Asperger Syndrome: Temple Grandin’s Insight and Contribution

By: Sang Hyo Kim, Staff Editor

During the Fall 2013 semester, activist and bestselling author Temple Grandin, Ph.D, came to St. John’s University to talk to students, faculty, and administrators about the need to embrace children and young adults who have autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). While many people may think of autism as a single disorder in which individuals have an intellectual disability and unusual behaviors, autism is rather a spectrum of closely related disorders with a shared core set of symptoms. There are three different types of ASD’s: Autistic Disorder (what most people think of), Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). 1

Grandin was diagnosed with autism in 1950, when the term “autism spectrum disorder” was not yet coined. Although she looked like a normal child, Grandin had trouble interacting and socializing with others. With her strong affinity for rockets, electronic lab, and especially, animals, Grandin viewed the world differently from her non-autistic peers.2 It wasn’t until later that Grandin realized that she has Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). AS is a developmental disorder marked by a difficulty in the ability to communicate and socialize with others. It is known as the less severe form of autism. While those with Asperger’s Syndrome do not exhibit learning disabilities, which is common in patients with Autistic Disorder, they have problems with socializing and developing relationships.2 They may have a lack of rhythm, odd inflection, or monotone pitch in speech, and are isolated because of poor social skills and narrow interests.3 Symptoms of AS, such as uncoordinated motor skills, are exhibited during the first year of life.  However, experts at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London state that AS in children is not formally recognized until the demands of their environment increase, as may be the case when they leave primary and start secondary school.3

During her speech to the 1,250 guests at Carnesecca Arena, Grandin said, “Autism should not define us… but it can be used to our advantage.”4 She explained how visionaries from our world, such as Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, could have been on the autism spectrum.4 When we examine people with AS symptoms, they show obsessive interests toward a single object or topic. Though there is no definite proof that Einstein and Jobs had Asperger’s Syndrome, we see what Grandin is trying to say since these men, who have revolutionized our world, spent their life devoted to the field they were passionate about. Grandin, who was always fond of animals, went on to become a designer for livestock handling, a field not pursued in depth. Upon visiting her aunt’s ranch each summer, she was daunted by the brutal treatment of cattle, and was inspired to create new facilities for the proper treatment. She has earned her Masters degree in animal science. Grandin currently teaches Animal Science at the Colorado State University and is the author of a best-selling book on autism, The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s.4

Grandin’s visit to our school during Founder’s week, which is dedicated to deepening the University community’s knowledge and understanding of St. John’s University’s Vincentian heritage, truly touched upon our school’s goals of compassion and empathy. Grandin has now become an inspiration to the world. She raises awareness of children and adults who have autistic spectrum disorders and teaches ways to respond to these individuals. As a society, we should not push away individuals who may be clumsy or may appear different, but give them the chance to seek their full potential. By doing so, we will provide AS individuals with an environment to flourish and their work might have an ever-lasting impact like that of activist Temple Grandin.


  1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASDs). CDC. Accessed January 11, 2014.
  2. Temple Grandin on Autism, Death, Celibacy and Cows. The New York Times. Published April 12th, 2013. Accessed January 11, 2014.
  3. Asperger Syndrome Fact Sheet. NIH. Web. 11/29/13. Accessed January 11, 2014.
  4. Office of Marketing and Communications. Activist and Bestselling Author Temple Grandin, Ph.D., Highlights Founder’s Weeks 2013. St.John’s University. Published September 30th, 2013. January 11, 2014.[email protected]/about_us/vincentian_heritage/pr_vin_130926_temple.xml
Published by Rho Chi Post
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