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Autism and Employment, with Dr. Temple Grandin | EDB 94


Hello there, I’m Dr. Hackie Reitman of DifferentBrains.org. Welcome to another episode of Exploring Different
Brains. Boy, are we lucky today? We have for our interview, none other than
the rock star of all of autism, our friend Temple Grandin. Temple Grandin, who I’ve been fortunate enough
to share the stage with speaking the USAAA, and at the AADMD. She has done so much for all of us whose brains
might be different. She’s an extraordinary woman who happens to
have autism, whose life story, books, and advocacy, have done so much for mainstreaming
the acceptance of people on the spectrum. Recently, I was at an airport here in South
Florida, and so was Temple Grandin. We were both on a flight going out to Colorado,
and as luck would have it, the flight was delayed. Temple was so nice, and so cooperative because
we turned this into an interview for Exploring Different Brains. Temple Grandin is very focused on the importance
of employment, getting a job, responsibility. The first question I asked her was how do
we advance the job skills of those with autism? Yeah well I’m seeing in just the last few
years, probably 3 or 4 years, there is more problems with a lack of learning job skills. And when mothers come up and talk to me at
conferences and their child is fully verbal maybe 18, 21, 22 years old I’m kind of seeing
two paths. A good path where they’ve learned work skills
and they’ve had jobs before they’ve graduated from high school, going out there and doing
quite well on getting a career. And the other path I’ve seen is the kid becoming
a recluse in his room playing video games 8 hours a day and that’s not a good path to
go down and it’s really difficult to wean them off the video games, has to be done really
slowly and replaced with something else. And one of the things I’m going to suggest
is auto-mechanics and diesel-mechanics because there’s a huge shortage right now of a mechanical
skill trades people. The other thing in careers is developing the
kind of skills that work for that particular kid. I was an extreme visual thinker. So, my work with cattle is the field of industrial
design, so that’s the art side of engineering. Then you have another kind of autistic brain
that is the pattern thinker, the mathematical thinker–computer programmers, engineers. And the third type is the person that is the
word thinker. They’re going to be good at a job that requires
language. And there’s evidence based for this and
I cover it in my book on the autistic brain which you can pick up online. You know I do talks and a lot of things in
the autism world but for years I’ve worked in construction and the cattle world. I’ve been out to Silicon Valley, to tech
companies and I see programmers out there that I know are on the spectrum. I see engineering majors that are just enrolling
into the university that I know are on the spectrum and they are undiagnosed. So as I go back and forth between the different
worlds, I’m seeing an old hippie guy who’s the head of maintenance for a large meat packing
plant and they’re not able to replace him. And what really bothers me is to see smart
kids end up playing video games in the basement when they ought to be fixing Tyson plants. Tyson’s hiring right now and United Airlines
is also hiring mechanics right now; there’s a shortage. What is your perception of the overall spectrum
of all neurodiversity. Well one of the problems with autism diagnosis,
especially since they’ve changed the guidelines in 2013 is that you now have a huge spectrum
that goes from Einstein and someone who should be working in Silicon Valley to somebody who
can’t dress themselves and I’m seeing more problems when I talk to moms of getting kind
of a handicap mentality, even when you have a child that’s absolutely fully verbal when
he’s a teenager. Those use to be called Asperger’s before and
I’m seeing a lot of problems with being overprotected, they’re not learning basic skills like shaking
hands and shopping. Five years ago I would’ve never have dreamed
that I would’ve had to talk about learning shopping. That is something I learned when I was seven
years old. I got 50 cents a week for allowance and knew
I could buy five comics with that or ten candy bars with it, and if I wanted that 69 cent
airplane I had to save for two weeks. That taught some basic money skills. Where do you think autism ranks, so to speak,
with other neurodiversities such as dyslexia, ADHD, and then mental health issues. Are there a lot of comorbitities? Well there’s a lot of crossover genetically. I’ve actually looked at some genetic research,
ADHD and fully verbal autism, there is crossover with some OCD, dyslexia. They’re not the same things but there’s crossover. I took this logic class when you have the
vin diagrams where they over-lap like the olympic rings, its kind of like vin diagrams. There is an intersection where something like
OCD or ADHD over-laps with autism. Now the first chapter in the Aspertools book
I made anxiety because I think that rules us all. Where does anxiety play a role here? I had horrible problems with panic attacks
to anxiety and they started at puberty and I’ve been on anti-depressant medication for
the last 35 years. It saved me and it’s very important to use
low doses. In my book “Thinking in Pictures”–which you
can easily pick up online–I describe my personal experiences with a low dose of anti-depressants. The mistake that doctors make, prozac or zoloft
and other anti-depressants, is too high a dose. Those label doses are for depression. You give too high a dose, you’re going to
get agitation and insomnia. They are raising doses when they should be
lowering, but low dose of anti-depressant medication absolutely saved me. What do you think of the recent studies showing
the re-wiring of the brain with neuroplasticity with simple things like diet and exercise. Well there’s a lot of research that shows
that exercise is good for the brain. You want evidence based, you can get evidence
based on that and I do a hundred sit-ups everyday on the bed and it has really helped me with
sleep. The one thing that I’ve observed since new
guidelines came out in 2013 in the DSM is more problems with kids not learning shopping
and basic skills and working skills. So prior to 2013, a child would be diagnosed
with Aspergers if they were socially awkward with no speech delaying, and autism had to
have speech delay and now its all just one big great spectrum. And I’m seeing worse problems getting the
handicap mentality with things such as never learning shopping or not learning working
skills because the individuals that learn to work before they graduate from high school,
I think they are having a much better prognosis. And I’m referring to the fully verbal kids,
that can have normal speech and can read and write at an adult level. What’s the biggest single thing that parents
can do differently, you would say? My mother had a really good sense of just
