Movie shows how great teachers and courage open doors

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“A door opened, and I walked through it.” That’s a comment from Temple Grandin, subject of a remarkable new Home Box Office (HBO) movie of the same name.

It’s also a testament to the impact of great teaching, which helped open doors for this courageous woman who has autism. Claire Danes as Ms. Grandin gives one of the most compelling and inspirational performances I’ve ever seen. David Strathairn, as one of her teachers, shows the enormous, life-changing impact that a skilled, caring teacher can and does have.

“Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be,” Ms. Grandin points out. If you read no farther than this paragraph, I strongly urge you to see this movie, based on real life events. More information about the movie and autism is at htttp//www.hbo.com/movies/temple-grandin.


I hope (and have written to HBO to urge) that the company give or sell this movie to schools and universities at a very low cost.

In brief, Grandin has a very troubled childhood, because of her autism. This is a complex disability, not fully understood, for which there is no known complete cure. Some readers may remember the award-winning movie “Rainman,” which also depicted a person with autism. The impact of this disability varies from person to person. In general, autistic people have difficulty in social settings, often are highly sensitive to any form of touch, and sometimes have a seemingly irrational fear of something (for Grandin, it is doors that slide open).

The HBO movie shows how Strathairn is able to build Grandin’s confidence and skills through the use of “hands-on” active learning, especially in science.

Some people do far better if they can be active, creating and building things, rather than relying primarily on reading a book to gain new information. (Then, there are people like me, who are close to having a disability when it comes to figuring out plumbing or car repair).

Despite enormous challenges, Grandin has become a world-renowned expert in two areas: the humane treatment of livestock, and effective parenting/teaching of people with autism. She has earned a master’s and PhD, is a professor at Colorado State University, and has written more than 400 articles and award-winning books in both areas. Her ideas about humane treatment of animals have been implemented in many places here and other countries.

A free C-Span interview with her is at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/id/214625. Her books include “Humane Livestock Handling: Understanding livestock behavior and building facilities for healthier animals, “Thinking in Pictures: My
Life with Autism” and “The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s.”

Her Web site focused on animals is http://www.grandin.com. Her Web site focused on autism is http://www.templegrandin.com. More info also is available from the Autism Society of Minnesota, http://www.ausm.org.

In one of her speeches, Grandin says, “I was different, but not less.” With the help of many people, including great teachers, Grandin has walked through many doors. Her speeches, books, life, and this movie are showing how we can help many more people do the same thing.