The autistic scientist and speaker will host a lecture at York College Thursday night.


When a student asked animal science professor and autism advocate Temple Grandin what it meant to be labeled a hero, she responded, the way many would.

"I look at it as a responsibility," Grandin said, before quickly joking about the one time she hated it.

"One time, I was at the Denver airport, and as I was in a restroom, someone said that to me and I said, 'No! Not in here!'" Grandin said.

The influential author and speaker visited a local equestrian facility Thursday to take a look at the animals and meet with several York College students before a sold-out lecture at the college that night.

Grandin toured the EquiTeam Support Services facility in Dallastown, which provides outpatient psychotherapy services to people in York County with the assistance of horses.

Grandin’s visit: Grandin spent time in the stable before heading to a pavilion where she examined a course led by Ellie Williams, executive director of EquiTeam, and Maggie Wagman, a nonverbal autistic client of the organization. Grandin spent close to an hour at the pavilion, engaging with staff before a question-and-answer session.

Along with her executive responsibilities at EquiTeam, Williams teaches a course on animal-assisted therapies at York College. Her students had the opportunity to ask Grandin questions, although the questions had less to do with her research and were more about her life.

York College Q&A: When a student asked about the stigma regarding autism, Grandin said the negative view of the condition affects the way autistic people look at themselves. "Some people don't want the label," she said, and made a loose comparison to a certain animal group.

"Wolves are less social than dogs — you could say they're anti-social," Grandin said. "But wolves know how to pay attention."

She noted that people need to stop looking at the condition as anything other than a slight difference between any two people. "It's normal variation, not a deficiency," she said.

Grandin said there is still wide discrimination in the workplace for those with autism, giving several examples of people in the banking industry, law enforcement and the military who she said were discriminated against or fired after disclosing their condition.

"If you're in the military, you better not disclose," she said. "They won't touch you."

Grandin also touched on her belief that young people need to be more physically active to discover more about the world around them.

"My concern with young people is that they're not doing hands-on things," she said.

Grandin said she refused to use all of her talks about autism "because we're everywhere." She claimed half of Google employees she encountered when visiting the campus are "on the spectrum" of autism.

When one student asked about the adversity she overcame, Grandin immediately brought up sexism as a main factor. "I had to be five times better than the guys to even get recognized," she said.

The movie "Hidden Figures" struck a nerve with her, she said, because it had to do with women who had to go above and beyond any of the men to get a seat at the table.

"I had to prove beyond any doubt that I could do my job," she said.

York College Talk: In Grandin's first visit to York College, she said students can expect to hear her talk about "different kinds of minds."

She said there are learners of all forms, visual, mathematical and auditory learners.

"I'm going to talk about how they can all work together," she said, adding that she also would pose a question to the audience regarding the most respected innovators in history.

"What would happen to Edison today?" Grandin asked. "Thomas Edison was a high school dropout who was labeled hyperactive and addled by his teachers. What would happen to him today?"

She posed the same question about Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs.

"It's a real concern," she said.

What does Grandin think would happen to people like Edison, Einstein and Jobs?

"They'd be shunned into special ed and not end up doing nothing," she said.

Williams enjoyed the engagement by Grandin, and referenced a moment she said will stay with her far beyond the visit.

“I really loved when she went in to see all the horses. She just loved petting them," Williams said. "She would be chatting, and then she would stop talking and would [focus] on the horse. It was like a sensory relaxation for her.

"I'm going to have this envisioned in my mind forever," she said.

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