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Temple Grandin

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Temple Grandin

  Advance Praise for The Stories I Tell My Friends

  “Anita Lesko has given us a rare inside view of what makes our hero Temple Grandin tick. A must-read!”

  — Joanne Lara

  Autism Movement Therapy &

  Autism Works Now

  “Temple Grandin has been a wonderful trailblazer for everyone impacted by autism. Anita Lesko’s book on Temple is a must-read for people who want to understand and accept those with autism. Anita’s writings and daily work make her an ideal author for this important book.”

  — Scott Badesch


  Autism Society of America

  Bethesda, MD


  All marketing and publishing rights guaranteed to and reserved by:

  721 W. Abram Street

  Arlington, TX 76013

  (800) 489-0727

  (817) 277-0727

  (817) 277-2270 (fax)

  E-mail: [email protected]

  © 2018 Anita Lesko

  Cover & interior design by John Yacio III

  All rights reserved.

  Printed in the USA.

  No part of this product may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of Future Horizons, Inc., except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews or unless noted within the book.

  The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect those of Future Horizon, Inc.

  ISBN: 9781941765609


  I dedicate this book to every single person on the autism spectrum. It is my hope that this book changes the world’s view of autism. It will be a much better place for all of us.

  — Anita Lesko


  Foreword by Mick Jackson

  Introduction by Temple Grandin

  Introduction by Anita Lesko

  Chapter 1: Filming of the HBO Movie Temple Grandin

  Chapter 2: The Temple Machine

  Chapter 3: Down by the Seashore

  Chapter 4: Christmas Memories

  Chapter 5: Crazy Funny Stuff & Childhood Memories

  Chapter 6: Thrilling Events in Temple’s Life!

  Chapter 7: Getting Bullied & Teased in High School

  Chapter 8: Crazy About Horses!

  Chapter 9: Dating!

  Chapter 10: Sports & Outdoor Activities

  Chapter 11: Mother Nature

  Chapter 12: Driving Miss Temple

  Chapter 13: Work Hard to Succeed

  Chapter 14: Things That Make Temple Cry

  Chapter 15: Temple’s Dream Vacation—Total NASA Geek-Out

  Chapter 16: Fear of Flying

  Chapter 17: Getting in the Back Door at Colorado State University

  Chapter 18: Jim Uhl the Building Contractor—A Big Door Opens

  Chapter 19: Temple’s Life at Home

  Chapter 20: On the Job

  Chapter 21: Temple’s Friend Mark

  Chapter 22: The 9/11 Disaster

  Chapter 23: Recent Trips

  Chapter 24: Looking Through the Lens

  Chapter 25: Temple’s Graduate Students “In Their Own Words”

  Chapter 26: Temple’s Big Message

  Chapter 27: Being Different—Really Different!


  Special Thanks

  About the Author


  by Mick Jackson

  It isn’t at all easy to describe Temple Grandin to someone who hasn’t heard of her, or who doesn’t know anything about her, her life, or her career. Where would you start? Where would you stop? The world that Temple inhabits is complex and surprising and multi-faceted in a way that defies any easy summarization. As does Temple herself. And, in the world of Hollywood movie pitches, for example, if you were trying to enthuse some unaware studio executive with the idea of telling her life story, there isn’t an immediately promising “log-line” that you could start with. (“I have a great movie idea for you!” “What’s it about?” “It’s about a woman with autism who designs slaughterhouses.” “Oh.”)

  Fortunately, there were people at HBO Films who did want to know more and who, in 2010, eventually green-lighted a movie about her extraordinary life. I was the lucky director given the task of directing it and telling her story, and that is how I got to find out about and meet this remarkable woman. Now, through the somewhat unexpected success of that movie and through Temple’s many books about herself and her work, many more people have found a source of great inspiration, hope, and joy in her storied career and her struggles.

  And yet, in the wildly heterogeneous universe that is Temple, there is always more to discover.

  In this delightful book, Anita Lesko has had the happy idea of letting Temple and many of the people in her life, including her students, sit down and tell stories—stories not just about her and her life, but how their own lives were changed by her. In a refreshingly direct and breezy conversational style, Ms. Lesko patiently listens and probes. If the questions are particularly relevant, this is because Anita herself has autism, diagnosed late in life, and has shared many of the same struggles and personal triumphs as her subject. She makes an empathetic and engaged interviewer.

  What comes through most strikingly in these stories is a great sense of both fun and purpose. Through all the tales of hardship, misunderstanding, prejudice, and bullying, Temple’s wit and humor shine through, often with a child-like glee in the telling of the details. If many of the difficulties and hardships she encountered seem cruel and overwhelming, they are mastered and ultimately surmounted by sheer force of will and perseverance. Temple tells, with passion, of forcing herself as a child to learn how to do the things that were most difficult, over and over, until the fear of them lost its power. In this, she had the support and encouragement of her mother and others close to her. Her advice to parents of children with autism spectrum disorders like her own is simple and direct: “Push them out into the world. Get them out doing things, even if they are hard. Don’t leave them isolated indoors with a TV or lap-top. You get better and better by getting out there and doing stuff. You learn everything by doing.”

