Thinking Like a Cow . . . and How Raw Milk, Living Food and Music Relate to Autism
Last weekend my son David and I attended the ACRES USA national conference in Indianapolis to meet Dr. Temple Grandin, author, educator,
consultant and university professor —and to hear other eco-farming icons and meet many others to sign them on as sponsors of our new Living Food bulletins. Temple was named in the top 100 most influential people in 2010 with a cover story by Time magazine and a new movie, a biographical documentary (trailer).
It was a special time for us. For many years, I have wanted to take my 24-year-old son to farms and conferences like this. Last year, I held the first Ohio Raw Milk Conference at a resort and I wanted him to come and meet everyone and play piano. He is always asking to go with me on business trips. He enjoys it so much and it does so much for him. Unfortunately, this was not possible much at all for reasons revealed below.
Meeting Temple Grandin was the highlight for us, because both David and Temple are autistic, having a spectrum of neurological disorders. Temple has largely overcome her situation and has become an internationally known figure in the rapidly growing autism and agricultural community—and for what I will term autism recovery and achievement. But David has come only half way. I had a chance to get a brief interview in with Temple, since this was the main reason for coming.
Many health foodies, raw milk lovers, chefs, gardeners, health and nutrition practitioners and even farmers are not aware of ACRES magazine on sustainable eco-farming. This type of farming (and even mining) is how nutrient-dense food is produced, vital to the health and prevention of disease, but also the health and wealth of nations. ACRES will be appearing in Living Food, the raw milk bulletin #3, along with several more new national advertisers. This year is the 40th anniversary of ACRES magazine and its top conference.
I caught up with Temple at her book signing on Friday shortly after we arrived and right before her powerful keynote delivery in a packed room of a thousand. (Later there was a screening of her Emmy-award winning movie (trailer) on her difficult life as an autistic and rise to unusual achievements). Immediately I recognized the subtle features, usually prominent in autistics, in her movements, eyes and manner of speech—yet she displayed her boldness with grace and confidence.
“We came all the way from Ohio to meet you” I said as I introduced her to David. After a few personal exchanges I asked her what we could do for David to calm him down. He paces and babbles a lot and gets easily agitated. “Skills . . . does he have skills to put him to work?” she asked. “Not really, he does supervised crafts and activities in a special group home. We are in the beginnings of self-designed autism research, recovery and demonstration project using nutrient-dense foods fresh from the farm for David in a group home setting”. “He needs to work, develop skills . . . I worked with cows when young on the farm . . . every day. I did all kinds of chores.” She explained autistics can learn to calm down by caring for animals and with the farm environment. “I did all kinds of chores . . . cleaning stalls, feeding cows, milking cows. Get a farm to let him work, helping milk the cows, milk the cows”. Oh, I said, “I know lots of Amish farms and others who sponsor my publication with advertisement, maybe they will let him work, I could trade free advertisement in my bulletin”. She repeated three more times. “Amish farms, put him on an Amish farm . . . have him care for cows and animals on an Amish farm”. I told her
I can do this, no problem, for a few hours a day. She insisted: “No, no . . . a week straight or all summer.”
I responded, “and he can eat the farm, fresh food and drink the raw milk, too.”
The second question had to do what I
thought was going to be David’s main vocation—piano playing. I had pushed him too hard for a couple years to practice, take lessons (he never really needed lessons) and play at gigs I lined up. So, he quit all together. He was called near genius by teachers and other musicians. I was convinced of that when a traveling piano sales showroom came to town with some two dozen used Steinways, Baldwins, Kendalls and other pianos. He played most of them with new songs he composed as he was playing while others looked on with smiles.
(It reminded me of Christmas that year, when Tony, a concert composer-pianist, came to our home for a dinner party, sat down and played a new movie theme song he heard two weeks ago. Playing it the first time ever, I would not have known if he missed a key. This young man composed a piece on paper and played it for the first time at a Philharmonic Symphony concert and got a standing ovation.)
Explaining to Temple that David was considered extremely talented on piano, I told her he quit three years ago all together.“What can we do to motivate him to start playing again?” Immediately she answered: “Pay him, pay him . . . just pay him.”
An Amish man was next to approach her asking her how to keep his autistic son from over stimulating and going off in the big stores. With all the auditory distractions, she advised him to cover his ears with headsets playing soft music.
Temple Grandin is a woman who thinks like a cow and is the most famous autistic on the planet, as this 7-minute BBC video shows:
- The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s Animals Make Us Human:
Creating the Best Life for Animals
- Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships:Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism
- Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-functioning Autism
There is much more to the story that will need to be continued tomorrow.
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Dr. Grandin is a designer of livestock handling facilities and a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Facilities she has designed are located in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. In North America, almost half of the cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system that she designed for meat plants. Curved chute and race systems she has designed for cattle are used worldwide and her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior have helped many people to reduce stress on their animals during handling.
She has also developed an objective scoring system for assessing handling of cattle and pigs at meat plants. This scoring system is being used by many large corporations to improve animal welfare. Other areas of research are: cattle temperament, environmental enrichment for pigs, reducing dark cutters and bruises, bull fertility, training procedures, and effective stunning methods for cattle and pigs at meat plants.
She obtained her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College and her M.S. in Animal Science at Arizona State University. Dr. Grandin received her Ph.D. in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989. Today she teaches courses on livestock behavior and facility design at Colorado State University and consults with the livestock industry on facility design, livestock handling, and animal welfare. She has appeared on television shows such as 20/20, 48 Hours, CNN Larry King Live, PrimeTime Live, the Today Show, and many shows in other countries. She has been featured in People Magazine, The New York Times, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Time Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and Discover magazine. In 2010, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people. Interviews with Dr. Grandin have been broadcast on National Public Radio. She has also authored over 400 articles in both scientific journals and livestock periodicals on animal handling, welfare, and facility design. She is the author of Thinking in Pictures, Livestock Handling and Transport, Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals, and Humane Livestock Handling. Her books Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human were both on The New York Times bestseller list. Her life story has also been made into an Emmy Award-winning HBO movie titled Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes.
Also . . .
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