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Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World – Sy Montgomery

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Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World – Sy Montgomery

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

ISBN-10: 0547443153

ISBN-13: 978-0547443157

Sy Montgomery’s captivating children’s biography about Temple Grandin, speaks to children, especially to those who feel different.  It is beautifully crafted and has all the ingredients for a good book with simple chapters, a lot of photographs, informative inserts, and advice for kids with autism.  We meet her mother, her lifelong school friends, and teachers.  (Depending on the child’s age, parents may want to review the graphic details about the cruelty to animals.)   This book belongs in school libraries, as it helps all children understand that abilities may be the result of differences.

For years, Temple, couldn’t speak a word.   Loud noise hurt, ordinary sensations were torture, human voices made little sense and the certain odors prevented her from concentrating.   Sometimes the only way she could communicate was by crying or throwing a tantrum.   Her father wanted to institutionalize her, but her mother refused.   It would be years before she was diagnosed with autism, as she was born in 1947, and little was known.  But her mother found special schools for Temple with teachers and psychologists who knew how to bring her out.  This was surprising, knowing she attended school in the 1950s and 1960s.

Temple saw the world visually — in pictures –much like animals do.  And it was animals that eventually saved Temple and helped her learn to calm herself as a teenager.  While visiting her aunt’s cattle farm, she would go out into the middle of a spacious pasture, lie down and wait for the thousand-pound steers, to curiously circle around her motionless body.  They would walk up and lick Temples face — she was at peace.   She was introduced to a cattle chute where calves were vaccinated.  The calves heads stick out a hole in the gate head, the operator pulls a rope to press side panel against the animal’s side.  It horrified Temple at first, but she observed this squeeze chute calmed the animal.   She decided to try it on herself with her aunt helping, and she suddenly felt calm, secure and peaceful.   She built a squeeze machine for herself when she returned to school, so she could calm herself.   The school psychologist was not happy, but her favorite science teacher supported her.  He suggested they build a better squeeze machine and conduct scientific experiments on other students to see it if helped them relax.  Success!

These early discoveries and a love for animals were the beginning of a long career studying animal-behavior in college and graduate school, that would open the door to her life work of advocating for more the humane treatment of cattle in the livestock industry.  Her breakthrough designs for cruelty-free cattle-handling facilities are used worldwide.  These designs have benefited the cattle, ranchers and slaughterhouses.  And it was her autism that gave her the special insights and skills to make that difference.

I hope parents with children see possibility in Temple Grandin.  She is a strong advocate for autism and works with many young people.   Although she has learned coping skills, she has autism like many famous inventors and scientists who changed the world.  Temple doesn’t want a brain like most other people have.  “A lot of normal people are fuzzy in their thinking,” she says.  “I like the way I think.   Autism is part of who I am.”   Temple uses her experience as an example of the unique contributions that autistic people can make.  You see beauty in her autism.

Today, she is a scientist, professor, lecturer, and author of many books.  She now focuses on the humane treatment facilities for pigs, sheep, goats and chickens.  In 2010, HBO made a TV movie of her life, starring Claire Danes.  It won an Emmy.

Reviewer: Patricia Tilton

Words have been a passion since childhood, when I wrote poetry, songs and all the neighborhood and classroom plays.  That interest led me to study journalism in college.  Although I spent many years as a newspaper journalist and in public relations, I feel like my life has come full circle.  I am returning to what I always wanted to do most — write for children.  I kept a notebook of story ideas.  Since this is a huge shift in writing genres for me,  I sought a teacher.  I found that teacher in NYT bestselling author, educator,  and editor,  Emma Walton Hamilton, who has created a wonderful program, “Just Write for Kids” and a virtual literary “Children’s Writing Hub” for authors and aspiring authors.   My hope is to write books that are healing for children, particularly those with special needs.  This theme will be reflected throughout my blog.  I love travel, the  arts, classical music, opera, and musical theater.  I am spiritual and involved in many humanitarian projects.  I volunteer at the Dayton International Peace Museum, working on new peace exhibits.  My favorite was a 2010 exhibit devoted to the life work of Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea,” to build schools for kids in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  My life experiences are varied and I have much to share with you.  My husband and I live in Ohio. We have a large extended family, and have parented children with special needs. You can visit Patricia at her blog.

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