  Reading the accounts of those who shared Temple’s brave encounters with the world, her sense of achievement in seeing things that others failed to notice, her greater and greater contribution to our understanding of animal welfare, and her fierce mission to explain and to teach her students, one is aware, not just of the love and admiration she generates in everyone who comes into contact with her, but their sense of awe, too. Her pioneering achievements in animal science and her determination to engage with the world on her own terms—despite all odds—are indeed awesome.

  In 2010, Time magazine included Temple in its list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Reading these stories that Anita Lesko has put together so well, you can see why. And you can certainly sense that awe, too.

  — Mick Jackson

  Pacific Palisades, California

  November 2017


  by Temple Grandin

  My Friend Anita Lesko

  I’d like you to meet my friend, Anita. She was the perfect person to write this book. Her path to a successful career was similar to mine, but had some important differences, too. This background, along with our many conversations, gives her a great perspective for telling this story. Anita was diagnosed with autism later in life—she always knew she was different, but she didn’t know why. Growing up in a family with little money presented many obstacles for her to overcome. Today, through hard work and perseverance, she is a successful nurse anesthetist. She is the doctor’s choice for anesthesia when there is a complex brain surgery; they want her
because she is the best!

  Both Anita and I love horses. As a teenager, she cleaned stalls for riding lessons. We both learned the value of hard work in the horse barn. Anita advanced all the way to show jumping; a great example that hard work and perseverance lead to meeting your goals.

  Her next job, a concession stand at an ice arena, taught her how to talk to people. Restless, she wanted to perform more exciting jobs. She learned how to operate the spotlights, and after a lot of pestering of the management, got to drive the Zamboni. Late at night, Anita got free skating practice time on the rink. Anita and I were both expert finders of the “back door” into many successful pursuits. I painted signs for local businesses and did carpentry work. Freelance sign painting morphed into designing livestock corrals. I started my business one small project at a time, and so did she.

  Anita has so much to be proud of, such as paying off student loans and medical expenses for her parents. For years, half her nurse anesthetist salary went to paying back all her loans. Today, they are fully paid. She married an Aspie after learning she’s on the autism spectrum, presenting a great example that people on the spectrum can and do form deep relationships. Her next goal is to teach others how to be a nurse anesthetist.

  So many of Anita’s qualities make her a great careerwoman and author, but also an excellent friend. I have enjoyed working with her on her journey to create this book, and I would choose no one else to tell you the stories in these pages aside from my friend, Anita Lesko.

  — Temple Grandin, Professor

  Department of Animal Science

  Colorado State University


  by Anita Lesko

  Hero. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of a hero is:

  A: a mythological or legendary figure endowed with great strength or ability

  B: an illustrious warrior (illustrious- notably or brilliantly outstanding because of dignity or achievements or actions)

  C: a person admired for achievements and noble qualities

  D: one who shows great courage

  There is one person who immediately comes to mind when I read the definition of the word hero: Temple Grandin. Her qualities far exceed the definition above—it would have to include: philanthropist, humanitarian, revered, strong integrity, honest, selfless, loyal, trustworthy, humble, and so much more.

  On March 28, 2017 I had the distinct honor to speak at the United Nations Headquarters for World Autism Awareness Day. I have autism, diagnosed at age fifty. During my presentation, in referring to individuals with autism, I used the idiom “still water runs deep.” I talked about how individuals with autism might not show it on the surface, but there’s a lot of emotion going on inside. Temple is just like the rest of us in this regard. She might not necessarily demonstrate it with facial expressions, but her emotions and passions run the depth of the deepest oceans.

  I am a good friend of Temple’s, and this book was born from that relationship. I first met Temple back in 2011 when she contacted me asking permission to include me in a new book she was working on, Different … Not Less. I am featured in Chapter Seven: “Nurse Anesthetist/Military Aviation Photojournalist.” We would periodically talk on the phone, and the conversation would always contain the topic of working and jobs. In 2013, I had organized an autism conference and invited Temple to be the keynote speaker. That was when I finally met her in person. We continued with phone calls every now and then, just to say hello and see how the other was doing.

