Monday, March 21, 2011

Temple Grandin (2010) - Autism

On the plane back from Manila, I had the pleasure of watching this amazing movie " Temple Grandin" which encouraged me and also made me tear. Indeed nothing is impossible. God has a plan for everyone. It had the amazing actress of Claire danes who played the character of Temple Grandin . And that of Julia Ormond who played the character of the mother ever so convincing - she also acted in the curious case of Benjamin Button. Even the four year old temple Jenna Hughes played the character of an autism child so well.

This movie is an extract of a biography of Temple Grandin -

Grandin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Richard Grandin and Eustacia Cutler. She was diagnosed with autism in 1950. Having been labeled and diagnosed with brain damage at age two. At age four, Grandin began talking, and making progress. She considers herself lucky to have had supportive mentors from primary school onwards.
After graduating from Hampshire Country School, a boarding school for gifted children in Rindge, New Hampshire, in 1966, Grandin went on to earn her bachelor's degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce University in 1970, her master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975, and her doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.

Based on personal experience, Grandin advocates early intervention to address autism, and supportive teachers who can direct fixations of the child with autism in fruitful directions. She has described her hypersensitivity to noise and other sensory stimuli. She claims she is a primarily visual thinker and has said that words are her second language. Temple attributes her success as a humane livestock facility designer to her ability to recall detail, which is a characteristic of her visual memory. Grandin compares her memory to full-length movies in her head that can be replayed at will, allowing her to notice small details. She is also able to view her memories using slightly different contexts by changing the positions of the lighting and shadows. Her insight into the minds of cattle has taught her to value the changes in details to which animals are particularly sensitive, and to use her visualization skills to design thoughtful and humane animal-handling equipment.
Grandin is considered a philosophical leader of both the animal welfare and autism advocacy movements. Both movements commonly cite her work regarding animal welfare, neurology, and philosophy. She knows all too well the anxiety of feeling threatened by everything in her surroundings, and of being dismissed and feared, which motivates her in her quest to promote humane livestock handling processes.

I love her quote
“if I could snap my fingers and become nonautistic I would not do so. Autism is part of who I am.”

In this movie, it truly embodies what was quoted.
Temple Grandin tells the story of a young autistic woman, Temple Grandin (Claire Danes), in a time when autism was not very well understood. The movie pulls us to follow the journey of autism influence from her early school years to her getting her Master of Science. Through her life, she faces her struggles and challenges where people do not understand what she sees - where her understanding comes through pictures. Her social awkwardness attracts weird looks from people which causes her immense distress.

(In the movie, it reminds me of my volunteering in Christian Outreach of the Handicap (COH) where I had volunteered quite often in my university days. How we teach them to recognize things to buy from the supermarkets via pictures, where we held their hand and let them feel things to understand what it exactly is - some people might not understand - but put yourself in their shoes - that if it were you- and you understood but not in the way others do, people laugh at you - would you like that? Instead, show more concern! Sometimes to express themselves, they shout in public and their parents try to calm them down - instead of looking at them and giving weird looks - why not try and help or simply just walk away treating it like a tantrum of a normal child? )

Temple's autism allows her to be more in touch with her senses and hence is able to form pictures in her mind.

Temple came up with reasons for cattle’s behavior and to come up with a behavioral tool that is still used today in the cattle industry. - how to calm them down, and how to make them feel less threatened etc

Throughout the movie, each time she accomplishes something. I felt like clapping my hands in glee and cheering for her. I know its hard and I am so glad that she walked through it and made it work for her.
The quote still stays in my mind each time she meets with an obstacle, she envisions it to be a door and says " A door opened and I went through it"

And I am so touched where she commended her mother. (In the last part, Grandin points out that her mother is the true hero and her success came about because her mother did not give up on her.) This is the strongest and most meaningful message within Temple Grandin – parents of autistic children should not give up hope! Sure, raising an autistic child can be a tremendous and frustrating challenge. Just because a child has autism does not mean that they are not talented or worthy of a normal life. Autistic children think and learn differently than other children, and that needs to be taken into consideration by parents and teachers.

I still remembered when I was volunteering with APSN and COH. One of them completed a marathon! I was so proud of him. It was like re-watching the korean movie- Marathon (Hangul: 말아톤, Maraton) (2005) is a South Korean movie based on the true story of Bae Hyeong-jin, a runner who happens to have autism - another excellent movie which till date, is such a great encouragement to me.

if you want to watch the full movie: here it is: Part 1

To end off, should you get impacted by these movies.
Here are 2 places where I know you can volunteer in Singapore for Autistic children

Christian Outreach of the Handicap




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