Editor's note: This is an excerpt from an opinion piece by Temple Grandin on TakePart.com; visit the site to view the entire article. Visit the Royal Oak-based Judson Center's website for more information and local resources.
Special educators need to look at what a child can do instead of what he or she cannot do.
There needs to be more emphasis on building up and expanding the skills a child is good at. Too often people get locked into a label such as dyslexia, ADHD, or autism, and they cannot see beyond the label. Kids that get a label often have uneven skills. They may be talented in one area and have a real deficiency in another.
In my case, I was really good at art, but doing algebra made no sense. It is important to work on areas where a child is weak, but an emphasis on deficits should not get to the point where building the area of strength gets neglected.
I heard about sad cases where a teacher forbids an elementary school child to draw pictures. If a teacher had stifled my art ability, I would have never become a designer of livestock equipment. Half the cattle in North America are handled in equipment I have designed for the meat plants. I think that this is a real accomplishment for a child that some people thought was mentally retarded.
Dr. Temple Grandin’s achievements are remarkable because she was an autistic child. She was motivated to pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer. Temple lectures to parents and teachers throughout the U.S. on her experiences with autism. She was honored in Time magazine’s 2010 “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.”