackled after the shooting and was in custody.

Rick Kastigar, an official from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, told CNN that six people were killed among the 18 people shot.

Gun violence is common in the United States, which is periodically rocked by mass shootings, but political shootings are rare, although not unheard of.

The shooting followed contentious congressional elections in November marked by heated rhetoric over issues such as the Democratic party-led drive to overhaul the healthcare system and immigration reform.

A window in Giffords’ office was smashed last March, after Congress passed the healthcare overhaul that had been opposed by Republicans.

“The rhetoric is really heated. Not just the calls but the e-mails, the slurs,” Giffords told MSNBC at the time.

In several YouTube videos, a person who posted under the name Jared Lee Loughner criticizes the government and religion and calls for a new currency.

“The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar. No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver! No! I won’t trust in God!”


Doctors said Giffords was in a critical condition but they were optimistic about her recovery.

“The neurosurgeons have finished operating on her and I can tell you that in the current time period I am very optimistic about recovery… she was following commands,” Dr. Peter Rhee told a news conference at Tucson University Medical Center.

Nine other shooting victims were being treated for wounds at the hospital, Rhee said.

Giffords was hosting a “Congress on Your Corner” event — public gatherings to give her constituents a chance to talk directly with her — when the gunman attacked from about 4 feet away, National Public Radio said.

The suspect used a pistol with an extended magazine and approached Giffords from behind, firing at least 20 shots at her and others in the crowd, television network MSNBC said, citing law enforcement officials and witnesses.

Giffords, whose district stretches from Tucson to the Mexican border, an area at the center of the debate on U.S. immigration, advocates a compromise policy of tough border security combined with a long-term path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

She criticized Arizona’s tough anti-immigration law passed last year, saying it would do nothing to secure the border or stop drug smuggling and gun running. Her Tucson office was vandalized due to her opposition to the law.

Regarded as a rising star in the Democratic Party, she narrowly defeated a conservative opponent and was one of the few Democrats to survive the Republican sweep in swing districts in the November elections.

A gun owner, Giffords differed with many Democrats on gun control and supported the Second Amendment to the Constitution on Americans’ right to bear arms.

Obama called the shooting a “senseless and terrible act of violence.”

The Washington Post said it was not the first time someone brought a gun to a Giffords event. A protester in August took a gun to a similar event in Douglas, Arizona. Police were alerted after he dropped the firearm, the newspaper said.


House Speaker John Boehner, whose Republican Party won control of the House of Representatives in the November 2 elections, said in statement he was horrified by the attack on Giffords and members of her staff.

“An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society,” he said.

U.S. Capitol Police, charged with protecting U.S. lawmakers and the Capitol complex, said in a statement it had advised House lawmakers to “take reasonable and prudent precautions regarding their personal safety and security.”

The shooting could affect the immediate congressional agenda, a senior Republican lawmaker said.

The House is scheduled to vote next week on a repeal of Obama’s healthcare overhaul, which Giffords backed despite angry opposition from conservative activists in her district.

House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, who is in charge of the House floor schedule, suggested the timing of the healthcare vote might change.

(Reporting by Roberta RamptonAndy Sullivan and Anthony Boadle in Washington and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Frances Kerry and Ross Colvin, Editing by Peter Cooney)

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11th June 2009

Well, it isn’t from reliable news sources yet, but…

There are now reports that John Travolta acknowledged that Jett had autism. It still sort of bothers me that they chose to hide it, but I understand that they would likely have not been given the privacy they needed had they done so while he was alive. I imagine it was far more challenging to both protect him and incredibly isolating to the family when your religion doesn’t acknowledge that autism even exists.

I can’t imagine how this must compound the incredible grief they are going through. My heart goes out to their family.

