I had an epic moment this past week. Thanks to Cynthia May in the psychology department and to an individual I met in line who is affiliated with the REACH program (I don’t remember her name but she really was a miracle, she snuck me in backstage with her), I was able to meet and talk with Temple Grandin. Temple Grandin has been my absolute idol for years. I was literally crying tears of joy when I met her. I live for scientific encounters like this.
To give you a background of who Temple Grandin is: She is a animal behavioral scientist who is famous for inventing technology that helps treat cow slaughter humanely. She is also famous for her accounts and experience with having Asperger’s syndrome, a form of high functioning autism. Emergence: Labeled Autistic was the first hand account of her experience with Autism. Through this book, she gained a lot of popularity because it gave a voice to all those afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome or autism. Recently, she has gained ever more popularity through a recent HBO movie about her.
She gave a fabulous talk at the Sotille Theatre titled “Different Kinds of Minds”. She talked a lot about mental diversity, particularly those afflicted with autism. Most people think verbally, as in they hear words in their head. I have never been one of those people. Like Temple Grandin, I’m a visual learner. I visualize everything that’s spoken to me. Temple Grandin brings up how if someone asked her to visualize a steeple, she imagines every steeple she has ever seen.
She talks about how if we only have one kind of mind working in the corporations, we will overlook details that are vital to a corporations functioning. She believes we need all minds working together to make successful contributions to this world.
I was the only person to ask her a question about autism that did not have to do with a child I have. At the end of the conference, I asked her the question, “How can we break the stigma of intellectual disabilities?” She told me that we need to “show them what they can do.” It was brilliant.
I went backstage after to talk to her. I talked to her for a good three minutes. I didn’t ask her any general scientific questions that I could of shared on here. It was more personal. She was giving me advice on my research and I told her about my experiences with Asperger’s.
Isaac Newton contributed to science in ways we take for granted today and was the first scientist knighted. He suffered through many nervous breakdowns during his life and would get fits of rage with anyone who disagreed with him. It is easy to assume he had something along the lines of bipolar disorder.
If any of you have seen the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” it’s absolutely phenomenal. John Nash is a theoretical mathematical genius and won the Nobel prize in economics in 1994. At 29, He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and spent years suffering from delusions and hallucinations.
If there’s one area that needs advocacy, it’s mental health. There is such a stigma associated with having a mental illness or an intellectual disability such as depression, Asperger’s or bipolar and frankly it’s unfair. People have so much to give, especially those with a different kind of mind,and it’s the people who are different to move this world forward yet we live in a society that shuns anything of that sort. If there’s anything you’ll find me doing these next couple years, you can definitely count on me to advocate against the stigma of mental illness. I have some ideas up my sleeve that I’m already setting in motion but I’m not ready to go public with it quite yet but you can sure count on me to hear about it soon enough. Get excited.