Temple Grandin: the movie

Posted: February 5th, 2010 under communication, disability issues, education, employment, interventions, life on the spectrum, parenting, sensory processing, socialization.
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You’ve probably heard of this movie.   If not, or if, having heard of it, you had reservations about it (I did), here’s the good news: it’s better than you think.  It’s an incredible, brilliant movie that shows Temple Grandin’s triumph over both the problems autism gave her, and the society that did not have a clue and did not believe autistic people had a future.   And it shows the value of her life’s work, her designs for livestock management.  Because of her, half the livestock facilities in the world–not just here–handle their stock more humanely.  And–(yes, there’s more) it shows how she thinks–because it is a visual medium, a movie can show the pictures she thinks with.

I’m not much of a movie-goer.   I went to a special screening only because I got a big fat (literally) invitation, as a member of the local autism society.  I didn’t expect it to be within orders of magnitude as good as it was.   It is that good.  It is better than that good.    It is stand-up-and-cheer-and-stamp-your-feet good (and the audience did, though out of respect for Temple Grandin, who was there, we didn’t cheer and scream as loud as we would’ve in other venues.)

It’s an HBO movie, so it’ll be seen first on HBO,  I guess (we don’t have cable, let alone HBO.)   But find it, somehow–if you don’t have cable, find someone who does.

I will say that I think it’s not for younger autistic persons, as in showing the effect of sensory processing problems Temple suffers, it sort of creates them.  Lots of visuals in motion, lots of sounds amplified to the intensity she felt them.   However, there were some autistic children in this audience (I don’t know if they stayed through the whole film, though.

But…see this film.

Temple Grandin said, in her comments after the film, “The worst thing you can do for an autistic child is nothing.”

Carve that into your heart.   Don’t wait and see.  Don’t wait until services are available.  Do something.    Start early, expect it to be slow going (the movie shows some of that, her mother’s frustrations) but boy those little drops of water do wear away the rock.


  • Comment by Kip Colegrove — February 5, 2010 @ 7:10 am


    Temple Grandin is one of the most extraordinary human beings currently alive, and I’m glad for her and for those on the autistic spectrum (and for those who care for and about them) that this is a movie worthy of her achievements.

    I will happily passs on your recommendation to the friend and fellow bookworm with whom I discuss science fiction, theology and many other things. His son, who has Asperger’s, is a delight, one of the adornments of my wife’s parish (she’s an Episcopal priest, too). It may or may not be time yet for that young man to see the movie, but it’s time and past time for most of the rest of us.

  • Comment by Elizabeth — February 5, 2010 @ 7:42 am


    Thanks, Kip. If the person with Asperger’s has extreme auditory sensitivity, earplugs will probably (not certainly) make it bearable (I wished for them at a few points, esp. the opening); if it’s visual and auditory, I dunno. Depends. Some of the cattle stuff is graphic and may bother some kids, though a prior explanation that no animals were harmed (because it sure looks like it) may help. Then again, if they’re used to seeing gore on TV or in other movies, including PBS nature shows, it may not be an issue.

  • Comment by Beth — February 5, 2010 @ 12:17 pm


    I’m so glad that the movie is worth viewing. There was a full-page ad for it in last month’s issue of Parents Magazine, and my first thought was that they would ruin Temple’s story. We don’t have HBO, but I definitely want to see this now.

    I’m working through a lot of fear for my little guy as he nears kindergarten; I need all the inspiration I can get.

  • Comment by Elizabeth — February 5, 2010 @ 12:27 pm


    The fear is normal…I wish kindergartens were more flexible than most are, and let kids enter at their own pace. We found a wonderful preschool for M-, that let him start with two hours every other morning until he was running to the door and tapping the doorknob on the non-preschool mornings–a clear sign of wanting more. He had issues there, but they had ages 0-5 and they were willing to deal with them gently and thoughtfully (lot of conferences, but not formal IEPs.)

    However, with just a short adjustment period, he was doing all-day at the preschool and it was great for him. Every thing we’ve tried with him–preschool, camp, travel, high school, etc., has been scary (boy, yesterday was scary!) but worthwhile (well, not everything was worthwhile, but most were. Mistakes happen.) Sometimes they’re not ready when you think they are, and sometimes they’re ready before you think they are.)

