Temple Grandin, world renowned author and proponent for the humane treatment of livestock, spoke to an audience of Mercy College students and faculty about her life as a “visual thinker,” a person with autism and a woman breaking into a male-dominated field.
Hosted by Mercy’s All ACCESS Movie Club, the event was coordinated by Sara Venezian, director of the Office of ACCESSibility, Ilene Rothschild, associate professor of Special Education, and Sabrina Timperman, associate professor of Veterinary Technology. Dennis Wilson ’18, a former student of Timperman who worked with Grandin at Colorado State University as her graduate assistant, introduced Grandin’s virtual talk, which took place live on Zoom.
All ACCESS Movie Club is a student group that discusses movies dealing with issues of disability and accessibility. The idea to invite Grandin as a guest speaker, made possible through Timperman and Wilson, offered a unique opportunity to hear her experiences firsthand, said Venezian.
More than 90 participants not only listened to Grandin’s fascinating story, but also engaged with her through chat and pre-submitted questions. Her comments, which ranged from her observation that “college students get into trouble because they don’t ask for help until they’re drowning” to her advice that children should be asked if they see “words wiggling on the page,” which might indicate a learning disability.
Among the comments prompting a lively discussion was Grandin’s simple statement, “The world needs different kinds of minds to work together.” When one participant asked if the film about her life was accurate, she responded, “Yes. It was like going into a time machine.” Another comment, “I was born in 1947, and at that time it was harder to be a woman than being autistic,” resonated with many.
But her biggest takeaway was urging students who are struggling to ask for help as soon as they can. Recalling her first job out of college, she said, “I had no idea how to do what I was hired to do. I was on the phone the next day asking for help.”
Venezian said that people like Temple Grandin, who overcame many of the same challenges our students have, serve as an important role model for all students. “It was so inspiring and motivating,” she said, adding, “I could listen to her all day. She says what many of us think at times but don’t say.”