When I borrowed My Autistic Awakening by Rachael Lee Harris at my local library (review coming next month!), the librarian asked me if I’d ever seen the Temple Grandin movie. I said no, so she put me down for it. Two days later, it came in for me. Now that I’ve seen it, here are my thoughts.
First of all, I have to say this about Claire Dane’s performance as Temple–she was excellent. She captured being an autistic perfectly. She was timid around loud noises, she didn’t maintain eye contact, she didn’t realize how loud she was around people–it was great!
I liked how the movie showed us how Temple Grandin’s mind made more sense of the world. If a person used an idiom, the movie showed a visual pun that took the idiom literally, not as a way to mock her, but to show this was how she interpreted what was said. As she said at the beginning of the movie, she thinks in pictures. The best part was the scenes that showed her analytical mind. They would show her figuring out things out by an animated blueprint, showing her visual mind at work.
Grandin had more than the public’s misconceptions of her autism as an obstacle. There was also the preconceived notions about a woman’s “place” in society. “What business does a woman have in our slaughterhouse?” they must’ve thought. Yet, she made them listen with her tenacious attitude. When an obstacle got in her way, she came up with ways around it. Her clever and tenacious personality endeared me to her.
My favorite person in the movie is her science teacher at her boarding school when she was a child. The rest of the faculty didn’t know what to do with her, yet he engaged her by focusing on her visual ways of interpreting the world. He saw her strengths and used them to encourage her. He took her aside and engaged her in his lessons, showing how science could help her to decide her goals in life. He saw her potential and was a good mentor in an otherwise cruel world. Her mother was also a great model. She didn’t understand why Temple wouldn’t speak or look her in the eye or even accept her hugs. Yet she never gives up and we later see that her efforts were not in vain. Temple showed her love in other ways. She insisted that Temple be seen as “different, not less”. These three words have become a mantra in the autism community.
This is a great story that should be shared and celebrated. I recommend it!