how much to stretch me slightly outside my comfort zone so I’d keep learning and doing
new things. It was her idea to have me go out to my aunt’s
ranch and after I’d done my aunt’s ranch for two summers she said, “well lets do
something else and we’ll do the aunt’s ranch for half the summer and we’ll do an
internship at a research lab for the other half of the summer.” Also, I was an aid for a child with autism,
another half of the summer. Always stretching, she never threw me into
the deep end of the pool, but always stretching and doing new things. I was hostess at her parties with I was 7,
8 years old. She got me a sewing job when I was 13 years
old, and when I went away to my boarding school I ran the horse barn, cleaning stalls everyday,
putting the horses in and out, feeding the horses. And now, when I look back on it, riding the
horses was really fun, but actually the most important thing for my development was running
the horse barn and learning how to work. Tell us about how you learned how to drive. Well that was out on my aunt’s ranch and
we had to pick the mail up everyday and it was 3 miles up to the mailbox on a dirt road
and 3 miles back. So I did 200 miles on dirt roads before I
did any traffic. So what I recommend on driving is burn up
a tank of gas, in a totally safe place, in back country roads, in big stadium parking
lots, and even before driver’s ed. Because driver’s ed throws these kids into
it way too quickly. They need to completely learn how to operate
the car before they have to deal with traffic. The interaction with other human beings can
be a limiting factor. Well when I was a young child, my mother made
me be the hostess at her parties. Made me greet the guests. Kids in my generation were taught social skills
in a much more systematic way. You were taught how to shake hands. I’m saying too many kids today at fully
verbal, nobody’s instructed them just how far apart to stand, the exact way to shake
hands. Now I just got back from Brazil and they do
a lot of hugging and kissing, Well you’ve got to learn when exactly that is appropriate. You don’t do it the first time you meet
the person. What advice would you have for the adolescent
who’s first getting into dating in his teens, or her teens? Well I think that where they’re going to
be the most successful is where there is a shared interest. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have
been in successful marriages, it would be two computer people who met each other at
a science fiction meeting. But the shared interests is a really good
way to find people that you’re gonna have a relationship with. What can DifferentBrains.org do to help you,
not that you need any help, achieve your mission and your goals? My big concerns I’ve got right now, is I’m
seeing a lot of talented kids aren’t learning just normal skills, like shopping. You know, the kid that’s 13 years old or seventeen
years old has never gone to the store and shopped. And when I go back and forth between tech
industry and the cattle industry, and then I do an autism meeting, I see old people–welders–
I’ve worked with working on equipment in these big beef plants, that I know are on the spectrum. Some of these people own metal fabrication
companies. You go the computer companies, and I see people
there that I know are on the spectrum. So what I’m saying is, one kind of socially
awkward guy gets addicted to video games, becomes a recluse in the house, the other
one that learns how to work before he graduates form high school and is doing real well. When I was fifteen, sixteen years old, I was
cleaning horse stalls every day. And when I look back on that now, one of the
things I learned is that I learned how to work cleaning those horse stalls. And just in the last five or six years, I’m
finding that the learning how to work while you’re still in high school. really important. I had nine stalls to clean every single day. I put the horses in and out of the barn, and
I fed them. So the biggest single problem you feel now
is the social awkwardness, and the not working, not holding a job, not learning the basic
skills of life. What I’m seeing is some moms having a lot
of problems with letting go. When I talk to one mom about her thirteen
year old maybe going shopping for the first time to buy some printer paper, she started
breaking down and crying, saying she couldn’t let go, and all I suggested was buying something
at the office supply store. I’m not suggesting anything dangerous. I’m just suggesting the most normal safe thing. Basic shopping– Basic shopping! I mean five years ago, I never dreamed I would
have to talk about shopping. But now I’m finding fully verbal, smart kids,
that look like a junior version of somebody that oughta’ be working for Microsoft or Google,
and they haven’t gone shopping. And they also never had a job. They need to learn that discipline. They gotta’ be there every day and do the
job. When I was fifteen, sixteen years old, I cleaned
nine stalls every day. Horse stalls. I just watched you as one of your admirers
came up, and her daughter wanted to shake hands and was having difficulty. And you were mentoring her right there on
the spot. And then she went away for a little bit, and
she came back and asked for a picture, and she spoke up louder, and she learned how to
shake hands better. You’ve got to demonstrate to these children
how to shake hands, and greet people, like teaching somebody in a foreign country. You see, in my generation in the 50s, social
skills like shaking hands was done in a much more social structured way. And they used the method I call teachable
moments. For example, if I stirred a drink with my
finger, mother didn’t say no, she’d say use the spoon. She gave the instruction instead of saying
no. And you see, our hero at Different Brains,
Temple Grandin, who is to neurodiversity as Elvis was to music is so inspiring. Here she is at the airport, taking time to
interview with Different Brains here, mentoring people who are coming up to her, and she’s
bigger than life. And we’ll be speaking together out in Portland
at the USAAA. That’s right. Yep, I’m really looking forward to coming
to that. And I just wanna see these kids be everything
that they can be. And I’m seeing more problems today, especially
with fully verbal kids who are not learning basic skills. Shake hands with people, shopping. And their prognosis is gonna be a whole lot
better if they have two real jobs, under their belt, before they graduate from high school. Another example was a girl who worked several
summers at Dairy Queen, and then she learned about nursing. And she’s gotten married and has a successful
nursing career. Thank you so much! Thank you for everything. So that’s it for another episode of Exploring
Different Brains. Thanks to Dr. Temple Grandin, for doing this
great spur of the moment interview. For more on Dr. Grandin–in case you’ve been
living under a rock because she’s so famous–but you can check out her website at templegrandin.com. Thank you!

