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Other segments from the episode on January 1, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 1, 1999: Interview with Caroline Hebard; Interview with Temple Grandin; Review of the album "Follies."


Date: JANUARY 01, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 010101np.217
Head: Caroline Hebard
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Happy New Year. This is the final day of our animal week. An extraordinary German shepherd named Pasha (ph) once came to our studio. This dog has sniffed out earthquake victims who were buried under rubble and found people who were lost in the woods.

Pasha was trained by an extraordinary woman named Caroline Hebard. She co-founded the U.S. Disaster Response Team Canine Unit, whose volunteers respond to catastrophes in foreign countries. She's also co-led Northeast Search and Rescue, a group of handlers and dogs ready to search for missing persons or disaster victims anywhere in the U.S.

I spoke with Hebard in 1996 after the publication of her book, "So That Others May Live," a memoir about her dogs, their search and rescue work and how that's complicated the other half of her life as the mother of four.

During the interview, Hebard's dog Pasha sat quietly at her side. I asked Hebard what her search and rescue dogs are trained to do.

CAROLINE HEBARD, CO-FOUNDER, U.S. DISASTER RESPONSE TEAM: The main factor to understand is they're trained on human scent; not bombs, not narcotics or anything like that. They are trained to find people who are lost; could be an Alzheimer's patient, could be a lost hunter, a lost child.

They're trained to find people who have become buried or injured in things like hurricanes, tornadoes, explosions, earthquakes. They're also trained to find people submerged underwater -- a drowning victim. And also to locate victims of homicide.

GROSS: Now, how does your dog know what his mission is? What's expected of him?

HEBARD: I use different commands to a certain extent. But I also use clues. In other words, when the dog is working a disaster; first of all, he can see what's in front of him. Secondly, he -- I don't put a vest or a collar or a leash on him. He is working completely free so he doesn't get injured.

If goes in a boat for a drowning victim, he actually wears an orange life vest. And he can see the water, he knows what's coming. For a homicide search, for instance, I will give a slightly different command to him. And also before I go into the field, pre-scent him on a material called pseudo-corpse which is made by Sigma (ph), which simulates the odor of the deceased person. So, he knows what he's getting into.

GROSS: Now, you brought your dog, Pasha, with you. And, gosh, she's well behaved. He's sitting right behind you now, kind of actually lying down very quiet. Very very professional.

HEBARD: Well, these dogs go through a lot of obedience training.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

HEBARD: A lot of socialization, and we get them very much used to different environments. First of all, also, these dogs fly in cabin on commercial...

GROSS: planes.

HEBARD: And noncommercial planes. So, they have to be well behaved. And they have to be able to go quite calmly through the chaos of a busy airport.

GROSS: Now, you trained your dogs to recover live victims.

HEBARD: That is their primary purpose.

GROSS: How do you train a dog to recover a live victim?

HEBARD: It's motivational training. When you first start training a dog it's the handler, the owner of the dog, who runs off and hides. Somebody else holds the dog, they release the dog, then you play with the dog when he finds you. You gradually increase the distance and the time, and add in total strangers who go and hide for the dog. But each time the dog finds, he is rewarded with enormous enthusiasm.

GROSS: You make it sound like it's a big game for the dog when he's being trained. Like he's playing hide and seek.


GROSS: And when he finds the person, he gets to play, he gets some food as a reward and it's a lot of fun.

HEBARD: Exactly. You want the dog to have enormous enthusiasm for a live person. Because when you get to, let's say, an earthquake situation where you have both live and dead people you want the dog to give priority to the live people before he indicates where the dead people are.

GROSS: Now, in an earthquake when he actually finds the living -- the living victim -- the survivor. The survivor isn't going to give him a food reward and play with him, so does the dog every get disappointed and think, I'm not going to play this game anymore. It's just no fun anymore?

HEBARD: No, because one of the things that, in training, gradually the victim -- we actually have what we call a non-response of victim. A person who sits there and is obviously alive but doesn't really react very much. And it's up to the handler, then, who plays with the dog.

So in earthquake situation, after the dog is found we -- if it's an unstable sort of area that we're in we wait until we go outside and then I play with him. But he knows from my voice tone that I am happy.

GROSS: And you give him food?

HEBARD: No. I don't train with food. Reason being that in a disaster, you have enormous amount of food that's lying around, and you want the dog to ignore that. As a matter of fact, in training what we do in the rubble pile that we train on, I will hide hamburgers and Kentucky Fried Chicken and things like that, so that in training you can correct the dog from showing interest in that and refocus him on his real purpose.

GROSS: Well, that's interesting. Yeah, you don't want him searching out the chicken wing instead of the survivor.

HEBARD: Right.

GROSS: Now, you've done earthquakes in Mexico, Armenia, El Salvador. What can a dog do in an earthquake situation that humans on a rescue team can't?

HEBARD: Well, for one thing their noses and their sense of hearing are much keener than ours. I mean, yes we can smell very obvious odors, but a dog's nose is about 500 times stronger than a human nose. And they can also differentiate between live scent and dead scent, even if it's five stories down under crushed cement.

GROSS: Say a victim is five stories down under crushed cement. There's a limit to how far the dog can go. Although the dog can probably call through places that you couldn't. How far do you let the dog go in an unstable situation like, you know, a collapsed building in an earthquake?

