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Dr. Temple Grandin delivers autism lecture in Alexandria

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 3:56 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Dr. Temple Grandin, a pioneer in the autism spectrum community, came to Alexandria on Friday, July 16 to speak about her life, her books and how to help both kids and adults with autism.

(Watch the full interview with Dr. Grandin in the video above)

Dr. Grandin also has autism herself and has an extensive background in neuroscience, the cattle industry and construction.

Her lecture series called “The Way I See It,” based on the title of one of her books, was brought to Alexandria through the Rapides Parish Library system. The event was held at the Lagniappe Theatre Event Center.

During her lecture, Dr. Grandin touched on many issues related to autism and some solutions that can help in many situations:

  • If a child is nonverbal, start working with that child immediately. Professional help is often needed, but during the day, be sure the child has limited access to television and electronics. Instead, talk with the child more frequently and read with them.
  • For older children, starting as early as 10, insist on small jobs where they can learn valuable skills, such as volunteer work, summer training jobs or camps/programs that introduce them to new activities. Dr. Grandin said she is concerned that so many teenagers are not being trained to have valuable job skills and have harder times entering the workforce as adults.
  • Dr. Grandin explained that sometimes social interactions can be difficult for anyone on the spectrum, but to help a child make friends, help them create a club or organization where they can have shared interests. She said if a child is interested in drawing or animation, help them create an animation club for others to join where they can share ideas and make new interactions with others.
  • Anxiety and fear are some of the biggest emotions someone on the autism spectrum can feel. Dr. Grandin recommends exercise (she says she does 100 sit-ups every night!) and to find something each day that can help keep you calm during a stressful time. She used the example of watching Star Trek every day at 4:00 in her youth as a means of calming herself. However, she warned to not use screen time in excess.
  • Another way to combat fear is to make it interesting! Dr. Grandin explained she used to have a fear of airplanes, but once she started learning about how they worked and more about them, they became interesting to her and less scary.
  • Stomach problems are very common on the spectrum. Dr. Grandin noted that sometimes a nonverbal person may act out because they are uncomfortable with possible acid reflux. Her suggestion is to rule out any sort of stomach health problems with a doctor, and look into acid reflux reducers and sleeping with the head elevated to reduce these problems.
  • Most people on the autism spectrum have severe sensory sensitivity. Sometimes a person may use headphones to quiet the sounds around them, but she warned that overuse of headphones could make the brain even more sensitive to sound - so to use them only as needed. If a hairdryer is making too much noise for a child, try allowing the child to hold the hairdryer so they have control over the sound. That way they can learn they are the ones creating the noise and it can decrease anxiety.
  • Limit video games, unless it’s a game that has online conversations. Use more communication-based play rather than isolated play.
  • Dr. Grandin also noted that if a child loves the game Minecraft, to start introducing that child to real world tools. Help them learn how to create things themselves - it may develop into a talent or career!
  • Allow the child to take their time speaking. Sometimes they are processing information slower than average, but keep encouraging them to use their words and give them instructions on what they need to do. Use bullet points and clear language to help them navigate difficult tasks.
  • Parents need to let their children on the spectrum be more independent. Learn to “let go” and allow them to explore the world on their own in a safe environment. Dr. Grandin gave the example of allowing a child to pay for something themselves with $5, close enough for a parent to observe and step in if needed. But allowing that independence will allow them to develop the skills they need as adults.
  • Finally, Dr. Grandin said to focus less on the label of autism, and just focus on the person as an individual.

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