Earlier this month we had a guest speaker Temple Grandin come speak for SAP Silicon Valley for the month of inclusion lecture series. Temple's talk affected me differently than the other speakers that we had. Temple told us things that I did not really want to hear. The struggles of living with autism. The struggle of fitting into our world. The world we have made. The world that needs to change in order to create and open doors for people with autism. She told us the story of her life.
My cell phone is constantly chiming me with meeting alerts, SAP wire posts, Twitter messages, emails being received, texts being sent. My normal brain (if there really is such a thing) knows how to naturally process and filter the information. It knows how to regulate my emotions and be more in tune to this world of ours. For people with autism, people like Temple, their brain is different. They cannot turn off and filter the noise. They overload. For Temple with a visual brain, she sees everything and her brain is clicking pictures and storing the information she receives. People with autism behave, think and react differently. And people who act and say things differently make us feel awkward.
When watching Temple speak, I could sense her nervousness of being on the stage. The way she struggled to understand the questions she was asked. I could see her anxiety about needing to catch the plane back home so that she would not be late to her class she had to teach the next day. And I felt embarrassed for her when she pronounced SAP like the plant fluid, not the acronym "S", "A", "P". I was thankful that the interviewer, Jose Velasco, did not correct her when she kept saying it wrong. But to tell you the truth there really no reason for me to feel sorry for her because Temple is way more accomplished and has impacted our world in so many more ways than I can ever hope to in my life.
Go ahead and google her. Or better yet, watch her movie and you will see all that she has done. Temple has advanced degrees, has written/published several books. a university professor, TED speaker and re-invented the cattle processing industry. Temple explained to us that because of the way her brain works, she could see the process differently than us. She understood what it was the cows were afraid of and how they needed to be treated. She had the courage and determination to create a better solution.
Temple was mocked. She was harassed and threatened. She had people throw animal parts and cow manure all over her truck. The rancher community was not comfortable with her in their world. I know I would have given up. Temple was not looking to win the popularity contest and she knew that she could not. Her goal was to get people to listen to her because she knew she was right. And she did it.
Temple's story made me aware of the barriers that we create. The truth is that we do exclude people different than us. What she has experienced makes me feel uncomfortable. Yet Temple is my hero. Temple has autism and she is different, but she is happy about herself. She knows her autism gave her the skills to do something with her life and she continues to want to share her story. We are lucky to have had a chance to hear it.
When asked what drives her she responded that she does not have the emotions to get sad or understand what it means when someone or something like a cow die but she does know that she wants to make a difference. She wants to be remembered for doing something. She wants to make a change in this world before she leaves it. And that is what she shared with us. Her story of how she did this.
We all need to open the door for not only people like Temple with autism, but others who are different and give everyone a chance to contribute, The key word here is inclusion. It's our responsibility to think about this. To talk to our children about these values. To have no tolerance for prejudice and exclusion. To stop placing road blocks and creating complicated processes for how to do things. To make things more simple. To change the status quo. And have the courage like Temple to pursue our passions because we know we have something to share. Thanks to Temple I got a chance to listen to her difficult story. I got to feel my uncomfortableness and question why. And I got a chance to see a person who really does serve as a role model for us all in looking at the world differently and doing our part as small or as big in making a difference.
Live the message
Accept and enjoy and open your heart to others who are different than you.