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Wisconsin Dells Events - 5/4/2017

Growing up with undiagnosed autism, Temple Grandin learned to improvise, but she also learned basic table manners and how to greet people with a handshake.

"It's the '50s method of parenting, and I call it 'teachable moments,'" Grandin told a packed Kalahari Resort ballroom Friday morning, as the keynote speaker at the Autism Society of Wisconsin's 28th annual conference. "The dining room may have four or five of these teachable moments."

Such "teachable moments" are crucial to a child's mental development, Grandin told the gathering of approximately 1,000 health professionals, educators, parents, advocates and supporters of children and adults on the autism spectrum, all attending the three-day conference in Wisconsin Dells.

Providing sufficient, understandable instructions also is important, she told the audience at the beginning of her 90-miute appearance.

"We've got to make sure we don't deprive kids of instructions. We give instructions instead of screaming 'no,'" she said. "The other thing: Talk slowly."

Taking a simple yet creative, persistent and human-interactive approach to life was the overarching theme of Grandin's talk the morning of the conference's second day.

The conference's goal, like the goal of the state's leading autism advocacy organization itself, is to "provide a range of strategies, tools and resources to those affected by autism in Wisconsin, with the goal of ensuring individuals and families living with autism are able to maximize their quality of life, treated with the highest level of dignity and live in a society in which their talents and skills are appreciated and valued."

In addition to Grandin's appearance and a symposium Saturday featuring three Wisconsin adults sharing their experiences with living on the autism spectrum, the conference featured numerous breakout sessions covering life as and living with someone on the autism spectrum and everything that entails.

The sessions ranged from "Sensory Overload vs. Behavioral Tantrums" to "Top Five Strategies for Parents Raising Siblings of Children with Autism" and "The Dating Game: The Unwritten Scripts of Romantic Relationships." to "Middle School: The Best Years of My Life."

As much as anyone, Grandin, 69, embodies the wide-ranging possibilities of a life "on the spectrum," as living with autism is sometimes called.

Named to Time magazine's "Time 100" in 2010, she has authored numerous books about living the autism, has appeared on television and radio across the U.S. and beyond, and she was the subject of an 2010, Emmy-winning movie starring Claire Danes.,

Grandin also was once the subject of a documentary titled "The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow," and the title speaks to her "other life," in which she has made profound contributions to the meat industry and its handling of livestock. She pioneered the improvement of the chute that leads cattle to slaughter and also developed the first measurement system for the meat-packing process.

Her speech in the Kalahari ballroom touched on all of these topics, with her presentation alternating between slides about the influence of such non-traditional thinkers as Thomas Edison and Steven Spielberg and the original drawing of the cattle shoot she invented.

Her advice about successfully functioning in an ever-changing world included developing a work ethic early in life, embracing diversity of thought and experience and learning to create "work-arounds" and "finding a back door" to solutions when presented with challenges.

Keeping it simple and sticking with the basics - like writing things down - was the common theme.

"They're trying to make these kids do everything in their head. If I hadn't been able to write something down, I would have gone absolutely nowhere," she said. "Don't burden the kid with long strings of verbal instruction. Let them write it down as a list. It's called a work-around, and it's a simple combination."


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