3 Replies to “Autism and Employment, with Dr. Temple Grandin | EDB 94”

  • Thankyou Dr. Grandin. I actually had a few non-consecutive summer jobs that I got let go from during highschool. I had one school job that I also got let go from because of stress (up-scale restaurant work). I didn't shop for my parents, until college (mom did all of the shopping). I had to learn to shop for my self (unsuccessfully at first, then I learned not to be so perfectionist about it). I had some jobs in high school (that I was universally dropped from). I still ended up being the "kid" that is addicted to video games and the social internet/tv tropes the website and working a part time job (I got it using social services. I was afraid I couldn't get it anywhere else). Even after graduating college, I still have trouble with looking for jobs. I studied philosophy until I realized I was bad at it, then I studied American Studies. I struggle with job searching. My parent's recently told me I just had to be good at the job I have, because I was beating myself up about "not being able to escape" my job. According to Jaron Lanier the social internet, and even Google is designed to addict us (and also turn ourselves against each other), and video games are the same way (Skinner boxes). Yeah, I don't know…I guess I'll just keep doing my job for now. Thank you Dr. Grandin,
    I hope this wasn't too much diarrhea of the "mind".

  • Nobody apreciates mechanics. It's dirty. The owners are control cunts. Wants everything done perfect and immediately. I'm 42 and have been diagnosed a month ago. I suffered depression since 8, taking anti depressions fuked up my life straight into prison. Sorry but this woman chats shit the government feds her. ⚁ years now I smoke weed and I don't get depressed, no angst, sleep proper. Don't trust any government drugs.

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