Dr. Temple Grandin, one of the nation’s leading authorities on autism, will speak in Fort Smith at 5:30 p.m. March 11 at Stubblefield Center on the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus as part of the “Read This!” community read.
Fort Smith’s community read is sponsored by the UAFS English Department and is intended to foster community literacy and provide a common topic of thought and conversation for people throughout the community.
Grandin, who is also an expert on humane handling of livestock, was diagnosed as autistic at an early age. Through relentless effort, she earned a Ph.D. in animal science. Grandin is a professor at Colorado State University and has been the subject of a popular movie. Her UAFS talk, which is free and open to the public, is titled, “An Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin.”
Other activities surrounding Read This! include March 4 community screenings of the HBO movie "Temple Grandin." The film is a biopic that shows how she overcame the challenges of autism to become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock handling industry. The screenings will be held in the Reynolds Room of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center at 2 and 5 p.m.
Also on the schedule is a Feb. 27 panel discussion on “Autism Spectrum Disorders: Thinking Differently.” Panelists include Scott Huse and his son Hunter, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age four and is now an inspiring teenager, who will talk about growing up and facing these challenges as a family. Also on the panel will be Dr. Janissa Jackson, Fort Smith psychologist, who will present the current science available for treatment and the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders.
Admission to the discussion is free, but due to space limitations, reservations may be made by calling 479-788-7220. This event, slated for 1 - 2 p.m., will be held in the Echols Conference Center. It is sponsored by the Center for Lifelong Learning.
Grandin will conduct a book signing following her presentation on March 11.
“‘Read This!’ has ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ as its book,” said Dr. Joe Hardin of Fort Smith, dean of the College of Languages and Communication. “The protagonist and narrator of the book is a 15-year-old boy who obviously fits somewhere on the autism spectrum.”
The book, which is by British author Mark Haddon, is a short read, according to Dr. Keith Fudge of Van Buren, UAFS professor of English.
“I’ve taught this book to my students several times,” Fudge said. “It’s interesting from several standpoints. First of all, it’s a mystery, and that engages a lot of people. It’s also an unusual book because it includes diagrams, puzzles and mathematical problems. But it also has a great lesson. You have to read it to solve the mystery and the problems and to get the lesson.”
Grandin obtained her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College in 1970. She was employed as Livestock Editor for the Arizona Farmer Ranchman in 1974 and worked for Corral Industries on equipment design. She earned her M.S. in Animal Science at Arizona State. Grandin was awarded her doctorate in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989.
She has written several books about autism, her most recent being “Different … Not Less.” This work is a collection of commentaries by 14 contributors. Each of the contributors creates a collage of the childhood and adult experiences that have made them the individuals they are today.
Grandin carefully chose a cross section of men and women with Asperger’s syndrome from fields of medicine, art, technology and sales, and from various western cultures including Australia and Scotland. Different life situations including rural, urban, religious and non-religious upbringings are also included. The book reveals the similar social, communication and sensory challenges that people with Asperger’s confront, despite varied backgrounds.
Grandin concludes the book with her own chapter about how to find work opportunities. She reiterates that people with autism need alternatives to interviews (a weakness for people with communication challenges), mentors, early experiences that develop the work ethic and, by all means, they should take advantage of social media to show off their portfolios.
Other books she’s written about the subject are “The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's,” “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism” and “The Autistic Brain.”
Fudge said his work as an English professor shows him that the topic of autism is getting bigger and bigger all the time.
“This is such a timely issue for a community read since one in 88 people fits somewhere on the spectrum of autism,” Fudge said. “I think virtually all of my students have someone in their families or circles of friends who are affected by this.”
Although admission to “An Evening withTemple Grandin” is free and open to the public, tickets are required. Tickets are available only at the UAFS Box Office in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center. Tickets for groups of 20 people or more must be obtained by March 4. No tickets will be available at Stubblefield, and tickets cannot be mailed.