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5th June 2009

Liberal vs Conservative…might be in the genes

I thought this was really interesting. It makes sense too. I am one of those weird people who purposely clicks on the links with big warnings of *GROSS* on them. Puss and such is sort of facinating to me. About the only thing that grosses me out is certain smells, but they didn’t bother me before pregnancy, but 9 months straight morning sickness left some lasting gag reflex psychosomatic effects.

My mom should be humored by this considering a small part of our conversation earlier today.

the link: http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/easily-grossed-out-you-might-be-conservative-21814.html

Easily grossed out? You might be a conservative!

ITHACA, N.Y. — Are you someone who squirms when confronted with slime, shudders at stickiness or gets grossed out by gore? Do crawly insects make you cringe or dead bodies make you blanch?

If so, chances are you’re more conservative — politically, and especially in your attitudes toward gays and lesbians — than your less-squeamish counterparts, according to two Cornell University studies.

The results, said study leader David Pizarro, Cornell assistant professor of psychology, raise questions about the role of disgust — an emotion that likely evolved in humans to keep them safe from potentially hazardous or disease-carrying environments — in contemporary judgments of morality and purity.

In the first study, published in the journal Cognition & Emotion (Vol.23: No.4), Pizarro and co-authors Yoel Inbar of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and Paul Bloom of Yale University surveyed 181 U.S. adults from politically mixed “swing states.” They subjected these adults to two indexes: the Disgust Sensitivity Scale (DSS), which offers various scenarios to assess disgust sensitivity, and a political ideology scale. From this they found a correlation between being more easily disgusted and political conservatism.

To test whether disgust sensitivity is linked to specific conservative attitudes, the researchers then surveyed 91 Cornell undergraduates with the DSS, as well as with questions about their positions on issues including gay marriage, abortion, gun control, labor unions, tax cuts and affirmative action.

Participants who rated higher in disgust sensitivity were more likely to oppose gay marriage and abortion, issues that are related to notions of morality or purity. The researchers also found a weak correlation between disgust sensitivity and support for tax cuts, but no link between disgust sensitivity and the other issues.

And in a separate study in the current issue of the journal Emotion (Vol.9: No.3), Pizarro and colleagues found a link between higher disgust sensitivity and disapproval of gays and lesbians. For this study, the researchers used implicit measures (measures that have been shown to assess attitudes people may be unwilling to report explicitly; or that they may not even know they possess).

Liberals and conservatives disagree about whether disgust has a valid place in making moral judgments, Pizarro noted. Conservatives have argued that there is inherent wisdom in repugnance; that feeling disgusted about something — gay sex between consenting adults, for example — is cause enough to judge it wrong or immoral, even lacking a concrete reason. Liberals tend to disagree, and are more likely to base judgments on whether an action or a thing causes actual harm.

Studying the link between disgust and moral judgment could help explain the strong differences in people’s moral opinions, Pizarro said; and it could offer strategies for persuading some to change their views.

“People have pointed out for a long time that a lot of our moral values seem driven by emotion, and in particular, disgust appears to be one of those emotions that seems to be recruited for moral judgments,” said Pizarro.

That can have tragic effects — as in cases throughout history where minorities have been victims of discrimination by groups that perceived them as having disgusting characteristics.

The research speaks to a need for caution when forming moral judgments, Pizarro added. “Disgust really is about protecting yourself from disease; it didn’t really evolve for the purpose of human morality,” he said. “It clearly has become central to morality, but because of its origins in contamination and avoidance, we should be wary about its influences.”

The studies were funded by Cornell.

posted in In the News | 1 Comment

9th April 2009

This irked me

Texas lawmaker suggests Asians adopt easier names | Houston & Texas News | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle.

A North Texas legislator during House testimony on voter identification legislation said Asian-descent voters should adopt names that are “easier for Americans to deal with.” [...]

Brown suggested that Asian-Americans should find a way to make their names more accessible.
“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

Brown later told Ko: “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”

This is incredibly stupid I can hardly comprehend somebody actually thinking this way.  Especially ironic, the name of the person is ”Ko”.  Two letters.  Really?  Is the educational system so bad that we can’t figure out how to pronounce two letters?

