AUBURN — Auburn University’s College of Agriculture welcomed Dr. Temple Grandin, world-renowned academic, animal behaviorist and autism advocate to campus on Feb. 26.

A prominent author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior and a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, Grandin has a successful career consulting on both livestock handling equipment design and animal welfare. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. 

Her visit was part of the college’s Women in Agriculture program, which seeks to connect women in agriculture, to empower them through a program of professional networking and to encourage them to lead and mentor up-and-coming, young, female agricultural leaders. Throughout the day, she met with students in the colleges of agriculture, education and veterinary medicine. She was keynote speaker at the sold-out Women in Agriculture luncheon. 

“What I want to talk about today is how there are different kinds of thinking,” Grandlin said at a pre-    luncheon media meet-and-greet. “I’m worried about my kind of mind being screened out.”

In her books on autism, Grandin explains there are three ways in which people see the world: visual thinking, math thinking and verbal thinking. While neurotypical people have a blend of thinking types, people on the autism spectrum may only process information in one way.

“Visual thinkers, like me, think in pictures,” she said. “There are mathematical minds that think in patterns, like math and music, and then the word thinkers …verbal thinking has to over-generalize,” she said. 

“The visual thinker — it’s a different form of problem-solving to see how mechanical things work. And too many of us are getting labeled ‘learning disabled’ and everything else. No, I can’t do higher math, but you need us.”

In 2010, HBO released an Emmy Award-winning movie about her life entitled, “Temple Grandin,” a docu-drama which depicts her experiences growing up with autism and shows how she thinks in pictures. Claire Danes won Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Emmy awards for best actress in the title role.

Grandin’s visit concluded that evening with a sold-out, private screening of “An Open Door,” a forthcoming documentary on her life and work that was directed by award-winning filmmaker John Barnhardt and is presented by Colorado State University. John Festervand was executive producer.

This documentary “sort-of picks up where the docu-drama left off,” explained Barnhardt. 

“Temple’s ultimate thing is to be a problem-solver,” he said. “I think Temple’s life is in seasons: When she first got into it, it was about cattle, then it was about autism, then it was about education, now it’s about people thinking different and working together. Improving our educational system so people have that opportunity, that’s what this movie is about.”