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Temple Grandin to local teachers, students: Work skills a must for autism sufferers [Belleville News-Democrat :: ]
[February 28, 2014]

Temple Grandin to local teachers, students: Work skills a must for autism sufferers [Belleville News-Democrat :: ]

(Belleville News-Democrat (IL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 01--Nationally known autism expert Temple Grandin has a strong message for Belleville students: Get a job.

Grandin, 66, met with students and teachers in special education programs Friday at Belleville West and Belleville East high schools.

Grandin was diagnosed with autism in 1950. Her success in animal science and autism education led her life to become the subject of a documentary drama on HBO.

"Too many smart kids are 21 years old, playing video games all day, and the parents have them on Social Security...," Grandin said.

"We've got to get kids working and it has to start with the local high school. I think paper routes in my generation were a great thing. Think what a paper route taught you. You have to go out in the snow. You have to collect the money. You have to get the money. You can't chuck the papers in the bushes. It really taught work skills." Students diagnosed with autism and Asperger's syndrome need those work skills to compete for jobs, Grandin said. Asperger's syndrome is a developmental disorder that delays many basic skills, such as the ability to socialize.

Grandin also was in the metro-east Thursday to give a speech at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. The speech was part of the Arts and Issues series of events hosted by the university's College of Arts and Sciences.

When an opening in her schedule arose for Friday, local educators jumped at the chance for Grandin to give them insight into autism and inspire their students, according to Belleville West Director of Special Services Melissa Taylor.

"It's pretty impromptu," Taylor said. "We found out yesterday she was available and we are thrilled to have her. We're excited for our older kids to meet her and be inspired by her." Craig Steiner, director of development for SIUE's College of Arts and Sciences, said sharing the insight of experts brought to the metro-east through the college's series is part of its intent.

"Part of her talk last night was about preparing kids to help society. This is a great opportunity to get her to meet students and help them prepare to become members of society. Seeing the success in her life is a great role model for kids," Steiner said.

Grandin met with the students and teachers at the Bridges Connection home near Belleville West High School. The Bridges program teaches those with moderate to significant learning disabilities how to transition into adulthood.

Grandin emphasized the importance of such students learning responsibility through work.

"When I was 15, I worked on a horse farm," Grandin said. "I cleaned out eight stalls every day. I fed them. If they kicked a hole in the barn, I fixed it. I was very proud of having this adult responsibility. Kids are not learning enough of these things," Grandin said.

Grandin gave Belleville students career-centric advice tailored for those with autism or Asperger's disorder. For example, how to succeed during job interviews even though some students with autism or Asperger's struggle with communication skills.

"You have to circumvent the regular interview process," Grandin said. "If you are interviewing for programming, show off your programming skills. If you are interviewing in the sciences, get some photos of your science experiments. You have to show off what you can do because your interview skills are going to be lacking." Grandin is a professor in animal science at Colorado State University. She has developed widely used methods for reducing the anxiety of cattle during livestock handling processes.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at or 618-239-2501.

___ (c)2014 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.) Visit the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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