It sounds like a simpler, more effective solution would to get poll workers who can read an ID and match the name to the ledger.  I spend most of my working life dealing with names foreign to me, as a hotel front desk/reservation manager and at the University Registrar’s office.  I totally get how challenging language barriers are, both as somebody who has been behind the desk trying to get information and help the person, and as a foreigner visiting a country where I don’t know the language.  People who are willing can always find a way to communicate.  The person coming to vote was obviously willing because it is not a mandatory process, so obviously, the problem lies behind the desk.  It sounds like it is pretty widespread attitude problem if a public figure is actually defending the workers instead of apologizing for the abysmal attitude.  And we aren’t necessarily talking about people who aren’t speaking English, they just have a name the poll worker isn’t familiar with.  It isn’t like they even have to pronounce it, they just have to match up the spelling.

This is a perfect example of how deeply seeded racism is, primarily because the racist is unable to recognize how damaging and exclusionary the attitudes of the poll workers are to the point that she actually supports them.

No wonder the world thinks we are idiots.  Sometimes I do too.

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4th April 2009

The 2009 CARE Walk

#94  My favorite Spokesperson, looking like the poster boy he is.

Getting Ready to Leave for the Walk.

We meet up with Carrie & David and their doggie (I can’t remember her name). Carrie was Zane’s first SLP and they had a really special connection. We were also expecting to meet M., the friend that Zane was paired with at WSU, but she was too freaked out by the crowds to want to get out of the car. Her mom walked with us, but her dad took M. back home when she couldn’t calm down.

The crowd begins to gather. I heard there were around 900 walkers.

After Chance talked about autism a bit (he was the older spokeschild), they introduced our family as they prepared for Zane to get the race started. Susan Peters, from the local ABC news station (KAKE), was the Emcee

Zane was excited to do the “Ready, Set, GO!” to start the race.

And, the walk. We ended up having to cut through the back door of Heartspring instead of completing the race because Zach isn’t fully recovered, and the kids were pooping out (I carried Zora for a while, then Carrie gave her a piggyback ride the rest of the way)

The food was good. Old Chicago and Popeyes (and I think somebody else) provided food for the walkers.

It was a lot of fun and, despite the wind, it went a lot better than last year. They had bounce houses and were more spread out so it wasn’t as overwhelming. Zane is also getting better at crowds, so that was a major plus too.

I thought I had avoided being interviewed this year, but KFDI ended up tracking me down to talk for a while. I know I am decent at interviews, but dang I always feel stark cold fear when somebody puts a microphone towards me and I have no idea what they are going to ask me. I think in “essay”, not “sound bites”, and it really forces me to adjust quickly.

posted in Autism, Autistic Life, Friends, In the News, The Kids, Zane | 2 Comments

17th February 2009

Shooting a Promo

#48 Autism Walk Commercial Day (where I accidentally left the camera in the car and missed the really good shots)

They had a sign that said “Get to Know Me” on it, for Zane to hold in case he wasn’t feeling talkative that day (he isn’t always).  We couldn’t get him to repeat the line, but since he can read, I suggested they hold the sign above the camera.  They did, and he did a great shot, appeared to look at the camera, and enthusiastically said “Get to K -no me”, pronouncing the silent K.  Everybody burst out laughing.  I rewrote the sign with “NO” in place of “Know”, and we reshot it.  It worked, although not quite as enthusiastic.

edited to add video:

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20th January 2009

Watching History

#20 “Watching History” Obama’s inaguration took place right after Speech Therapy, and since Zora and Zane were engaged playing, I decided to amble over to the TV in the other waiting room so I could watch with the group gathered there while the kids played. (an interesting note: before we started therapy here, I would have NEVER been able to let Zane play at a distance in public, EVER.) It was fun watching with a group of people and hear their commentary too. Taken with my phone camera.

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