When it comes to celebrities in the autism community today, no name is bigger then Dr. Temple Grandin. Last week, while giving the opening keynote presentation at an autism conference in Memphis, I had the amazing opportunity to meet her. As someone who grew up as a kid idolizing Dr. Grandin, it was something that was nothing short of a dream come true. While I thought meeting her would be enough, I soon after found out that I would also be having dinner with her every single night of the conference. It truly changed my life. Her perspective and her knowledge of the autism community were remarkable.

With that I wanted to write this blog in the hopes that if you ever have the opportunity to meet Dr. Grandin, whether it is at a book signing, autism conference, etc., that you will do just that. I could write a book on why meeting her changed your life (maybe I will someday), but for the time being, here are 5 reasons she’s changed mine…

5. Her belief in equal rights

While listening to Dr. Grandin’s keynote address at the conference, it was refreshing to hear her perspective on challenging our loved ones with autism. As much as our kids need services and supports, they also need discipline and routines. Not only this, but she believes that at the end of the day, you need to treat those with autism as human beings.

4. Her passion

One idea that stuck out to me that Dr. Grandin said several times while I was with her was the fact that she thinks half of the programmers in Silicon Valley have Asperger Syndrome. Dr. Grandin believes that many individuals on the spectrum have great abilities. Every time she mentions this she does it with the knowledge that her own abilities have taken her very far. So she knows from experience that it’s possible for others.

3. Her humility

While many people with the amount of success Dr. Grandin has had could have a bit of an ego, she is very humbled. Her humility, along with the respect she gives to the people around her, is astounding. When she speaks, she rarely mentions her own work and always provides resources to help benefit the community.

2. The stretching method

One of the key phrases Dr. Grandin has become famous for is the need for us to “stretch” our loved ones with autism. Like an elastic band, she says, you can’t stretch it too far or it will snap. You need to be mindful and stretch your loved ones to their own capabilities. It’s a constant reminder that progress, no matter how big or small, should be an ultimate goal for our loved ones.

1. Finally….the hope she gives our community

In my opinion, the biggest attribute that Dr. Grandin brings to our community is her overall success in her field. Many of the attendees at this conference were parents of young kids on the autism spectrum. Hearing her stories of success and what she’s done with her life has given every family something to strive for. She truly exemplifies that there are wonderful possibilities out there.

Dr. Grandin gives me the hope that I can also make a difference in the autism community as she has done. Even though I’ve only been speaking professionally for four years while she’s done it for decades, I hope that one day I can make the same lasting impact on our community that she has. For that and for all that she has done for our community, I will be forever grateful to her.

-Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.- (2)