HEBARD: Well, before we commit we do assess the building, structurally, as much as we can.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

HEBARD: Nowadays we usually have someone who has got structural engineering expertise who actually goes with us. You have to think of scent moving in a building like smoke. If I were to release a smoke bomb the smoke will go through all the little cracks and try and get out to where it can.

Now, let's say somebody is five stories down in a pancaked type of building, the dog will indicate -- and then we get the rescue workers to, let's say, move as safely as they can more and more of the debris. Then we bring the same dog or another dog back in then so that they can pinpoint, a little closer, as to the location.

GROSS: Now, how much do you believe that a trainer should always follow the dog -- go where the dog goes?

HEBARD: I need to watch my dog.

GROSS: So, you'll never let your dog crawl any further than you can get yourself?

HEBARD: No, a dog can crawl in. Like in Kobe, he went way in. But what I did was I belly-crawled to a point, where with my headlamp, I could watch him.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

HEBARD: And because, also, in a high noise situation these dogs depend very much on hand signals or whistle blasts from us.

GROSS: Right. Now, in an earthquake there's going to be a lot of dead people as well as survivors who are interred in the rubble. And you want your dog to find the survivors first. And yet, sometimes, the dog is going to find it, sometimes there aren't any survivors. All the bodies are dead. What's it like for the dog when the dog finds corpses?

HEBARD: Every dog has a different reaction to finding a dead person. It's up to the handler to learn how to read the dog. The moment a person dies there are definite chemical changes that take place which the dog can detect but we can't.

Some dogs cringe, some dogs -- the hair are on their backs will go up. Ollie, my old dog, his ears would go down. His tail would tuck. He'd have extreme aversion. Pasha, sometimes will go and lift a leg three feet away from where he found it. He'll sniff. He'll whine. And then he's trained to turn around and bark at me.

The reason for this was that too many people had trained their dogs in cadaver, and if you are doing the search for law enforcement and the dog started digging and destroying evidence, you are not a very popular handler.

GROSS: Right. Of course, of course. In your book you write about, you know, how your dog's get depressed if they find a lot of bodies -- dead bodies.

HEBARD: Yes, they do. And even the handlers that I saw in Oklahoma finally realized that too. And what you have to do, at least once a day, is to have somebody you're working with or a rescue worker who is willing to do it -- go hide. And give the dogs a live find, and just bring them back up.

Also, if you have been on a search -- a wilderness search let's say -- and the dog has been working all day, and the person was not in any of the areas that you covered, the worst thing you can do is to open the back of your truck, shove the dog in his crate, and that's it.

What you have to do, I don't care how tired, how cold you are, the first thing you do before that dog is put in his crate is he's given more water and given a live find.

GROSS: Now, getting back to the depression that the dogs have when they find a lot of dead bodies. Is that because, well, you know, they haven't won the game and they haven't gotten the positive rewards or is it something about the smell of death that really gets to the dogs?

HEBARD: I think it's the smell of death. I mean, I think they instinctively know that this is someone dead. I think one of the Swiss handlers in Mexico City put it very well, because I was worried about the way the four dogs that we were working with started to sort of show an aversion to even getting up and going out in the field.

And the man looked at me and he said, look, this is man's best friend and he's going to get sad if he's finding so many dead best friends.

GROSS: Right.

HEBARD: And I thought that was very nicely put.

GROSS: My guest is Caroline Hebard. She trains and handles search and rescue dogs. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Caroline Hebard. She trains and handles search and rescue dogs.

Your dogs are German shepherd's.

HEBARD: Right. Just through personal preference. I have lots of other handlers that I have seen and know, not only in the U.S. but overseas, that have all kinds of different breeds. Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Border Collies, Ayredales, Schnausers, and then a wonderful breed that we call the "hardly can."

GROSS: What's that?

HEBARD: It's the hardly -- you can hardly tell what it is.

GROSS: The mutt?

HEBARD: It's the mutt. And they make superb search dogs.

GROSS: That's nice to know.


Now, why do you choose German shepherds? And you literally get them from Germany.

HEBARD: Yes, I do. Ever since I was a child I wanted a German shepherd. I think my parents, in their travels, occasionally had friends who had German shepherds. And there was something very regal.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

HEBARD: Very faithful. And yet very warm about the dog.

GROSS: They're kind of the officialdom of the dog world, because, you know, it's shepherds that are used as seeing eye dogs and police dogs and they are the authority figures of the dog world.

HEBARD: Well...

GROSS: dogs often.

HEBARD: Yeah. Nowadays, though, people are using a lot of Rottweillers as watchdogs. The seeing eye in Morristown is using more Golden Retriever's and Labradors than they are German shepherds, because the shepherds tend to be fairly big dogs. And a lot of police departments are using Labradors and different breeds for their drugs and bomb dogs.

GROSS: Tell us a story of a time when one of your dogs was in grave danger because of his assignment or because, you know, of the circumstances the dog was in.

HEBARD: Well, there was -- well, there was one scene where he was nearly shot. This was Ollie. We were actually up -- I had to park trying to find a very poor district that had succumbed to mud slides. And I had to go behind a bush and I took the dog with me, and all of a sudden he takes off.

And I'm running behind him because his -- the way he took off set off warning bells. And as I round the corner, there are some Salvadoran soldiers with their guns pointing straight at him. And so I'm yelling, don't shoot. This is a rescue dog. I'm yelling in Spanish so they would understand.

And then I have been in a lot off aftershocks with my dogs, and that of course is dangerous to both the human and the animal. But I know I do mention that animals will sense an aftershock way before we do.

