A Visit with Dr. Temple Grandin
Dr. Temple Grandin spoke at Georgia State University, and several of Lionheart’s teachers were honored to attend. They were not only thrilled to have this opportunity but were also so enthusiastic to discover how much Lionheart’s mission and methods were right in line with everything she recommends for relating to people on the spectrum.
Dr. Grandin spoke about the different types of thinkers and the way her own brain operates. She explained that she used to assume that everyone could see what was in her head. Now she understands that her brain operates like a filing cabinet; nothing is simply ‘generalized’. There are lot files in her mind, but they had to be filled with pictures and experiences, so now when she hears a key word, she immediately sees a lot of different pictures. Dr. Grandin praised the adults throughout her childhood and adolescence who helped fill her mind with experiences by exposing her to places, people, and situations.
Dr. Grandin went on to explain her recommendations for relating to and communicating with students on the spectrum. As the Lionheart staff heard her suggestions and explanations of what helped her so much along the way, they were so proud of Lionheart’s aligned perspective and mission. Dr. Grandin could not emphasize enough how imperative it is to develop student strengths; one must build up what these students are good at because they are at risk for fixating on their weak areas.
She also encouraged the audience to stretch the students out of their comfort zones, while supporting them with teachers and mentors who will guide their learning and exploration. Dr. Grandin said it is our responsibility to not let them be reclusive but to keep them interactive. This happens through more free play (where rules and duties can be negotiated); this happens through hands-on classes and experiences; this happens through reading and math lessons that relate to their affinities; this happens through teaching and letting students discover working skills and trades from an early age.
Dr. Grandin pointed out that the world needs different kinds of minds and that we cannot let the world of skilled trade workers be a lost art. She encouraged students to explore carpentry, horseback riding, cooking, shopping, etc. She also included helpful tips that we take into account at Lionheart like avoiding florescent lights or sudden changes in routine, providing a quiet work space, allowing time for breaks, etc.
As a school, Lionheart is always looking to improve ourselves and to expand our own learning. We were buoyed up by hearing Dr. Grandin’s firsthand experiences and advice. She continues to be an inspiration to us, as a staff, and to the Lionheart community as a whole. Thank you, Dr. Grandin for continuing to motivate us to lift our students to their potential!