Saturday, February 6, 2010

Temple Grandin: HBO Canada’s new movie a tribute to the human spirit

If you haven’t signed up yet for HBO Canada, there isn’t a better reason than to catch tonight’s screening of Temple Grandin. The extraordinary bio-pic stars a near unrecognizable Claire Danes (Stardust, My So-Called Life) as Grandin, one of the top livestock scientists and animal activists in the United States. She’s described on her own website as “the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world.” Grandin, pictured above, is an author and Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University.

Grandin, now 62, overcame enormous obstacles during her childhood and starting a career in humane-methods livestock handling. Along the way she became - and remains - an extraordinary advocate for people, especially children, with autism, as well as an advocate for the respectful treatment of livestock. Grandin, who’s always seen in her signature classic cowgirl wear, is one of the most-influential designers of livestock-moving equipment. Her no-stress system for cattle management is used all over the U.S. She’s also the author of several books, including titles that inspired the movie; Thinking in Pictures, The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's, Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, Animals Make us Human and Animals in Translation.

Grandin was fully involved in the HBO project, directed by Mick Jackson (Live from Baghdad) and says she enjoyed it. “It [was] like going in sort of a weird time machine. Just watching the trailer, I [was] getting kind of choked up. I whispered to Claire, I said, ‘Can you believe that's really you?’ She said it was kind of weird for her, too.

“She played me really, really accurate. This is '60s and '70s. This movie ends at the end of the '70s, and the thing about autism is as you learn more and more and more, you keep getting less and less autistic-like. In order for Claire to get some inkling of how to do this part, I found an old TV show tape from the '80s and an old VHS tape from the early '90s for her to watch.”

Thanks to Grandin’s involvement, the film takes great pains to successfully mimic and offer insight into her behavioural patterns and personality; intellectually, emotionally and socially. The film paints a tremendous portrait of a young woman who succeeds, thanks to her own determination and the unfailing support of her mother and educators. Grandin provides an excellent example of what can be accomplished by special needs students when they receive adequate support.

“It's important to get autistic kids out doing different things. I want to emphasize, autism is a big spectrum ranging from somebody who is going to remain nonverbal, all the way up to famous scientists.

“You would have no technical equipment here. You would have no hotel here if you didn't have people that were interested in things, because after all, who do you think made the first stone spear? It wasn't the yackity yacks around the campfire. That's for sure,” says Grandin.

The Autism Society Canada estimates that one in 165 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Temple Grandin, Sat. Feb. 6, at 8 pm on HBO Canada

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