GROSS: Really?

HEBARD: And if you can get out in time, because the dog doesn't want to stay underneath the building when he knows one is coming. The dog will give you plenty of warning.

GROSS: Has that happened to you? Where your dog knew before you did?

HEBARD: It did in Mexico. Two of us were with our dogs heading down into an underground garage, and all of a sudden the dogs just started acting strangely. And Linda, the other handler, and I looked at each other, and we said, look at these dogs. We said, let's get out.

And sure enough, as soon as we got out into the road, things started dropping.

GROSS: Did that building collapse?

HEBARD: Where we'd been standing things were coming down fairly rapidly. And we were trapped once in El Salvador. We couldn't get out in time. And the exit collapsed -- it was in a basement. And basically, the dog found a way out, came back and got those of us who were down there out to another end of the building.

GROSS: Wow. That's like the best episode in the world of "Lassie" or something.

HEBARD: Well...

GROSS: ... everybody grew up with this fantasy of having a dog that was so smart and so well-trained and so faithful that they'd be rescuing people and rescuing you. That's your dogs.

HEBARD: They're dogs, but when they're home they can be very normal dogs. They'll chase squirrels, they'll race around the yard.

GROSS: So, your dog is sometimes just a great pet at home?

HEBARD: Oh, when he's not working, absolutely.

GROSS: I love this idea of the really professional dog who knows when he's on the job and knows when it's time to play.

HEBARD: Oh, no, I mean, he sleeps at night in the kitchen and the family has learned not to leave their shoes on the kitchen floor because he will scatter shoes. He plays with them. And they'll be all over the kitchen.

GROSS: In a way, you've lived a double life. Mother of four, and then off around the world on these search and rescue missions, you know, with your dogs; and earthquakes and remote hiking trails, all kinds of accidents. And you say that sometimes when you go home, you know, the kids wouldn't really be that interested in what happened at the earthquake in Mexico. It was, hey, I haven't had anybody drive me to me to my soccer team. I've missed practice, now get in the car and drive me.

And it must have been very disorienting for you. It's -- they're two very demanding but very different worlds.

HEBARD: Well, disorienting, I don't think so. I think I came very early on to the realization that basically I had disrupted my children lives. Their normalcy, their routine -- had been disrupted because of, what they considered at that point, my hobby.

Also, I really -- it wasn't until recently when the kids were older that I never really showed them my slides or pictures or anything of the types of things I went to or even talked about it.

GROSS: You didn't want them to know the danger you were in?

HEBARD: Right. And it was after they read my book -- I remember my oldest daughter calling me up and saying, gee, mom we never knew this. And I said, well, would you have wanted to know it at 14? And she said, I guess not.

GROSS: Didn't part of you want them to know so that they could understand and appreciate what you've done?

HEBARD: It would have been very hard for them, I think, to understand. Certainly, they see enough on television. I mean, they would watch television and see scenes from the earthquake, but somehow what you see on television doesn't come as close as if someone who's been there sits down and says, well, I was in this aftershock and things collapsed around me.

GROSS: Right.

HEBARD: And I don't want them worried. I have an unsaid rule that when I go on any kind of mission, be it in this country or overseas, I do not call home. If I do call home, something is really wrong.

GROSS: Why is that your rule?

HEBARD: Otherwise they would worry if they didn't get a phone call every day.

GROSS: Oh, of course. Of course.

HEBARD: And I don't want their lives ruled by the expectation of that phone call.

GROSS: Well, here's another thing, I bet you find it very hard to cover up the anguish that you are feeling, and you might be in the position of lying to them saying, yeah, everything's great. When, literally, things are crumbling all around you.

HEBARD: Right. I think, I mean, I talk to them for a certain -- to a certain extent on what has happened. I give them a little bit of description, but most of what I would describe to them would be in terms of anecdotes. The lighter moments.

GROSS: Right. Right.

Caroline Hebard, recorded in 1996. Hebard has since moved to Florida where she continues to teach and start rescue groups around the South. Her dog Pasha is still alive and well, but has retired.

Hebard is working with a new dog named Pedro. Both she and Pedro worked on rescues around Florida during the tornadoes in February, and helped disaster efforts in Nova Scotia after the Swiss Air crash. This past Thanksgiving, Hebard and Pedro also traveled to Argentina to conduct rescue seminars.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Caroline Hebard
High: CAROLINE HEBARD is the co-founder of the U.S. Disaster Response Team. She and her German shepherd dogs have carried out search and rescue missions at the world's most tragic disaster sites: earthquakes in Japan, Mexico and Armenia, floods in Tennessee, hurricanes, and bridge collapses. The work is dangerous: trainers often follow their dogs into a collapsed building. Hebard lives in Bernardsville, New Jersey with her husband, children and dogs. Her book "So That Others May Live" was published in 1995.
Spec: Lifestyle; Culture; Disaster; Animals; U.S. Disaster Response Team

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: U.S. Disaster Response Team

Date: JANUARY 01, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 010102NP.217
Head: Temple Grandin
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:30

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

We end our animal week series with Temple Grandin, an autistic. women who was profiled by Neurologist Oliver Sacks in his book "An Anthropologist on Mars." He described her as one of the most remarkable autistic people of all.

In spite of her autism, she holds a Ph.D. in animal science, teaches at Colorado State University, and runs her own business. She's worked for many livestock companies, designing humane restraining systems for handling cattle and hogs on ranches and for veterinary procedures and slaughter.

One-third of the cattle and hogs in the U.S. are handled in equipment she designed. Her drawings, as well as two chairs she co-designed, have been displayed at museums around the country.

I spoke with her in 1995 after the publication of her book "Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports from My Life with Autism."

Autism is a condition of aloneness. Most autistics shut out anything from the outside and insist on sameness and repetition in all their movements. Dr. Sacks says Grandin's story shows there are forms of autism which don't incapacitate in the expected ways. Grandin owes much of her success to her ability to think in pictures.

TEMPLE GRANDIN, AUTHOR, "THINKING IN PICTURES AND OTHER REPORTS FROM MY LIFE WITH AUTISM," LIVESTOCK FACILITIES DESIGNER, INSTRUCTOR, COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY: I think totally visually. All of my thoughts are like videotapes playing on a VCR in my head. When I design livestock handling equipment, I can test run the system in my head.

It was easy for me to figure out how animals think and how animals would react because I think visually. Animals don't think in language, they think in pictures. It's very easy for me to imagine what would it be like to go through a system if you really were a cow, not a person in a cow costume, but really were a cow.

And autistic senses and emotions are more like the senses of an animal. My nervous system was hyper-vigilant. Any little thing out of place, like a water stain on the ceiling, that would set off a panic reaction.

And cattle are scared of the same thing. They're scared of things like high-pitched noise, sudden clanging and banging, sudden movement, maybe even a little chain that hangs down in the chute and jiggles, because it looks out of place. And things that are out of place can mean danger out in the wild.

GROSS: Though like most autistic people, you don't really like to be hugged or touched by other people, but you found a way of getting that comforting, secure feeling from a machine that you designed.

GRANDIN: That's right.

GROSS: You call it a squeeze machine. Some people have called it a hug machine. Would you describe what the machine does?

GRANDIN: Well, I can get in it and I -- it's made with foam rubber padded sides on it. And I can apply pressure to myself.

See, when I was a little kid, I wanted to feel a nice feeling of being hugged, but the stimulation was too overwhelming, my overly sensitive nervous system just couldn't tolerate it. You know, I got an engulfing tidal wave of stimulation just pouring over me.

And when I got into puberty, I started having horrible anxiety attacks. And I found that pressure calmed it. So, I built this device I could get into that would apply pressure that would calm down my nervous system. Many autistic children seek pressure, they'll get under mattresses, they'll get under sofa cushions.

And at first I would tend to just pull away from the device, but then gradually I got to where I could tolerate more and more, you know, being touched. And now I'm -- you know, much more desensitized and can tolerate it.

GROSS: So, how often do you use that machine now?

GRANDIN: Oh, I will -- oh, sometimes once a week. Now that I'm traveling on the road, I hardly ever get a chance to use it.

GROSS: So, how does it make you feel when you use it?

GRANDIN: Well, it makes me feel very relaxed. It makes me feel gentler.

I think that, you know, little babies need to feel the feeling of being held in order to, you know, develop empathy. I've found that my empathy with the cattle got much deeper when I actually started touching the animals. I found when I touched the animals, you know, I could calm them down.

GROSS: If somebody were to hug you now, would you feel as overwhelmed and uncomfortable and afraid as you did when you were young?

GRANDIN: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. Now, I actually like it when people hug me.

You know, sensory over-sensitivities can be desensitized. There are a lot of little autistic kids that pull away and they don't want to be touched. But then you gradually work on touching them.

It's sort of like taming a wild animal. At first, the wild animal pulls away. But then after you work on touching it, then a stimulus that was at first overwhelming becomes something that the animal will like.

And firm touch is calming and very light touch sets off a fear reaction. Also, steady pressure is calming and sudden, jerky motion causes agitation and excitement.

And the same thing's true with animals, because I've designed a lot of systems for holding animals. In fact, one-third of all the cattle in this country, when they go to a meat-processing plant, are held in a device I designed.

And I've found that you have to have just the right amount of pressure. You hold the animal too tight, it hurts and they fights it. If you don't hold him tight enough, he doesn't feel held and he fights it. There's an optimal amount of pressure. Also, slow, steady pressure is calming, and if you do it too quickly the animal will get excited.

GROSS: Is the hug machine that you created for yourself based on cattle restraint devices that you had seen?

GRANDIN: Well, yes. 'Cause when I was 18 years old, I had a constant state of anxiety all the time. It was like panic attacks. I felt like first radio interview nerves all the time for absolutely no reason. You know, I was in complete nervous system flight, you know, as if a lion was stalking around, you know, ready to get me. And I was desperate to get relief.

And I watched when the cattle went in the squeeze shoot to hold them for their vaccinations, some of the animals would sort of just relax. So then I talked my aunt into letting me try it, and for about an hour afterwards I was a lot calmer.

In fact pressure is used by a lot of therapists with autistic children. They'll roll them up in mats. They'll get them onto bean bag chairs. And it helps to relax them and calm down the nervous system so it's easier to work on things like learning how to talk.

GROSS: So, your aunt had a cattle ranch?

GRANDIN: Yes, she did.

GROSS: So, after you realized how comforting the pressure of this restraining device could be, did that lead you to want to work with animals?

GRANDIN: Well, that's one of the things that got me interested. Because I started going out to the feed yards and watching how the cattle reacted.

And then I -- this was about 20 years ago -- and so I wanted to learn more about how the cattle reacted to things, so I got down into the chutes with my camera and took pictures through the chutes to get a cow's eye view.

And I began to see the sort of things that would bother the cattle -- a shadow, a little thread out of place, any little thing, a coat or hat hanging on the fence -- and see the things that would make them balk.

GROSS: Well, you've really devoted your life to creating more humane conditions for animals and more humane, pain-free ways of slaughtering them. Do you feel like you empathize with cattle?

GRANDIN: Well, I know how cattle feel. And a lot of people, you know, when they think about the slaughter plant, all they can think about is, well, the cattle have got to know they're being slaughtered. Well, the things that scare the cattle are not the same things that we worry about.

There's several slaughter plants in Colorado. I go, you know, visit them fairly often. And at one of them, the cattle don't like a little chain that's sometimes hanging down in the chute. They'll watch that little chain. I was at the plant one day and a train went rushing by, and the cattle were much more scared of the train then they were of going into the slaughter plant.

You've got to have proper lighting. They won't go in if they can't see. High pitched noise. Sometimes just changing the plumbing on the hydraulic system to get rid of high pitched noise will make the cattle go in much easier.

It's easy for me to figure out how the cattle think because they think the way I do. In fact, title of my book finally got made to be Thinking in Pictures, and that's the way animals think. They think in pictures.

GROSS: Tell us about one of the designs you came up with for a more humane slaughterhouse.

GRANDIN: Well, I've done a lot of work on putting in curved chute systems. And one of the reasons this works is because the cattle can't see people up ahead, they just sort of go round and round and round like the Guggenheim Museum.

And then I designed a device called the center track restrainer system and it replaced older-type conveyor systems and holds the cattle in a more comfortable manner. And they just follow through, they just keep following the animal in front of them, and they just go in there and they're shot and they don't know what's happened.

Also want to emphasize the importance of good management. You can have very good equipment in a slaughter plant, but you've got to have management to go along with it. The slaughter plant manager has got to control the behavior of his employees.

GROSS: When you're in a slaughterhouse, is the smell of blood and the sight of the cattle lining up on their way to slaughter, is that upsetting to you?

GRANDIN: Well, if things are going right and they're just walking in calmly, it's not upsetting.

You know, people forget, nature's very harsh. I mean when a lion rips apart -- rips apart an animal and just dines on it while the animal's still alive, that's not very nice for the animal. And, you know, if I was an animal, I think I'd rather go to a -- you know, a decent slaughter plant than have a lion dine on me while I'm still alive.

GROSS: You seem to really understand cattle and to be able to know what's going to disturb them and upset them. Do you feel you have the same insights about other people?

GRANDIN: Well, you know, it's easy to figure out cattle 'cause I think visually and I -- I -- my nervous system reacts the way cattle do. But there are a lot of, you know, social things that go on I just had to learn by, you know, rote memory.

I'd never realized how visual my thinking was until I started talking to other people about how they thought. I mean, I used to think everybody thought in videos. And now I've found out that some people think in words and just sort of vague pictures.

See, all of my thinking goes from specific to general. Like, for example, my concept of what a dog is is not a generalized concept, but I see a whole bunch of pictures in my mind of very specific dogs.

And I've actually, you know, tested people's visual thinking by saying, "access your memory on church steeples." And I deliberately picked that because it's something that's not in the room that they can see, it's not something they have at home. And most people just see sort of a vague, generalized picture. I see only specific ones, starting with very specific childhood memories and then very specific ones I saw maybe yesterday or last week.

And with specific-to-general thinking, you know, I have to just learn social skills by example. I have to learn social skills like a child would learn his school lessons. I'm sort of like Data on "Star Trek."

When I was in high school, I mean I just couldn't understand, you know, all why there was so much interest in things like jewelry and clothes. I mean, there was much more interesting stuff in Mr. Carlock's (ph) science lab.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Temple Grandin, and she is autistic. She is one of the nation's leading designers of restraints for cattle. She's very successful in that field.

You understand cattle so well. What do you find very mysterious about other people?

GRANDIN: Well, my emotions are not as complex. I have a difficult time understanding how somebody can be jealous and love somebody at the same time.

I definitely have emotions, but fear is one of my main emotions. And, of course, that's one of the main emotions of animals. They see a little chain or something jiggling or they see a shadow looks out of place, they get a fear reaction.

And I just don't -- it just isn't part of my experience to, like, swoon over some guy 'cause I think he's really cute. When I was in high school, my roommate would, like, practically faint on the floor when Bob the science teacher walked into the room. I mean I -- and she'd be swooning on the floor when she was watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. And I'd go, "yeah, they're cute, but I'm not gonna faint on the floor over it."

GROSS: Do you understand love?

GRANDIN: Well, I understand caring. And, see, most of my relationships are more intellect. I have a number of friends that I think I've been able to help them out, you know, on some counseling sort of things. And, to me love is caring.

In fact, my mother wrote one time that love was making something grow. I mean that's sort of the way I look at it, but it's more of an intellectual thing. And when I see people abuse cattle, it makes me very angry, and, you know, and I want to, you know, change things.

GROSS: Do you feel like you're missing out on something special by not being in love and not understanding that emotion?

GRANDIN: I'm missing out on some things, but I also have talents that other people don't have. I don't want to give up visual thinking.

In fact, Oliver Sacks asked me in his book Anthropologist on Mars, "if you could, you know, suddenly snap your fingers and not be autistic, would you do that?" And I'm, "no, I wouldn't." Because I don't want to give up visual thinking.

Visual thinking makes me a very clear thinking on -- in -- gives me very, very clear thinking in scientific and technical things. To me, a lot of the highly verbal thinkers are very fuzzy thinkers and they're not logical.

GROSS: My guest is Temple Grandin. We'll talk more about her experience of autism after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: Back to our interview with Temple Grandin. She's an autistic woman who's a very successful designer of humane restraining systems for cattle and hogs.

Children who are autistic often engage in very repetitive, obsessive behavior, like rocking back and forth or spinning. You did some of that when you were young.

GRANDIN: Very definitely. And the reason why autistic children engage in these behaviors is to block out stimuli that hurt. But the problem is, if you just let the child sit in a corner and rock, he's gonna end up sitting in a corner and rocking for the rest of his life. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting a child very early, when they're two and three and four years old, into a really good program.

OK, what is a good program? You need to spend a lot of hours a day just keeping that child engaged with the world.

In my case, I was very lucky and my mother really worked hard to get me a good education. At two and a half, I went into a speech therapy nursery school where we had a very structured day and I was not allowed to just tune out.

And then meals were structured, because I'm 48 years old and I lived at a time when you sat at the table and you were taught manners. And then, my mother had a nanny that would spend two or three hours a day with me just playing games, keeping me occupied so I couldn't tune out.

But then on the other hand, you've got to protect these children from certain sounds that hurt, like a smoke alarm, like certain telephones, the school bell. These sounds hurt like a dentist drill going down my ear. And I was scared to go into certain rooms because I didn't know when the bell was gonna go off. And the children have got to be protected from these sounds.

I had a mother call me up and she told me that her child was scared to death of church. He would go into the Sunday school, but he wouldn't go into the church. And the reason for this is that one day the microphone fed back and squealed and that hurt the child's ears. And he was afraid to go in there because he was afraid it would happen again.

GROSS: When you went to school as a girl, was it a public school?

GRANDIN: I went to a small private school. Now, I had two years of really intensive treatment and I was mainstreamed into a normal kindergarten at age five. But it was a very old-fashioned, highly structured kindergarten, there was only 12 children in the class, with an older, experienced teacher. There was no open classroom with kids running around doing all different sorts of things. Everybody did the same thing all at once.

GROSS: And I want to get back to the idea of spinning, that kind of obsess -- or rocking, that kind of obsessive behavior. You say that it helped you and helps a lot of like autistic people block out painful stimuli.

GRANDIN: Well, it helps you block out painful stimuli. But the problem is, if you let the child do it all day...

GROSS: That's all they'll do.

GRANDIN: That's all they'll do. Autism is a neurological disorder. Research done by Margaret Bowman (ph) in Boston shows very clearly that there's immature development in the limbic system of the brain and in the cerebellum, which is involved with balance and with sensory modulation.

GROSS: When I see somebody spinning or rocking obsessively, to me it looks like the behavior of someone who's incredibly frustrated and unhappy. Was there any sense of frustration when you would be rocking?

GRANDIN: Well, actually, once I got rocking it was almost like taking a drug. I mean I would just used to like to rock. Also used to like to just sit and dribble sand through my hands, and it was just like getting high on something. And I would just be completely tuned out.

See, when you have senses that hurt you have two choices: you can let the whole world come in and just blast you out or you can sit and rock and shut everything out. And then, you get addicted to rocking. It's just like taking an addictive drug.

And there's some evidence in animals that there is actually an addiction. Endorphins get released, which are the brains own natural sort of -- brain's own natural opioids, and you can get addicted to the, to the behavior. But I wouldn't be here now if I'd been allowed to sit in a corner and rock for eight hours a day.

GROSS: What was the best way and what was the worst way that an adult could approach you to get you to stop rocking?

GRANDIN: Well, the worst thing you can do is cause too much sensory stimulation. Now, there seem -- there's different levels of autism. I had sensory sensitivities, but I did not have the kind of problems where seeing and hearing were actually mixing together.

You did an interview a while back with Donna Williams (ph), and she described being mono-channel. In other words, she couldn't see and hear at the same time. My problems weren't as severe.

So as long as I was in a reasonably quiet room, the teacher could kind of just say, "now, come on, you just pay attention." She could literally snap me out of it. Where a child that's like Donna Williams, that's not gonna work.

In fact, Donna told me that if somebody had grabbed her chin and tried to force her to pay attention, she would just go into sensory shutdown and nothing would get through. With her, you have to take a much more gentle approach, maybe get a darkened room and just work with singing very softly, so that only one sensory channel is used very gently at a time.

GROSS: Did you ever experience what she describes as that kind of sensory shutdown, the shutdown of her whole system?

GRANDIN: No, I did not. You see, her sensory problems are more severe than mine are. You know, both Donna and I are both very intelligent people. I want to make it very clear, this has nothing to do with mental retardation. This has to do with sensory processing. And even in my own case, I have problems with understanding complex speech sounds.

I think one of the things we need to be looking at a lot more carefully in these children is: can they understand complex speech? You can pass a pure tone hearing test and that doesn't tell you anything about your ability to understand complex speech. And I -- even I have problems with mixing up different consonant sounds. I have to figure out words by context.

Last year, I had a rather new research hearing test where they tested my ability to understand complex sounds and process complex sounds, and I mixed up things like workshop and woodchuck. Now, if I was out working with one of my meat clients, I'd know that they weren't talking about the woodchuck if we were down in the maintenance shop, they'd be talking about the workshop. So, I'm able to figure it out by context.

GROSS: Temple Grandin, recorded in 1995. Two squeeze chairs, or hug chairs, which she co-designed with an artist are now on display at MIT. We'll hear more of the interview in the second half of our show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with more of our interview with Temple Grandin. She's an autistic woman who in spite of her autism is a successful designer of restraining systems for livestock. Neurologist Oliver Sacks profiled her in his book An Anthropologist on Mars. She told her own story in her memoir "Thinking in Pictures" published in 1995, the year our interview was recorded.

When did you realize that you were different from most other people?

GRANDIN: Well, as a little kid I had a really odd lack of awareness that I was different. You know, and even though my visual thinking, I mean I was an adult before I realized that other people did not have the extensive visual thinking that I had.

And I'd go out on a job where we'd be designing equipment and I'd go, "how could the engineers be so stupid? Wouldn't they know that's not gonna work?" Well, I just assumed everybody had visual thinking.

You know, now when I've -- like, carefully interviewed people about how they think, I've realized it's not stupidity that caused them to design it wrong, they simply don't have visual thinking. I mean some engineers definitely do have it, they are non-autistic people that have visual thinking. But there's also some people out there that have very limited visual thinking.

GROSS: Do you watch movies and television a lot and feel like you learn a lot from other people by watching them portrayed...

GRANDIN: Well, I...

GROSS: Yeah.

GRANDIN: Oh, I like to watch things like, you know, the news magazine shows. I really like listening to things like, you know, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED and FRESH AIR because I get lots of information from those things.

GROSS: What's it like for you to listen to the radio and have words without pictures?

GRANDIN: Well, I make the pictures. As the person talks, I make the pictures. And if they're talking about something where I can't make pictures, then it does not get remembered very well.

GROSS: What if the conversation is about something pretty abstract, about ideas?

GRANDIN: It depends what the idea is, you know, 'cause a lot of abstract ideas I convert to pictures. Like, somebody asked me the other day, "how do you visualize eternity, the concept of eternity?" Well, I just see "Star Trek" and, you know, looking out the front window of the Starship Enterprise and just seeing space going out there for ever and ever and ever. I think about the Hubble Telescope that was built to look to the ends of the universe. Those are the sort of things that are -- that -- pictures that form my concept of eternity.

Or, you take a concept like truth. Well, I think of things that were examples of truth, like reading a newspaper article about a man who returned a wallet with all the money in it.

GROSS: Do you feel that as time goes by you're becoming less autistic?

GRANDIN: Well, you keep learning how to get more and more normal. It's sort of like Data on Star Trek. You know, Data keeps trying to learn more about how people -- how people act.

And I remember watching a Star Trek, and I wish I could remember the name of the episode, but Data was trying to date a girl. And it was a total disaster because he told her that she was beautiful in scientific terms, like saying, you know, "you have a lovely, smooth epidermis." Well, that just doesn't work.

GROSS: So, you identify with him.

GRANDIN: Oh, I definitely identify with him. And I identified with Mr. Spock.

GROSS: My understanding is that most people who are autistic like repetition, familiarity, patterns, systems. You travel a lot. You do a lot of public speaking. You do a lot of freelance work, so you're working for different people. It's amazing to me that you can do that. Are you not upset by change?

GRANDIN: Well, you know, you've been in one Holiday Inn, you've been in 'em all.


In fact, they're starting to standardize the beds now and I really do like that. Seems like all the hotels now put these thick, quilted spreads on and I really like that.

You know, you get so used to airports they're not different. But it does make me nervous to do some different mode of travel. I don't travel by train very much, and trains make me nervous because I haven't been on them enough to get completely familiar with them.

GROSS: Judging from our conversation, it's -- you're a very good speaker. Is it as easy for you to write?

GRANDIN: I can write. I -- because I have an associational mind, I have problems with organization. And Betsy Lerner (ph), my editor, I really owe a big gratitude, to her rippin' her hair out on my organization, because I think associational.

Like, for example, I have a thing in my book where I copied a sentence out of a magazine that described the Olympics. And it said something like, "all the elements were in place, the waltzes and the little sprites jumping in the air," and it was talking about skating.

Now, if I just read that whole thing, I get a picture of the skating arena. But if I stop on the word "elements," then I get an association back to the periodic chart of the elements in my high school classroom.

If I look at the word "sprite" I get pictures of Sprite cans in my refrigerator, Sprite can at the store where I buy gas. Now I go to an association of putting gas in my car at one convenience market and then putting gas in my car at another convenience store. That's how the associational mind works.

And Betsy ripped her hair out on organization. And we got things organized. And if I ever do another book I'm gonna know how to prevent this problem, by making a very, very good outline and then each little part of the outline will just be two pages of the book. I mean I'm not gonna -- if I ever do another book, I won't put Betsy through all of that again, 'cause I learned a lot about organization writing it.

Because all my scientific papers I don't have a problem, because scientific papers aren't that long and scientific papers have a very big structure. You do an introduction, you do your methods, you do your results, and then you do your discussion, and then there's a summary.

GROSS: Now, the association didn't, you know, the associative thinking didn't seem to be a problem in this interview. You weren't -- you stayed right on the subject all the time.

GRANDIN: Well, because it isn't that long, you see. You see, writing -- doing the interview is more like doing a scientific paper, it isn't like doing a whole great big gigantic book.

GROSS: Right.

GRANDIN: But I just want to tell all the readers out there, I mean I've got decent organization in my book now, and I really can thank Betsy my editor.

GROSS: I'll concur, it's very well-organized. It's a very good book and I want to congratulate you on it. And thank you very, very much, thank you very much for talking with us.

GRANDIN: Well, it's been just great to talk with you.

GROSS: Temple Grandin, recorded in 1995 after the publication of her memoir "Thinking in Pictures." She continues to work with students at Colorado State University, and is currently revising one of her books on livestock handling. She's been consulting with fast food restaurants on implementing animal welfare standards for the slaughter plants they work with.

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Temple Grandin
High: Temple Grandin is one of the nations top designers of livestock facilities. She is also autistic. Grandin was also one of the subjects in Oliver Sacks' book, "An Anthropologist On Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales". In Grandin's book, Thinking in Pictures: and other reports from my life with Autism she describes how her inner-autistic world has led her to develop animal empathy. Her book is published by Doubleday 1995.
Spec: LIfestyle; Culture; Architecture; Disabilities

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Temple Grandin

Date: JANUARY 01, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 010103NP.217
Head: Lloyd Schwartz
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

TERRY GROSS, HOST: TERRY GROSS, HOST: Stephen Sondheim's "Follies" has a special place in the hearts of those who love Sondheim's musicals, though it's never had a truly complete recording. Now TVT Records has released a double CD of a production at New Jersey's Papermill Playhouse with an all-star cast.

Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz has a review.


I'm just a Broadway baby
Walkin' on my tired feet
Poundin' 42nd Street
To be in a show

Broadway baby...

LLOYD SCHWARTZ, CLASSIC MUSIC CRITIC: The Ziegfeld Follies were among the most frivolous Broadway extravaganzas of the 1920s and '30s. Every big star played the Follies. But the central Follies image is of statuesque showgirls in revealing costumes and mile-high headpieces descending steep flights of steps. Remember Lucille Ball's parody on "I Love Lucy"?

The Follies is also the subject of one of Stephen Sondheim's most extraordinary musicals, and one of his bleakest. I saw it with someone I was breaking up with and I've no doubt it helped precipitate the painful end of that relationship.

It was a very expensive show, and even after 500 performances on Broadway it lost money. But its stature has remained secure, even though there's never been a truly complete recording of this complex score. Now, a new two-CD set includes even the songs dropped in the particularly trying tryout period, and they're some of Sondheim's best.

The central song in "Follies" is "I'm Still Here," the ultimate survivor anthem, which was written for, and evidently about, B movie star Yvonne De Carlo. Before it was written, though, DeCarlo's showstopper was a raunchy comedy number called "Can That Boy Fox Trot." Ann Miller (ph) sings it on the new recording.


A false alarm
A broken arm
An imitation Hitler
And with littler charm

But, oh, can that boy fox trot

His mouth is mean
He's not too clean
What makes him reptilian
Is the Brilliantine (ph)

But, oh, can that boy fox trot

Who knows what I saw in him
I took a chance
Oh, yes, no more one more flaw in him
He can't dance

As dumbbells go
He's rather slow
And as for being saintly
Even faintly no

But who needs Albert Schweitzer
When the light are low?
And, oh, boy, oh, boy
Can that boy fox trot

SCHWARTZ: The plot of "Follies" is simply -- and complicated. At a reunion of Follies girls in an about-to-be-demolished theater, decades after the last Follies, two friends and their stage door Johnny husbands reconnect. They're all convinced they married the wrong person and are living in misery, resigned or unresigned to their choices.

In the second act, something thrilling happens. The gutted theater suddenly fills with opulent scenery and the anguish of each of these characters is transformed into a Follies production number. Like "Hamlet"'s play within a play, Sondheim's show within the show reveals a deeper truth.

Sally, who married Buddy, has never gotten over her obsession with Phyllis's husband Ben. The reunion forces her to confront her desperation. The curtain parts, she emerges into a spotlight in a sequinned gown and sings Sondheim's greatest torch song, "Losing My Mind," which is just what she's doing.

On the new album, Donna McKechnie (ph), who got her first big break in Sondheim's "Company," doesn't have the aching innocence of Dorothy Collins in the original cast, but she has an intensity of her own.


Does no one know
It's like I'm losing my mind?

All afternoon doing every little chore
The thought of you stays bright
Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor
Not going left, not going right

I dim the lights
And think about you
Spend sleepless nights
To think about you

You said you love me
Or were you just being kind?
Or am I losing mind?

SCHWARTZ: Sondheim fills "Follies" with an amazing variety of musical styles, or parodies of them, from Romberg (ph) operetta to Gershwin and Porter ballads. Yet Sondheim's parodies are often the songs most completely his own. They're the nightmare fun house mirror that reflect both the follies of or lives, as well as the folly of Sondheim's profession, the absurdity and the giddy joy of musical comedy itself. Sondheim is our greatest post-modern composer, and nowhere is his self-conscious, self-examination more unflinching.

The cast includes Tony Roberts and Laurence Guitard (ph), who are marvelous as the two unhappy husbands, and in cameo roles Kay Ballard (ph), Lillianne Montevecchi (ph), and Phyllis Newman (ph). But the real star of this album is Stephen Sondheim himself.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix. He reviewed "Follies: The Complete Recording" on the TVT Soundtracks label.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Lloyd Schwartz
High: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews a new two-cd set of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies"
Spec: Lifestyle; Culture; Entertainment; Music Industry

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: "Follies"
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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