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Temple Grandin Gave This Mom Hope

The words weren’t unexpected, but they still hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Your son has Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

As I sat there with tears streaming down my face, a million thoughts flooded my mind. One part of me was relived we had a diagnosis and could begin to get our son the therapy he needed. Another was terrified of what that diagnosis would mean for him – now and in the future. One of my biggest fears was wondering if people would see past the Autism to the person he was and would become.  

Over the months of waiting for his evaluation and ultimate diagnosis, I’d been reading up on Autism. The first time I remember seeing the word Autism was reading one of the Babysitter’s Club books when I was young. My education classes in college touched on the disorder, but now I wasn’t learning about it to serve the needs of a potential student. I needed to know how to meet the needs of my son.

On the way home with those words still ringing in my ears, I got online and ordered every book Temple Grandin had written. I learned about her in my Animal Science classes at Virginia Tech. An expert in cattle behavior, she has designed livestock handling facilities across the world. Her ability to see in pictures lets her use the animals natural instincts to guide her designs. In the process, she has improved animal welfare standards. She’s a professor at Colorado State University. She has written numerous books. She is a featured speaker at many conferences. And she has Autism.  

On that car ride with my fears for what the future would hold for my son, I was reaching for this woman, who I’d never met but was drawing comfort from. She could give me a door into the mind of someone with Autism at a time when my son had stopped speaking and couldn’t.  

I knew about her accomplishments before I knew she had Autism. She gave me hope when I desperately needed it. In that moment I needed the comfort of knowing someone successful who sees the world differently like my son, even if it was just through the pages of their book.

I’ve added other books written by doctors and parents to my bookshelf. But she is still my go-to, the one I reach for even after more than four years on this journey.

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