Temple Grandin, professor, best-selling author and advocate on autism, spoke to a crowded State Theatre at Playhouse Square Wednesday night to kick off the 15th annual Milestones Autism Spectrum Disorder Conference.
“It’s so important we have Temple Grandin here because she such is such a trailblazer, she has been a pioneer and inspires people,” says Ilana Hoffer Skiff, co-founder and executive director of Beachwood-based Milestones Autism Resources, which puts on the annual conference. “She is so current and is always thinking about what can work for young people with autism. She has a strong message about getting people the opportunities to work while they are young, while they are in school and not waiting until they are out of school. I think she shows you it may be difficult, but when you work at it, you can be a success and she is an excellent example of that. She is an incredible speaker on behalf of people with autism, as well as her profession (in animal science).”
Grandin, 69, has provided many inspiring talks across the country, including about her work — she currently serves as a professor of animal science at Colorado State University as well as a consultant of livestock equipment and is an advocate for humane treatment of livestock. She is an author of many books, but also was the subject of an Emmy Award-winning HBO movie titled “Temple Grandin.”
At the Playhouse Square event, she signed books and took photos with the audience. The theme of her presentation was “Different Kinds of Minds,” but her main focus was helping people understand the job choices and opportunities available to those who have autism.
Grandin wants to see kids be successful and learn work skills — that is why she is pushing for jobs.
“(To) get the information out there,” she says about her talk’s message. “There are lot of people with autism. I want to see them get good careers.
“We have to get the kids to explore their interests before they get out of high school,” she adds. “Get your kids involved in doing things with their peers. Students get interested in careers that they are exposed to.”
She also is opposed to kids playing video games, as she worries about addiction to the devices. Her focus is for kids to expand their horizons by having at least two jobs before leaving high school and have more of an entrepreneurial spirit, even if they start simple, such as selling things at a yard sale. She also spoke about different professions in which computers aren’t likely to replace workers, such as plumbing, construction, theater or mechanics.
Grandin said she thinks it’s important to have goals and to take the opportunities as they come.
“You have to have the guts to go through the door; it will only open for second,” she said.
The Milestones Autism Spectrum Disorder Conference takes place June 15-16 at the I-X Center in Cleveland. Click here for more information.