Although many people might be more familiar with Claire Daines* -- the "My So-Called Life" actress who portrayed Grandin in the film and won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie -- Grandin herself has been celebrated for many years by her scientific colleagues for her pioneering work. She is especially noted for channeling her own high-functioning autism into a means of communicating and empathizing with animals.
A graduate of Franklin Pierce College (psychology) and Arizona State University (animal science) and an accomplished author or co-author of 40 books, Grandin, 63, is credited with revolutionizing the way researchers and ordinary people treat, interact with and conceive of animals and their fellow human beings. So while much attention may be focused on the HBO film today, Surge Desk has excerpted selected passages from three of Grandin's most celebrated works. If you're interested in reading more by and about Grandin, her life story and her works, check out her official website.
1. From her 2004 book "Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior," co-authored by Catherine Johnson, in which she describes how, at the age of 18, she came to invent the "Squeeze Machine," aka "the Hug Machine," a pressurized mechanical device (now sold commercially) that has been shown to provide effective therapy for some cases of autism:
Animals saved me. One summer when I was visiting my aunt who had a dude ranch in Arizona, I saw a herd of cattle being put through the squeeze chute at a neighboring ranch. A squeeze chute is an apparatus vets use to hold cattle still for their shots by squeezing them so tight they can't move. The squeeze chute looks like a big V made out of metal bars hinged together at the bottom. When a cow walks into the chute, an air compressor closes up the V, which squeezes the cow's body in place. ...
You might think cattle would get really scared when all of a sudden this big metal structure clamps together on their bodies, but it's exactly the opposite. They get really calm. When you think about it, it makes sense, because deep pressure is a calming sensation for just about everyone. That's one of the reasons a massage feels so good -- it's the deep pressure. The squeeze chute probably gives cattle a feeling like the soothing sensation newborns have when they're swaddled, or scuba divers have underwater. They like it.
2. From her 2008 book "The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger's," in which Grandin is interviewed by Dr. Tony Attwood, '"world-renowned expert on autism and Asperger's," who asks how Grandin would explain an autism diagnosis to a teenager today:Watching those cattle calm down, I knew I needed a squeeze chute of my own. When I got back to school that fall, my high school teacher helped me build my own squeeze chute, the size of a human being on all fours. I bought my own air compressor, and I used plywood boards for the V. It worked beautifully. Whenever I put myself inside my squeeze machine, I felt calmer. I still use it today.
3. From her 2002 widely read essay "Animals Are Not Things: A View on Animal Welfare Based on Neurological Complexity":Well, I'd probably just explain it in a technical manner: that it's immature development in the brain that interferes with getting along socially. I'm basically a "techie" -- that's the kind of person I am. I want to fix things. With most of the things I do, I take the engineering approach; my emotions are simple. I get satisfaction out of doing good work. I get satisfaction when a parent comes to me and says, 'I read your book and it really helped my kid in school.' I get satisfaction from what I do.
*Correction: This post previously erroneously labeled Anna Paquin as the star of the film and the recipient of the award. We regret the error.Monkeys have a sense that they own certain things (Kummer and Cords, 1991). Even the family dog may growl if you attempt to take away his bone. Animals guard both their territories and their food. To put it simply, animals have a sense that certain places or food items are theirs. However, animals do not understand that they themselves may be the property of a human being.
Property is a legal term and a language-based concept that gives the owners of property certain legal rights above and beyond physical possession. For example, if my prize bull is stolen, the insurance company will pay for him. I can also transfer ownership by selling my bull. ... Animals deserve the same protections from society whether or not they are property or non-property.