  One day back in early March 2017, I called Temple just to say hi. She was at an airport, and early into the conversation a door alarm suddenly started sounding right nearby where Temple was sitting. Temple blurted out, “Good grief! A door alarm just went off! I’ve got to get off the phone!” She obviously couldn’t continue the conversation, so the call was quickly ended. The next day I was at work when she called me back. Fortunately, I was between cases and had a bit of time to chat. “Hi, Anita, it’s Temple Grandin.” I always get a kick out of it when she says her last name. How many people do you know named Temple? Temple was in good form, and was telling me something she found extremely entertaining. She got into quite the laughing spell and inflicted it onto me, so we were both laughing heartily! After we said goodbye, I lingered where I was, resting my elbows on the window sill in the hallway of the operating room and gazing out at the rainy day. As I turned to go back to my room and get ready for the next case, I was chuckling to myself as I reminisced our fun conversation. I wished the rest of the world could see that part of Temple, the “real person” side of her. Suddenly, it hit me. The entire world could get to see Temple like they’ve never seen her before; I could write a book about her! I knew other books have been written about Temple, but this one would be very different. This would be a person with autism writing about another person with autism. We have a lot in common. In fact, in the afterword, I’ll share with you my personal discovery that resulted from this incredible journey.

  Later that afternoon, I called Temple to ask her what she thought about me writing a book about her. She loved the idea! I sent an email to Teresa Corey, Temple’s liaison, to toss the idea at her, too. She reminded me that there are already several biographies about Temple, and proceeded to suggest a book collecting Temples memoirs, all her antics, and stories she shares with those closest to her. I was thrilled, and my mind was already churning with ideas.

  When I first set out to begin interviewing Temple, I thought it would only entail the conversations she and I had, but this experience unfolded into something far greater than I ever expected, and revealed things about Temple that no one knows. Opportunities arose which enabled me to meet the famous Emmy Award-winning Hollywood director, Mick Jackson, who directed the HBO movie Temple Grandin. I got to meet Temple’s present and former graduate students, and get their thoughts and feelings about Temple and the impact she had on their lives. I had the pleasure of meeting those people closest to Temple, with whom she’s been friends for decades. I was present at her seventieth birthday celebration at Colorado State University, when she revealed that she’s fully funded eighteen graduate students to date. I rode with her in her SUV from the CSU campus out to the farm where she teaches her students the cattle handing skills she’s mastered. I’ve seen Temple speak at autism conferences, but getting to see her working the cattle was a highlight of my life. She was in her element. I had the opportunity to speak with Jim Uhl, a key person in Temple’s life, who she met just after graduating from Arizona State University. It’s been a wild and exciting ride!

  Throughout the pages of this book, you will get to know Temple like you’ve never seen her. I’ve got some news that will knock your socks off—Temple has been sharing stories with me that she’s never told anyone. You’ll hear about one of her great passions, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), astronauts, and even how the Playtex company is involved in it all. You will find out her deepest thoughts, what makes her cry, her happiest memories, and her biggest dreams. Everything is in her own words, from her childhood Christmas memories, to the most thrilling thing she’s ever done. All our conversations were recorded, as I didn’t want to miss a single word, so everything is written like Temple said it.

  When you are around Temple, you are guaranteed to learn something new each day—probably more than one thing! After each time we’d talk, there would typically be several things she mentioned that I had to look up online. I’ve learned a lot, not only about her life, but about life in general. Temple is like a walking search engine; she reads constantly, keeps up-to-date on world affairs, technology, and simply everything. She would make an excellent world news correspondent. She mentioned that at every airport she’s at, which is multiple times per week, she heads to whatever shop she can find that sells magazines, newspapers, and books, and loads up on all the educational material to read on the plane. When was the last time you purchased a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Discover, just t
o read in your spare time? Temple doesn’t leave any stone unturned: she’s a human dynamo, and a tough act to follow! Does she ever focus on the fact that she has autism? Hardly. She truly has broken all the barriers in that aspect, and getting to know her should inspire everyone on the autism spectrum to not focus on the autism, but instead focus on new goals you set for yourself, and follow your passions and dreams.

  I’m the luckiest person on Earth to know Temple so well. She gave me permission to write this tell-all book about her, so by the time you’re finishing up the last page, you will feel like Temple is your friend, too. As you learn about Temple as a person, you’ll be shocked, surprised, delighted, and inspired. Her many facets reach far beyond what anyone has ever seen.

  The purpose of this book goes beyond getting to know just how great Temple Grandin is. It serves to show the world how truly human an individual with autism can be. I want it to break down all barriers for individuals with autism, as this proves the depth of emotion and passion that lies beneath the surface of autism. Temple’s wish is that it serves to inspire everyone with autism to get out there and “just do” the things they aspire to; she wants everyone to enjoy life and be successful, in whatever they choose to do!

  If everyone (not just those on the autism spectrum) lived their life like Temple does, the world would be a much better place. She maintains the highest level of integrity I have ever seen. She says it’s her responsibility to be the best role model possible, as she knows that millions of people look up to her. She’s always on her best behavior, as she is recognized wherever she goes. Temple is always happy to pose for photos, sign autographs, respond to fan mail with handwritten letters, and even take calls from fans. She’s world-famous, but you’d never know it when you are around her. She’s humble and talks to everyone with the same level of respect. She takes it all in stride.

  It’s time now to come along with me on this adventure and get to know your new friend, Temple Grandin!

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