Skip to content

Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Temple Grandin’s Story: A Remarkable Woman With Autism

Clare Danes plays the renowned animal scientist in a new HBO film debuting in February.
By
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Temple Grandin, a new film biography about the best-selling author, renowned animal scientist, and perhaps America's most famous person with autism, debuts in February on HBO with a strong cast and a sensitive narrative starring Claire Danes. It depicts a woman who is uniquely talented (she imagines the world through the eyes of the animals she studies) but also heartbreakingly hamstrung (everyday noises can be deafening and changes to routine debilitating).

The film -- with Catherine O'Hara, Julia Ormond, and David Strathairn -- traces Grandin's life from nonverbal child to often-overwhelmed teenager to capable adult. Her ability to identify with animals, especially cattle, and to imagine how cows perceive and react to their environment led her to design more humane feedlots and slaughterhouses.

Recommended Related to Autism

Understanding Autism -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Because there aren't specific medical tests for autism, it's best to get a diagnosis from a physician or psychologist who specializes in developmental disabilities and has experience diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). The diagnosis of autism is made by taking into account the child's complete medical and behavioral history, lengthy observation of the child's behavior, and ruling out other problems that may cause some of the same symptoms. It is important to distinguish autism from other...

Read the Understanding Autism -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

Now an award-winning professor of animal science at Colorado State University, Grandin, 62, also speaks at conferences on animal behavior as well as on autism. She is the author of several books, including Animals Make Us Human and The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's.

Shortly after her own son was diagnosed with autism, New York-based producer Emily Gerson Saines committed herself to making a movie about Grandin after reading her book Thinking in Pictures. "The trick with this particular film," she notes, "is that it couldn't have a big old happy ending and Temple's cured -- because she's not."

The Nature of Autism

Grandin has autism, one of a group of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). ASDs are developmental disabilities that cause a range of social, communication, and behavioral challenges; the severity varies widely from person to person. Autism is usually diagnosed in childhood, as with Grandin. As many as one in 150 U.S. children has some form of an ASD, according to the CDC.

But for Grandin, it is important to look beyond the label. "There is no black and white dividing line between autism and 'geek' and 'nerd,'" she says. "When is it obsession and when is it perseverance? You can design a mind to be more social [or] more interested in things. And if we didn't have people more interested in things, we wouldn't even have a phone to talk on."

Reviewed on December 22, 2009

Today on WebMD

girl at window
Symptoms within the first 2 years of a child’s life.
boy playing a violin
How is this condition similar to autism?
 
Mother and daughter indoors playing
Play therapy may undo the disorder in at-risk babies.
preschool age girl sitting at desk
What causes this rare form of autism?
 
High Functioning Autism And Asperge Syndrome
Article
Gluten Free Diet Slideshow
Article
 
Mother and daughter indoors playing
Article
Vaccine and needle
VIDEO
 
girl at window
Article
Mother hugging teenage son
Article
 
Understanding Rett Syndrome
Article
Home Care Tips
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections