Cover Image - A Chat With Dr. Temple Grandin | Spectrumly Speaking Ep. 100

A Chat With Dr. Temple Grandin | Spectrumly Speaking ep. 100



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(42 mins) In this episode, hosts Haley Moss and Dr. Lori Butts celebrate 100 episodes of Spectrumly Speaking by welcoming Dr. Temple Grandin! Dr. Grandin of course is a world renowned autism self-advocate, author, and speaker. She is also a prominent proponent for the humane treatment of livestock for slaughter and author of more than 60 scientific papers on animal behavior.

For more information about Dr. Grandin, visit:

For more information about her non-autism work, visit:


Spectrumly Speaking is the podcast dedicated to women on the autism spectrum, produced by Different Brains®. Every other week, join our hosts Haley Moss (an autism self-advocate, attorney, artist, and author) and Dr. Lori Butts (a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, and licensed attorney) as they discuss topics and news stories, share personal stories, and interview some of the most fascinating voices from the autism community.

For more about Haley, check out her website: And look for her on Twitter: For more about Dr. Butts, check out her website:

Have a question or story for us? E-mail us at





HALEY MOSS (HM): Hello, and welcome to Spectrumly Speaking. I’m Haley Moss, an attorney, author, artist and I’m also autistic, and today I am joined here by my co-host…


DR LORI BUTTS (LB): Hi! I’m Dr. Lori Butts. I’m a psychologist and attorney.


HM: How ya doing?


LB: Good! How about yourself?


HM: All good. Somehow, we are just chugging along. I don’t know how it’s no longer March at this point I feel like. I feel like it’s been March for you know couple months now, but apparently, it’s not.


LB: Right.


HM: I just, tying up some writing projects, all sorts of fun stuff over here.


LB: Great. Great.


HM: What about you?


LB: Working, telehealth… and doing everything via teleconferencing. So, it’s a busy time but it’s good.


HM: I feel like everything is still over Zoom.


LB: It is, it is.


HM: And I’m sick of it.


HM: I’m not sick of it. I have to say I’m not. So, I get you know it gets a little tiring during the day, but I don’t, I don’t mind it.


HM: I feel kind of similar so like what I’ve noticed is people have stopped following the dress codes for Zoom at this point. Because I’m used to all the attorneys being like business casual, business professional, now everyone’s basically like in t-shirts and pajamas and showing off their bedroom and I’m like okay. Everyone has hit that point.


LB: Yeah, I don’t know about that. That seems a little inappropriate.


HM: We’re not all in court so it’s okay.


LB: Right, right.


HM: For court it definitely matters.


DR TEMPLE GRANDIN (TG): I was listening to your conversation about the attire and my computer is in the kitchen, but I really try to keep the cleaned up and I have on work attire at least on the top half. I think there’s a certain discipline that for me getting up and getting dressed for work helps my attitude too.


LB: Absolutely


HM: Definitely.


TG: They don’t have to be my best work clothes, but have on clothes that I’d go see a client in.


HM: That makes a lot of sense.


LB: Exactly.


TG: Well in my field it wouldn’t be, its business, it’s more business casual because I’m out in plants and construction sites and things like that, but I saw somebody in their underwear at one time. You’ve got to be kidding.


LB: [Laughs.]


HM: [Laughs.] What a world. I think we’re all trying to cope with this changing landscape of virtual. So as much as things have been changing in our world we have one thing that’s a consistent and I know Dr. Butts and I could speak to this is, is that “Spectrumly Speaking” is probably one of the highlights of what we do in our personal and professional lives and we’re celebrating 100 episodes!


So, to celebrate 100 episodes today we have a very special guest if you’ve been listening in a little bit today you probably already know but we have with us Dr. Temple Grandin and Dr. Grandin and of course is a world-renowned Autism self-advocate, author and speaker. She’s also a prominent proponent for the Humane Treatment of Livestock for Slaughter and authored more than 60 scientific papers on animal behavior. We are so honored to have you Dr. Grandin and welcome to the show! It’s really, really great to be here. Thank you for having me.


HM: Thank you for joining us. Honestly this is really, really exciting and I’ve been looking forward to this the entire week so thank you for joining us!


LB: Thank you very much!


HM: Of course, they get everybody excited and because we, if you follow tradition around here, we always like to begin by asking people a little bit about their involvement in the community. Can you share with our audience about how you received your Autism diagnosis?


TG: Well, I was 73 just week ago and…


LB: Happy Birthday!


HM: Happy Birthday!


TG: 1949 when I was diagnosed nobody hardly knew what Autism was, I was taken to a neurologist who said I had brain damage because they didn’t know what else to call it. Found out I did not have epilepsy, I was not deaf, but fortunately referred me to a really good speech therapy school, two teachers just taught in their home. So, I got excellent on early intervention, so I can’t emphasize how important that was, and I had no speech until age four. When I was three years old, I was completely non-verbal and looked pretty severe but there was no evidence of seizures.


HM: I didn’t start talking until I was four either but definitely a different time period for me. So, I was diagnosed in 1997 so a little bit of a different world.


TG: Yeah that’s right.


LB: A lot of a different world. Yes. Dr. Grandin Can you speak a lot about the value of mentors? Can you speak about the role of mentors to you when you were growing up?


TG: Yes, I had a very, very good science teacher. I was a student in high school that didn’t study wasn’t interested in studying. I actually got kicked out a ninth grade for throwing a book that was at a regular High School and ended up going to special boarding school for kids with problems and for the first three years I basically ran the schools horse barn, and I didn’t do any studying, but I cleaned 9 stalls every day. (11:57) My science teacher came on the scene and he started giving me really interesting projects to work on. I was really interested in optical illusions and, and what he did is make studying become a pathway to a goal. Instead of just studying for the sake of grades, you studied because that was the path to becoming a scientist. And he was a very influential mentor and I had him in high school and I was still seeing him on weekends when I was in college. And that was really good, he was a very super important mentor and he was shown beautifully in the HBO movie.


LB: Wow.


HM: That is really cool. I feel like I can ask a bunch of questions about the HBO movie but probably not, probably for a later time.


TG: Well the one thing about it, it shows my visual thinking completely accurately, exactly how I think it shows it right.


LB: Oh wow.


HM: So backwards in time, pre-movie what led you to decide to share your experience with Autism especially before society really knew what it was. So, we know now a lot of people definitely know what autism is and I’m sure the movie has to contribute to that too so.


TG: But in the early 80’s I was doing some talks at some occupational therapy conferences and the person that was organizing those conferences knew a small publisher, California Academic Therapy Publications, and they were interested in doing a book about my life and I’d be emerged as labeled autistic which (13:36) said was sort of unprecedented because it told what being autistic was like. That was published in the mid-80s and I was approached basically by the publisher to do that book. That’s how that started. And then in the mid-90s, I did Thinking in Pictures, again, after Oliver Sacks had written about me in the New Yorker Magazine, an agent named Pat approached me about doing a book and we got a proposal together. And that’s how Thinking in Pictures came about in the mid-90’s pictures.


LB: Can you talk a bit about how you’ve seen the Autism community recognize women on the Spectrum and where you think it can still improve?


TG: Well women don’t seem to have masks their symptoms more a lot of women on the autism spectrum of getting into bad marriages and relationship issues. You know, I have chosen to stay single, my life kind of revolves around intellectual complexity, not to run away from emotional complexity because I don’t understand it. But some of my best friends were kind of intellectual soul mates love to talk about scientific stuff. In my consulting business I really like solving problems. Somebody has a problem with their cattle I figure out how to solve it or parent may call me and say well what would you do about this child, a vacuum cleaner makes them scream what do I do about it, then I’ll tell him let the kid control it, where they turn that vacuum cleaner on and off, where they control that noise and they might end up liking the vacuum cleaner. Well that’s an example of problem solving, especially I’ve had, I’ve gotten emails where a Mom said my kid went to college because of your book. I mean that makes me really happy that a book that I wrote helped a kid be successful. You know, I really like hearing about successful outcomes. That’s also kind of an engineering mentality because I’ve worked in the construction industry for years. I would sell a job, do the drawings, I’d supervise construction then start equipment up and you got to finish projects, you have to make them work, an outcome, a decent outcome.


HM: That is super interesting and I know you were mentioning that you’re still working on more writing and you’re also still doing and working on consulting and what not, so, how are you doing with this whole pandemic and what tips do you have for folks on the spectrum that are having trouble with all the changes and uncertainty and obviously everybody’s routine kind of got threw off?


TG: Well on March 12th I had my last flight. And on March 13th they closed our University. All my travels been canceled all the way through December. I mean it’s another big gigantic change for me. And one of the things I’ve learned to help me get up in the morning shower than dress to work by 8 o’clock. You’ve been hearing about people in pajamas, underwear on Zoom conferences. No, no. You need to get up, take a shower and be dressed for work and, and I find that when I do that, I feel a whole lot better, and then I immediately well I got to get my classes online. I got a week to do this. And I got my graduate students to help me I have really good computer person who came in and re-did it all the computer equipment. I bought some of the last video equipment and microphones last one at Best Buy had, we bought it because I moved very fast because all of that equipment immediately was stripped. I’ve, one of the things learned from construction industry is sometimes you have to move, and you have to most extremely decisively, and move fast and I did that. And we got the last microphone that was in Best Buy store and they didn’t know they had it. My computer guy found it on the web and because I know you have it it’s in that store. It’s a, no, it was a huge change, but I found it getting up and getting dressed for work helped a whole lot. It seems like a simple thing but after I get out of that shower and I dry myself off and I put on a shirt that’s something I’d wear at work I felt a whole lot better. Now I have to admit I got some shoes, that definitely I would not wear to work. And I had to go into the university, and I was all dressed for work and I made a mistake wearing these dumpy shoes. I was going “ACK! I’m here wit the provost and I’ve got shoes with paint on them!” It was a virtual conference, so they never saw them, maybe I shouldn’t have worn those shoes actually in the university. No, it’s a huge change. And what you got to do is make a new schedule. You’ve got to shift gears and make a new schedule. And I immediately every time I got a chance to do a Zoom conference, I was doing it. We were locked down for months. It was really hard on a lot people.


HM: I feel like it’s still really hard.


TG: Well I’m getting, I have problems with getting bored and one of the things I’ve had to do is called up Betsy my editor and my book agent. I said let’s write a new book and right now we’re working on a new book on why visual thinking important. Well in Autism you got visual thinkers like me, which was shown really well in the movie. Then you have the mathematical thinkers they’re out in Silicon Valley giving us technologies like Zoom. And then you have the word thinkers. And I’ve worked in construction industry and building things for years the visual thinkers often don’t get enough credit for the things they do. Like a person labeled a (19:40) is laying out an entire food processing plant and I’m going to be writing about how we need visual thinking because I’ve said I’ve got to have a project, or I’m absolutely going to go crazy with boredom, and Betsy was telling me how her people, handling this, she works a lot to authors she said some authors have never been more productive, there’s other authors that just don’t know how to get started.


HM: This is so exciting. So, do you know when we can expect this new book on visual thinking? I’m very excited.


TG: So trying, you know, trying to because we have vast amount of time now where would have nothing to do and now I’ve got my class online that’s been an experience and I spend, that takes you about an hour and a half a day to write on the chat boards. I try to do that every day and then we have conferences, that takes a certain amount of time, that’s been a learning experience. And the thing to do is to find new things that they can do. Home Depot has never sold more construction materials, gardening stuff is getting bought in great vast quantities. These are things that people can do at home. Also let’s take the time to teach a whole lot of life skills. You could learn all the life skills when you’re at home. Let’s make the best of it. What right now, what some families are doing is they’re forming quarantine groups we might have two families or three families to get together and they do school and they take turns teaching. And then you have to be very careful that somebody doesn’t bring COVID-19 to that group. You have to be really careful of where they go. So those are, no it was a huge adjustment and I think one of the things that helped me, having been so many years the construction industry you always have things out on a project of changing all the time and you have to do something about it and try to do the right thing. So, my construction stuff just kicked right in, in terms of getting equipment, I moved, I knew everybody would run out of the equipment, and I moved fast. Because that’s something you do in the construction industry. You don’t want to go nuts and just run around like a chicken with your head cut off, you don’t want to do that. But you want to try to move decisively but quickly.


LB: Right, and that tends to be you know one of the hallmark difficulties with Autism, is changing sets and shifting and responding quickly to change and things like that, but what I’m hearing you say is that if you practice and practice and practice, that you get that, you can build that skill within yourself.


TG: Now the thing I still can’t do is I get criticized for interrupting conversations during interviews and I know I do this, and part of the problem is I can’t figure out the timing I have a slow processor speed.


HM: Oh no worries. This is an autistic friendly podcast, half of us is autistic and we appreciate all the conversation and having fun with people.


TG: I have problems with timing, you know, the mind doesn’t super-fast, I find I don’t like to watch stand-up comedians because by the time I get one joke he’s told two more and it just goes by me too fast.


LB: Right. Makes sense.


TG: So that’s not a form of entertainment, I mean I like to hear a funny joke but then but then goes through some of the scene of the movie so I can process the joke.


LB: Right. That makes sense, that makes sense.


TG: Because I do have problems multi-tasking. This brings up the whole issue with driving. It’s going to take a whole lot longer. I did 200 miles on dirt roads before I touched traffic. My mailbox was three miles away so every day I had six miles of practice on dirt roads. A lot more practice is required in totally safe places to get the operation of that vehicle in the motor memory before you do traffic – many shove them into it way too quickly. If I hadn’t learned to drive, I would not have had a career in the livestock industry.


LB: Right. Right.


HM: That makes a lot of sense. I’m actually starting to drive again, so I’m a really nervous driver just in general and because things are slower outside and also just it’s, I have a lot of time and like I’m going to start re-learning to drive and make sure that I’m better at it I just can’t figure out how to park, which has been my kind of Achilles heels for the last 10 years of my life. So, now is the time.


TG: Fortunately, I didn’t have to parallel park when I did my drivers test. But I did flunk the first one. But right now, you’ve got all the deserted office parks right now and nobody’s there for places to practice, but I’d recommend for a lot of individuals when they start, middle of a giant parking lot.


HM: That’s how I learned when I was 16. I mean it’s not that I don’t know how to drive. I just can’t figure out the spatial like relationships of the parking spots so usually I just park far away, but I want to get better at it.


TG: Well yeah and then some driving tests will make you do the parallel parking, I managed to get out of that.


HM: There is no parallel parking in Florida. I have no clue how to parallel park and hopefully I never will.


TG: But the thing that, that’s nowhere near as important to learn as just dealing with traffic. And the way, basically in the autistic brain, is you got a, a slow processor, if you were a computer, you got the cloud for memory, but you’re only an intel 286 chip. That’s the first PC. And so, you have a small processor capacity. So you have trouble multitasking, so to deal with the traffic you’ve got to get that operation of the car engine motor memory where you don’t have to think about it and that’s going to take some time driving just in really safe places, a whole lot.


LB: Makes a lot of sense.


TG: But start out in some place where if the car lurches forward, you’re not going to hit something. I learned on a 3-speed manual shift, what they called three on the tree, with a really, really bad clutch. I started middle of the horse Pasteur.


LB: Hopefully the horses were in their stall. [Laughs.]


TG: No, the horses took off so there was absolutely nothing to hit, when they saw me lurching, they would know we were around. That’s the kind of place that you start in, I didn’t start trying to back out of the driveway where I would’ve run through the patio gate, that’s where you don’t start.


LB: Right, my mother once lost control of her car and wound up getting the car on top of the pool pump, we’re in South Florida. And her car, my father was like how this happened. He couldn’t figure out the spatial engineering about how that of even happened, the clutch popped or something and she just went right on top of it.


HM: My favorite is when I was a kid. Sometime I think when I was a teenager my mom had one of those cars that I think had a backup camera and beepers, and sometime she was backing down the driveway hitting the mailbox, and it dents the back of the car, and my dad’s like how did you not know you were hitting the mailbox you had the camera that was clearly showing the mailbox come into view, and your car is beeping like constantly because it beeps when it’s get withing two inches of literally anything. It’s always beeping and like how it and we both like how to do not know that you were hitting the mailbox and she’s like I don’t know. Especially when you have all those sensory inputs, visuals and cameras looking over your shoulder, beepers, and lights.


HM: Well I find, I find those beepers, I have a car that beeps like I go to the drive-up window, I was at Wendy’s and picked up some salads, I go up to the drive-thru window normally and the car is beeping the whole time I’m doing the transaction, now I’ve learned, and I’m not hitting anything I have to I can’t I got to get up close to window or I can’t hand the credit card to her. I was at the correct distance. So, then I have to learn a certain amount of beeping it does when I get out of my garage that I got to ignore because I’m not going to hit the side of the garage and it almost beeps too much right and then you start, when I first got that car that just drove me nuts and then I kind of learned when to ignore it and I rely a lot more on the camera. I look at the camera than listening to the beeping.


HM: So, just because I want to also respect your time Dr. Grandin, first off one question for our listeners, so obviously we’re all big fans of you and a lot of us have been following you since once upon a time until my mom had Emergence on the bookshelf when I was growing up and of course how can people find out more about you and get your books and see what you’re up to?


TG: Well they can go; Amazons got all my books also has got a lot of my books. If you’re interested in livestock That’s my livestock site it’s got my books. Now I would recommend for parents that have got a young child just recently diagnosed to get one of my books called The Way I See It, it’s called The Way I See It. It’s a lot of little short chapters, they can skip around in it, they don’t have to read it cover to cover, there’s a chapter in there about the driving for example. Chapter about early intervention, about some of the sensory problems, like letting a child control that vacuum cleaner, where they control that sound, where they might actually start to like playing with the vacuum cleaner. Just a whole lot of practical things like that. And Thinking In Pictures is my autobiography and when I when I was younger, I used to think everybody on the autism spectrum thought in pictures. That’s actually wrong. There’s one type that thinks in pictures like me. And then you have the more mathematical type, they think patterns not pictures. And then you have the word thinker. This is the kid that loves history and facts and words. And the thing about the Autism spectrum is a kid will be good at one thing and bad at something else. We need to have a lot more emphasis on building up the thing that they can be really good at. That’s what we need to be doing and we all set to start teaching work skills, that’s the other big thing. We’re doing a good job with the little kids and I’m seeing too many kids that are getting overprotected. They are not learning things like shopping. I’ve got lots of grandparents that come up to me and the grandparents find out they are on the Autism spectrum. When the kids are diagnosed, that grandparent had a paper route, so he learned how to work at age 11, right. And we’ve got to find paperwork, paper routes substitutes like walking dogs for people. Okay now churches are all closed like when they were open an ideal thing for a kid to do would be a church volunteer job. Where they’re doing a task on a schedule outside the home. That’s the thing, where somebody else is the boss.


LB: Exactly.


HM: That makes a lot of sense and I think that’s a really great Segway as well into what we want to do for our next segment. If we wanted to talk a little bit about disclosure, so like at work if you tell people you’re on the autism spectrum and also that people kind of based on the work that you do in the work that I do people know that you’re autistic so how that relates to your advocacy as well so…


TG: Well, when I first started up through, up until the movie happened, I’d say half, well back in the 80s, none of my clients knew. They just thought I was different, and then there’d be a few that would know after the movie, then everybody knew, then before the movie, I usually never disclosed. Now I would say to people things like I like to get the real specifics of a job, where I want to know, okay the price range, the boundaries, where their site restrictions, like a water well or a big livestock scale you can’t move. I also for tasks involved a sequence I need a pilot’s checklist I can’t remember sequence. So, I’ll just say I’m like a pilot I need a checklist for how we take apart this milking machine equipment, and then put it back together. That’s a job I had. And I actually had a checklist on the wall. So, I might just say I need homework on exactly what you want me to do on this project and yeah, problem is when you see now some people are going to have to disclose, unfortunately it’s still a lot of discrimination out there. I heard a really awful story where a boy had learn how to fly a plane he went to get his FFA physical and he told the doctor he had Autism and they bumped his physical and they wouldn’t give a pilot’s license and that was relative, that was within the last 5 years and some other really bad discrimination things, military don’t ask don’t tell if you want to go in the military. I’ve talk to a lot of people on the spectrum that have been in the military and actually have done really well, this is something you have to use judgment. I would always disclose something, like I need a quiet place to work. You stick me inside some open office I can’t stand all the distractions and you’re not the only person to hate some of those open offices. So, that’s some specific thing.


HM: I think that’s a great way to advocate for yourself as well and coming from the legal perspective that’s also just the way that’s not as formal is like getting a combination to the ATA like this is how I work best. I think it puts supervisors in a position of power too because they because I always tell people like I work best when I have clear instructions it’s a way that just everybody knows what that means and it helps, instead of saying I need you to do this, this, and this to accommodate me it’s more like I just need clear instructions or I work best when you do that so it’s like you’ll will get what you want from me and I will be able to do my job better.


TG: Well that’s what I do. When I do a project. I’ve done some writing projects which have been team writing projects. And they were on Animal Welfare guidelines and we had like 20 people on this committee and I just sat in this meeting with 20 people and I was like, “I like homework”. I propose I write this section of the document I will, I will have it done by this date and then I asked about some stuff about how they want references done and I produced my pace. But I also have to be loyal to the whole project. When I found a mistake in somebody else’s part of the document, strictly a mistake, I corrected it no tracked changes let it go through. Got to get the document out the door and you don’t rub their nose in it. It was a technical mistake it was just wrong. I just corrected it and sent it on through. Because the ultimate job is, we got to get the document finished and get it published. But I like a clear thing on what I’m supposed to do. I write this chapter I do this.


LB: I think also people that aren’t educated about Autism. If you disclose just kind of the blanket, “I have Autism”, they don’t really know what that means but when you all explain like these kind of specific instructions and what you need it’s, it’s, it’s so much helpful for everybody involved and it’s, it’s it must’ve been a lot of trial and error to, for you all to know, how to how to delineate what your needs are to other people.


TG: I went to a disability conference so I’m 2 years ago and one of the big problems I’m saying is there’s too much overgeneralization, but somebody in a wheelchair, somebody that’s blind, somebody has Autism, and I went to this talk and this one articulate blind person was trying to get customer service jobs on the phone, totally qualified, got turned down by a whole bunch of employers and I’ve worked with a lot of corporations and I think the problem is they see the guide dog and stuff and I think they HR person panics. “Oh, this is going to be too difficult”. I suggested the guy should have gone in there and been like, “Okay, you see my dog. How are you going to accommodate me? I’ll give you a two-week free trial. I only need 1 accommodation; you’ve got to install the special software on your computer and will not wreck your system and my friends going to come in for the first week to teach my dog and made a layout of the office. I just need one accommodation I’ll give you a 2-week free trial”. And he would’ve gotten hired. I mean that’s how I would’ve approached it. Because I can see the HR person, I’ve been in enough corporate offices just panicking and going “Ahhh! This is just going to be too hard.” So, they hire somebody else.


LB: I like the two-week free trial. It’s a really great idea. And you get to prove yourself and it’s like okay just give me the opportunity I’ll, I’ll make sure that it’ll be okay.


TG: The way I used to do interviews; you see is I would just show off the portfolio. Now fortunately I give kind of work that you can have you been having a portfolio so I go and do an interview I’d lay a big drawing on the table and a bunch of pictures and some trade journal articles and just let my work solve the job. You could do that too with computer programming, but it needs to be put together neatly presented. Don’t send them a very big telephone book, I don’t know if telephone books even exist anymore, but a great big huge catalog of gigantic binder full of stuff. Basically, what you want to do, is you want the 30 second wow, something they can look at, “Oh that’s good code.” Or you whip out the phone and say here is an app I made for phone you can try it on this phone and hear some of the code behind it and just show the work off, and that’s what I used to do and they’d see the work. That’s how I sold Cargill. I said I had Cargill back in the late 80s a portfolio, it had a drawing in it, they had a brochure, some pictures with a plastic sleeves and a couple of trade journal articles and cover letter in it and I designed the front end of every Cargill beef plant in North America.


LB: Wow, that’s amazing.


TG: With that portfolio, it’s a 30 second wow.


LB: That’s really, really cool.


TG: The other thing, is you got to have the guts to get the card. There’s a scene in the HBO movie where I walk up to the editor and I get his card, that scene is true because I knew that if I wrote for that magazine would really help my career and then a week later, I produce an article. And then I volunteered to write an article every month then they started paying me a little bit, but you got to have the guts to go get the card then once you get it you produced the work.


HM: Definitely I think that’s a really important thing is also like to take those chances and I’m glad that you mention that now I need to re-watch the movie after our conversation.


TG: In terms of my career that’s an extremely important scene because I knew with that press pass, I could then get into big national meetings and then I went up to the editor of national meat industry magazine. You see I saw those doors. I think too many people get hung up on the conventional front door to a job there’s a whole lot of back doors and people are not seeing them, and I’ve read a lot of stuff about employment. And half of all good jobs for everybody is backdoor.


HM: It’s so true though. It’s like who you know and networking and like even when you mentioned mentorship earlier even just who your mentors are in your industry, like I know I was a young attorney that’s something that I’m learning a lot about like, “Oh I shouldn’t be afraid to ask these older more experienced lawyers for help or anything like that.” I think there’s kind of this feeling and I think a lot of young autistic people learn this or that they are told this by neurotypical people is that independent is doing it yourself and really it’s okay to ask for help or get that mentorship or have some guidance.


TG: You are absolutely right because when I did those dipping vat projects that were shown in the movie I was probably at the 60% level of confidence. I had no idea how to do the concrete work. Man, I got on a phone I was talking all kinds of people. I got a hold of USDA and I got drawings. I mean I was asking all kinds of people because the worst thing I could do is to try to wing that and then do the reinforcements wrong and then the dipping vat would have broke. You see and this is where people get in real trouble in jobs, and when getting over their head is when they should be asking for help, they don’t right.


LB: Right, right and that and that is a big, big, big issue is knowing when to ask for help and when you don’t know something, it’s okay to ask for help, and it actually shows wisdom on your part to ask for right.


TG: That’s right. Because I have seen like, guys that get overconfident. I’ve seen a guy that’ll like wreck a refrigeration system in a meat plant because he didn’t know anything about it, but he tried to wing it. No, that’s something where he should have been asking for help. And those gigantic multi-million dollar mistakes, 1 gillion dollar mistake, and I was on this project my cattle stuff worked but the plant had to close because they didn’t have enough wastewater treatment, and this guy that came out of meat sales was the head of the project we all told him you don’t have enough wastewater treatment, and he didn’t listen and it closed and the town shut him down. And they were told. That was a multi-million-dollar mess. No, I think that the biggest problem I’m seeing is parents overprotecting the kid or they’re not learning things like shopping, basic stuff.


HM: I’ve noticed that too and I think I think a lot of parents are afraid and I think that there’s kind of this feeling that, I’m not a parent so I can’t really speak to this but I think I noticed even with my friends and things like that is that parents are just afraid that or they think that, we’re not ready and I wish that they listen sometimes to people who advocate themselves, we at least want the chance to show that we can do this or have support and doing it and it doesn’t mean that we can’t do it.


TG: Well I was at an airport one time and a mom and her teenage autistic daughter came up to me and we got to talking and asked the mom if her daughter had ever shopped. No. I whipped out a $5 bill and I said you see that newsstand over there go buy something in it and I gave her the $5 bill and she came back with a change and a drink and that was the first time she had shopped. Now the newsstand was right across the hall, we could see it, and that was her first shopping and she did it in an airport. And I just handed her the $5 bill casually. I said go buy something in that newsstand that you can get for $5. And she bought a drink.


