“There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what they cannot do.” -Temple Grandin
Dr. Temple Grandin set her sights and achieved her goals. She actively encourages others on the spectrum to do the same.
I explained to my children that Grandin thought differently and saw the world from a different point of view. Because she felt that she understood how animals thought and acted, she was able to design machinery and techniques to help them. She felt that the techniques and equipment used at the time was scaring and harming the animals. She wanted to create machinery and techniques to help corral cattle in a more humane way. She used her different way of thinking to improve living conditions for livestock.
My older son spoke up and said, “She sounds smart. I’m glad she learned to use her thoughts.” His comment cracked me up and I realized that he was right. That’s exactly what she did.
She didn’t push away her tendencies and interests because they were different from her peers. She worked at them, pursued them, and strengthened her skills. Had she been forced to squash down those strengths, Temple Grandin’s accomplishments in her fields surely would have been limited. If she had been forced to learn and do things like her peers, her potential may have been stifled.
As a self-contained special education teacher, I always tried to encourage my students to identify their strengths instead of only focusing on weaknesses. Too often in special education, teachers and parents focus on what students can’t do, won’t do, and never did. How can we expect them to rise up when all we do is attach labels, site statistical averages, and compare them to others? Why attach that weight to the foot of a struggling student?
Not every child will progress in exactly the same way or at the same pace, so these standards and expectations can be unfair to differently- abled children. Instead of suppressing autistic tendencies, Grandin urges parents and teachers to allow these characteristics to flourish.
In her TED Talk, Grandin says, “The world needs all kinds of minds.” After all, it is with different points of views that we take on new territory, create new inventions, and come up with new concepts. Diverse learners are invaluable to our world and it is our job to help them succeed.
Keep teaching. Keep learning.
~Christy from Exceptional Thinkers