February 16, 2006

Grandin, Animal Expert, Helps Autistic Students

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Temple Grandin is early for breakfast, already eating and discussing the latest research on dairy farm conditions with her grad student.

The newest Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professor fits right in at Cornell. She floats between departments. After breakfast, she is set to speak on her research and theories about livestock facilities. Later, she will speak on autism and education for special-needs students. Her interests roam freely, but when she talks, she is focused and confident.

Grandin is perhaps the world’s most accomplished autistic adult in the world, and she is determined to help others like herself.

“I’m really concerned about other kids like me and what’s happening to them,” she said. “We’re weeding out the students that don’t test well.”

The primary schools have services to deal with disabled students, she says, but they are too often only prepared for the worst cases, non-verbal students with severe handicaps. Often times, however, students with Asperger’s have mild cases, what she calls “personality variants.”

“Special educators