HM: Exactly. And I think even little things like that especially because you and her Mom were nearby so you were supervising like it’s empowering for a young person to have that opportunity to do something for themselves, like she purposely picked that drink like just to have that chance of the young person I think those steps are things that we need to encourage and also if it’s too much it’s okay if you go with them and you hand them the $5 bill at the counter for instance. I think that’s a really interesting point.


TG: But I was doing this kind of shopping when I was 7 and 8 years old. We had one summer place we used to go there was a little tiny post office candy store and I would go in there and buy a popsicle. And when I was 8 years old, I knew exactly what $0.50 a week would buy I can get 5 Comics with it, or I could save for 2 weeks and get a $0.69 airplane and I was learning that at a very, very young age. 50 Cents bought a lot of stuff in the 50s.


HM: 50 Cents buys me a stamp right now.


TG: Yeah, I can remember when the stamps were 3 cents. But these basic things they’re not learning and then another time I was in South America and there was a girl and she never shopped and she, we went there was some newsstands and she liked National Geographic and this particular place had some used National Geographics and I said you see there’s a national geographic there, why don’t you go buy it. And I walked out and she did. First time she’d shopped. Another kid, he’s a boy fully verbal in his teens, his Mom was still taking him in the ladies’ room, and we were eating a lunch at a restaurant about 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon the restaurants not busy at all. And at the end of the meal I just said to the boy it’s time to use the men’s room and he got up and he used by himself. It was his first time the kid was like 16 years old. And this is stuff that’s all within the last 5 years.


LB: Right, right we do we do a lot of our episodes trying to instill empowerment in our listeners to help them understand that there’s so much more than their diagnosis and there’s so many you know different ways to look at the world and experience the world and, and be independent and happy and successful and certainly you are a testament to that and such a great mentor to so many people.


HM: And I’m sure so many of our younger and older listeners will be really grateful for the advice that you gave us today too.


TG: Well the other thing I’ve been out to Silicon Valley to the major tech companies. Those programmer’s half of them are on the spectrum.


LB: Of course.


TG: And you know what happens, they avoid the labels, where the label is helpful is in marriage and relationships. I had a lady come up to make the Denver Airport and she says your book Thinking and Pictures helped me understand my engineering husband, you saved our marriage, but you look at those programmers while they’re all in the milder end of the spectrum and their holding down really good jobs.


LB: Great Jobs.


TG: And then there’s another kid where nobody thought to teach the kid programming. I’ve seen situations where you might have math kids both parents work in the computer industry and it didn’t start to think to start teaching their kid programming. You got free stuff online for teaching programming or really inexpensive books you can get for teaching it. They just had, they got so locked into the diagnosis they didn’t think to teach the kid that this kid could be a computer programmer. Or that he math kid, and he is getting bored in school because they were making him do baby stuff over and over again, when he might probably be doing high school math, and you don’t want to do this new crazy common core stuff. Old fashioned math books that are all numbers.


HM: I feel like we got a lot of advice today.


LB: Oh, it’s great.


HM: And I know there’s so much that we could talk about and I want to just be respectful again of your time Dr. Grandin and I’m so grateful that you joined us today and thank you so, so much for those of you who want to learn more about how incredible Dr. Grandin is and how lucky we are to have her as someone that I know a lot of young autistic folks and myself included looked up to as children and teenagers because there aren’t that many autistic adults that we knew who were successful, that we knew who were out there. If you want to learn more visit And for the rest of us be sure to check out and check out their Twitter and Instagram @DiffBrains and don’t forget to look for them on Facebook. If you’re looking for me, I could be found at HaleyMoss.Net or on Facebook Twitter and Instagram @HaleyMossArt


LB: I can be found at Please be sure to subscribe and rate us on iTunes and don’t hesitate to send questions to Let’s keep the conversation going!

Spectrumly Speaking is the podcast dedicated to women on the autism spectrum, produced by Different Brains®. Every other week, join our hosts Haley Moss (an autism self-advocate, attorney, artist, and author) and Dr. Lori Butts (a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, and licensed attorney) as they discuss topics and news stories, share personal stories, and interview some of the most fascinating voices from the autism community.