  • Comment by Jenny — February 5, 2010 @ 6:46 pm


    I think that fear is such a paralyzer. It’s hard to push through it and make a decision. Right now my husband and I are discussing the next school year. The christian school our son is at for kindergarten has been wonderful but he’s not going to be ready for first grade next year. They suggest holding him back but this is not a case of catching up this is a case of he has deficits that aren’t going away. Our local public school has not impressed me because everything they suggest is whatever is most convenient for them. So that’s leaves homeschooling or some miracle school I haven’t heard about. All of it is terrifying because this is a turning point for us. My son does not have an official diagnoses and there’s no clear trail of those that have gone before. My brain at this point just wants to shut off and ignore it. Which is obviously not helpful.

  • Comment by Elizabeth — February 5, 2010 @ 7:22 pm


    ((hugs)) for Jenny and Beth both.

    Yes, fear is paralyzing–but action is energizing. As Grandin said, the worst thing you can do to or for an autistic child is nothing. Homeschooling worked for us…would a post on some homeschooling ideas and my experience with it be useful to you? I had a choice of the public school (with a teacher who said “Will he sit still and be quiet? That’s all I care about.” This with a child who was barely one-word verbal and needed to talk more, not less) or homeschooling.

  • Comment by Jenny — February 5, 2010 @ 8:15 pm


    Thanks for hug:) I would love to read some more from you about homeschooling. I’ve been researching homeschooling for children with delays and the information is dizzying!

  • Comment by Elizabeth — February 5, 2010 @ 9:36 pm


    It’ll be awhile, because I have a convention to prepare for next weekend…but I’ll start working on it on the side. I personally think parents are much more capable than they have been told they are. It’s true that not everyone makes a good teacher for their own child (some lack the knowledge, some lack the skills, some lack the personality traits.) It’s true that homeschooling a kid with developmental problems can put too much load on a given parent.

    But parents don’t have to have doctoral degrees to do a good job.

    So: consider yourself as teacher. You’ve had good teachers and not so good ones. Start remembering how the good ones helped you learn. If you can remember specific instances where a teacher’s word, gesture, or way of explaining something helped you, then you’ve picked up a valuable piece of the puzzle. Now consider how you’d apply that–whatever it was–to your child.

  • Comment by Vicky — February 6, 2010 @ 11:25 pm


    Thank you for the review. I first read one of Temple Grandin’s works about seven years ago, in a course on special education for my M.Ed. I only heard of the movie a little while ago and feared that it would be the usual made-for-TV dreck. I knew you’d have the straight scoop!

  • Comment by Elizabeth — February 7, 2010 @ 6:27 am


    Thanks. I just heard from a friend who has an autistic grandson–she saw it and said she now understands more about him.

  • Comment by Jeanette — July 19, 2010 @ 5:27 pm


    I just completed a year of homeschooling my child (age 5) who was diagnosed with Asperger’s last summer. I think it was the best thing for her- she has made amazing strides from last year. Truly amazing.

    However, I am now dealing with severe burnout. Being parent, teacher, medical advocate , therapist (I added up all the home therapy I’m supposed to be doing and it’s six hours a day!), special- needs chef (die to multiple food allergies) leaves little space for me to even catch my breath, let alone recharge.
    My advice to anyone who isconsidering homeschooling a kid on the spectrum is to find as muchsupport as you can and to schedule in time for you to get away – more time than you think you will need.

  • Comment by Elizabeth — July 19, 2010 @ 5:44 pm


    Be sure that you’re giving yourself credit for “the therapy you’re supposed to be doing” within the schooling you’re doing. Much of the therapy stuff I was told to do could be deconstructed and done another way within the school program I devised for M-. Therapists have one set of assignments to give parents, but if you understand what the therapy is supposed to accomplish, there are often other ways to accomplish the same thing, with less stress on you and on your child. (M-, fortunately, didn’t have food allergies, but boy did he have food “not touching that!!!” issues.)

    I do know what you mean about exhaustion and stress. After my mother died (she had given me an hour or so off a day) I had no relief care…my husband worked out of town, sometimes on whifts that mean he was never home while M- was awake. We did not have any time alone together except when M- was asleep–and we were both wipes out–for years. Not that great a situation and thank God we were both fairly healthy. How I wrote a book a year during that, I now cannot understand.

    Anyway–you have my admiration and my sympathy and I wish you as happy an outcome as we’re seeing now.

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