Christian Long

Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

In TED Talks on May 10, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Extra credit reflection by KATIE R.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

The first time I heard about this particular speaker was in a cable movie titled “Temple Grandin.”

I started watching and became captivated by the storyline depicting the life of an autistic woman who was more at home in the midst of cows than humans. Yet in spite of what society labels as mentally challenged, she was able to complete a college education and take on the cattle industry in making the treatment of cattle more humane. I was completely amazed at the end of the movie to find out that it was not fiction but a biographical representation of the real Temple Grandin. So, when I found her in the Ted Talk library, I was very interested in her views on the different kinds of minds. I could only assume that her perspective, from one who has lived through society’s stereotyping, had to be enlightening.

Temple’s presentation was based on her vast knowledge of autism, ranging from the most severe non-verbal cases to the milder Asperger syndrome. While it may be unrealistic to expect the severe cases to become the next Einstein, in the case of milder autism, there lays an untapped potential. Our world benefits from all types of minds, including those labeled as mentally challenged. It is really a case of when does the geeky nerd, hiding the brilliant genius, explode and produce the next great invention. Perhaps genius does come with some cost. Most of the true geniuses are portrayed as socially inept kids that grew up and gained respect, not from their social graces, but through their contribution to the world.

Genius comes in all forms and from all kinds of minds.

As Temple says, learning is totally dependent on how your brain is wired. Some are wired to be very detailed and specific…visual learners….that draw pictures in their heads to absorb the information with which they come into contact. Some brains are wired to be pattern thinkers that can absorb more abstract information. The verbal brain hears and learns facts and figures but is unable to function in the arts. I found this fascinating because I have heard teachers throughout my school life commenting on the type of students they have in the classroom. “Oh, she is a visual learner and he is an audio learner.” The key, I agree, is to try and determine how children’s brains are wired at an early age in order to establish the best way to educate and communicate them. Early intervention with all types of minds, even those without the autism label, will allow for success. It is important that we have good teachers that encourage and challenge the student into being eager and passionate about learning. Learning may not just be categorized as “book” learning but also how to integrate into the “social” scene. Some of the smartest students can also be the shyest and they need help in learning to part of the whole system. As we all know, once you get out of school and into the real world, we are going to have to be able to function in society and as Temple said “sell ourselves and our work”.

I was not disappointed in the presentation because Temple was like she was in the movie; very direct and to the point. She is a prime example of how a person can overcome natural disadvantages and make them into a stepping stone to success. She is very passionate in her defense of the different types of minds because you never know who or what you might miss in the process. From all these variations we can get the next scientist who discovers the cure for cancer, the next Yo Yo Ma, or the next honors English teacher…..who knows????


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