Research shows that people with autism struggle with empathy.
Apparently Temple Grandin, 66, an American doctor of animal science and a professor at Colorado State University, never got that memo.
In a sweet ironic victory, Dr. Grandin received the Innovator of the Year award from Manchester University in North Manchester, Indiana for her work in animal science and autism on March 6, 2014.
Dr. Grandin's work with animals is unique for someone with autism because she has an impressive empathy for the creatures. She is able to fully understand what it feels like to be in an animal's environment and how they will react. She's made it her life's work to advocate for the humane treatment of animals, especially beef cattle.
Her ability to understand how animals feel and process their environment motivated her passion for more humane treatment of livestock in their last moments of life. Her unique design chutes in cattle processing lots lowers the stress experienced by cattle. This translates into more dollars for ranchers.
"Animals respond to patterns and shadows. If a cow is mooing in the yard, that means they are stressed...A lot of improvement has occurred in slaughter houses in the past ten years but we still have a long way to go."
A memorable line in the HBO movie about her life, states, "nature is cruel, but we don't have to be." This continues to be her mantra as she travels the world educating livestock handlers about the sentient nature of animals.
During her speech at the award ceremony, Dr. Grandin shared her concerns that schools no longer offer enrichment classes. "How will students know if they're not exposed to wood working, or sewing or art whether or not they have an interest in it? Kids today don't know how to work. We have an aging infrastructure in this country that's in trouble. Who is going to fix it when it breaks?"
"Education today is focused too much on the abstract. Kids need a better work ethic. They need to know how to work."
Dr. Grandin believes that disability labels can be dangerous for students. "Instead of a label, focus on what the child is good at. There are plenty of geeks out there walking around undiagnosed that are doing great work. No one told them they were autistic and couldn't do it. That's how educators should teach and treat all kids."