Autism: Augie and Son Meet Temple Grandin at the ACRES USA Conference

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,

David was offering the gift of Living Food. He kept calling them "proposals".

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).

Temple Grandin and my son David Jr. (Augie in the middle)

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.

Temple Grandin, Expert in Humane Care and Handling of Cattle

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.

One of the best pictures ever (Augie and son)

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

David with Sadeep at the Pure Ghee exhibit

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

David wanted to play in the lobby and got some attention. Dad surprised him with a payment of $2 and several Living Foods to sell.

David and I off to the Amish farms to visit our sponsors/advertisers (last month)

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.”

Intersection of Interdependent Contrasting Worlds (Photo by Augie in Middlefield, Ohio with David))

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:

Temple Grandin’s portfolio of books and videos include

  • 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 . . .

The iShop is NOW OPEN! Browse around! NEWLY published book called 30 Days to Wellness is now next to the checkout. A Christmas gift for children and grandchildren: Healthy Kids Recipe eCards (hard cards coming soon). See if you can find them under our  iShop at livingfood.us !

16 responses to “Autism: Augie and Son Meet Temple Grandin at the ACRES USA Conference

  1. Wonderful! I’ll look forward to the next installment. I admire Temple Grandin so much, and her words are very wise. Her admonition to get your son working will give me a lot of food for thought, for my own 13-year old son. Also, the “pay him, pay him” idea seems good. My son is very motivated by making money, at times!

  2. Hey, Augie–We were at the conference, but I must have been busy enough I missed you! My husband, Cody Holmes, was one of the speakers during the conference and the pre-conference school. I just posted pics of the conf and having Temple sign our books, too. It was another great year–hopefully we’ll actually bump into each other sometime soon!
    Dawnnell

    • Hey Dawnnell- I saw your exhibit & have your business card right here in front of me as I read your comment! Maybe we’ll see each other in Columbus next year!

  3. Thank you Augie, anxious for more!

  4. This was a great conference for my husband & an excellent outing for our son.
    Many foodies aren’t aware of the work ACRES has been doing for 40 or so years. They tend to keep a rather low profile. We do ourselves a favor by becoming familiar with their steadfast work. This oufit deserves our attention & respect.
    On a personal note, our son had the chance to meet & speak with Dr. Grandin–and receive some direction.
    This was an exciting time for both my men!
    Annie (Augie’s wife)

  5. I’m so happy to see you here on wordpress and to read about your experiences. My five-year old daughter especially likes the video about Temple, because she also talks to animals. I’ll be following your journey! Thanks for the inspiration!
    Love,
    Asante http://www.BlissBellyKitchen.wordpress.com

  6. Cute photos! Love the hat on your son. Did you find a farm for him to work at? Meant to ask on the raw dairy group email.

  7. OUTSTANDING!! I am thrilled for you and David Jr. What a moving experience for the two of you! There seems to be an incredibly high level of frustration in the mind of an autistic individual and understandibly so. They have so much to give but unless directed in a specific direction, the frustration takes over. They are remarkable productive people who just want to be understood, utilized, and appreciated for who they are and what they can contribute to life. Thanks so much for sharing this Dave! I really enjoyed it! My love to you, Annie, And David Jr.

    • Thanks for your insight into this, Debby.

      Yes, the frustration is bottled up inside, having so much potential and wanting to learn and do more, yet cannot communicate or take in the right messages (sensory dis-integration) that it is understandable the normal states are agitation and irritation, changing to outbursts, destructive and violent behavior. This is true for many of the autistics anyway. Then there is the delay dilemmas– when at 9 yr old kid may be acting like 2– and performing tasks such as speech, eating or spelling– at an age level of 5.

  8. Thank you for this wonderful post. I loved seeing the HBO movie about Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes, so the film you included here was a special treat. The short film clip you have above leads to a full 5-part documentary, produced and directed by Emma Sutton for the BBC. It’s presented in 10-minute segments that appear as you proceed through them. So inspirational and informative! I love this quote, “It’s taken her nearly 60 years, but the child who couldn’t speak has become the voice of wisdom for many.”

    There’s so much to learn, and a lot of exciting advancements. I had the privilege last month of spending a full day hearing Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride at the Wise Traditions conference. Seeing the heartfelt gratitude of many families who came to the microphones to share their stories and ask questions made me realize how profoundly this work in nutritional healing has transformed their lives. There’s an expanded version now available of her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome (as well as a new companion cookbook), and it’s astounding how many modern-day illnesses and conditions, well beyond those listed in the book’s subtitle, can be helped and even resolved through healing and sealing the gut. Seemingly unrelated conditions, from autism to eczema, from depression to auto-immune diseases, from asthma to schizophrenia, from dyslexia to epilepsy, from allergies to ADD/ADHD, are all discussed in the book — and in the many related blogs and discussion groups around the world.

    Thanks again for the post, and for adding to the great information that’s available to us all.

    – Beth in Minneapolis

    • I am going to watch more of the BBC vids tonight. The GAPS goes to show you that disease originates largely in the gut–and poor food choices are a major cause of dis-ease and disease.

  9. Very cool Augie. My son was diagnosed with mild Asperger’s, Tourette’s, ADHD and non-verbal learning disability when he was younger. It’s been an interesting ride, and difficult and draining at times. Often the rigid social expectations and judgmental reactions of neighbors, teachers, strangers, etc. created more stress and strife than his behavior did. I’ve always told him that differences are not disabilities, they’re powerful energies in disguise. The challenge for the people who have them is to learn how to appropriately harness and channel these impressive energies. You can’t put a kid in the driver’s seat of a Ferrari and not expect a few crashes along the way… =:-) Temple is a great role model and gives families dealing with autism spectrum issues a lot of hope.

    Detoxing and adding loads of nutrient dense foods into our son’s diet (raw dairy, bone broths, pastured eggs, fermented foods, etc.) made a big difference for him. His issues with eye contact, sensory overload, hyperactivity, focus, etc. all improved a lot, as did his general health, strength, coordination and stamina. Those foods also helped my elderly mother survive (and thrive) after a supposedly fatal case of sepsis.

    My son and I read your post and watched the video together, and he opened up and shared some things about his feelings that he’s never told me before. Now he wants to watch the rest of those videos about Temple. Thanks for sharing!

    Love,
    Linda

  10. I am so happy reading this. How wonderful that you both had this experience. Love the picture, too.

    Love,
    Jane

  11. Pingback: Diet and Autism « Noah Knows!

  12. Temple Grandin is the extremely distant cousin of Gary Michael Joy, a Omaha hero! Joy’s only living relative is James Arthur Joy.

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