DATE January 11, 2005 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Temple Grandin discusses similarities between people
with autism and animals
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
My guest Temple Grandin has been able to draw on her own experiences with
autism to understand how animals think and behave. Although autism made
school and social life difficult, she says it made working with animals easy.
She designs humane handling systems for cattle and other animals. Half the
cattle in America end their lives in the humane slaughter systems she's
designed. When neurologist Oliver Sacks profiled her in 1993, he described
her as one of the most remarkable autistic people of all.
Grandin's book "Thinking in Pictures" described living with autism and how it
connects to her work with animals. Her new book is called "Animals in
Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior." She
lectures on both autism and animal science and teaches at Colorado State
University. I spoke with Temple Grandin about her new book, "Animals in
You describe autism as a kind of way station on the road from animals to
humans, which puts autistic people in a perfect position to translate animal
talk to English. Do you feel that there are things you have more in common
with animals than with people?
Professor TEMPLE GRANDIN (Author, "Animals in Translation: Using the
Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior"): I think one of the big
differences is I don't think in language; I think in pictures, and that's the
way an animal's going to think. He's going to think by making associations
between different smells, different sights and sounds. There are no words.
Now obviously a dog can learn what certain words mean, but if a dog's just
trying to, like, figure out, you know, what dogs visited the local fire
hydrant, he's getting smell images and who was there, when they were there,
what their ranking was, how long ago they were there. There's a lot of
information on that hydrant, and that involves thinking.
GROSS: You know, when people compare autistic children to animals, as they
have sometimes done, it's usually in the form of an insult, you know, like the
child was so wild or so impossible to comprehend or control, they were like an
animal. You're making some comparisons between people with autism and
animals, but you don't mean this in an insulting way.
Prof. GRANDIN: Oh, absolutely not because what--I'm comparing us more to how
fear is my main emotion, fear's the main emotion in animals. The thinking in
details--animals aren't into whole big language-based concepts. They're into
details. So is an autistic child. He'll notice, you know, a little tiny rip
on a couch and get all upset about it; notice little details that most people
don't notice. Animals do the same thing. In my work I do with the
meat-packing plants, cattle are not afraid of getting slaughtered. They're
afraid of some little reflection, a little chain that jiggles, seeing
something moving up ahead, little details. I could take a paper cup and throw
it in the chute and just about shut the plant down.
GROSS: Let's talk about some of these things that you feel that people with
autism and animals share, and one of the things you write about in the book is
the fear of sudden or loud noises.
Prof. GRANDIN: Well...
GROSS: Yeah, go ahead.
Prof. GRANDIN: People with autism have very acute senses. Like when the fire
alarm went off, it hurt my ears. Scratchy clothing was like sandpaper rubbing
my nerve endings raw. Animals also have extremely acute senses. I was very
interested reading the articles about the tidal wave and how the elephants
sensed the wave coming, and they ran, with their tourists on top of them, to
GROSS: So what are some of the sudden sounds or loud sounds that are very
difficult for you?
Prof. GRANDIN: They are the kind of sounds that out in nature mean danger,
intermittent, high-pitched sounds. I find even now--you know, I've been on
anti-depressant drugs for years--that when a truck backs up in the middle of
the night and goes, `beep, beep, beep, beep, beep,' that still makes my heart
race. See, the thing is, as an autistic person, the nervous system's all
anxious, you know, like looking for predators. You know, fear--that's what
keeps animals alive out there. Fear, until I took anti-depressant medication,
was my main emotion, you know, always vigilant.
GROSS: You know what I was thinking about reading about this in your book?
You know, the animal I know best is my cat, and she's terrified of tin foil.
Like if I--you know, when I rip off a piece of tin foil from the roller, she
just runs as fast as she can. It's absolutely terrifying to her.
Prof. GRANDIN: There is something to do with the sound, and a lot of animals
have problems with things like fireworks and thunderstorms, you know. And I
think it starts out with it hurting their ears, and then there are certain
sounds that just hurt. And there must be something about this tin foil sound
that's hurting that cat's ears.
GROSS: Now you also say that intermittent noise can be particularly
difficult, and, I mean, I know that's--in a way, that goes without saying. I
mean, that's--if there's, you know, a recurring noise--if people are working
on the street in the middle of the night, there's no way you're ever going to
sleep. But tell me how that translates into how you think autistic people
respond to intermittent noise and if that has a corollary for animals.
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, the problem with intermittent noise is it keeps
triggering the orienting response. OK, like a deer might hear a noise, and
the deer's going to turn his head and turn his eyes and ears towards it. And
then he has to make a decision: `Do I run away, or do I just keep on
grazing?' And intermittent noises keep triggering that orienting response,
and I think the orienting response is the beginning of consciousness. It's
the beginning where you can have thought because it's not just a reflex. OK,
the deer hears the sound, he turns. Now he has to make a decision: `Do I
graze, or do I run away?' rather than just relying on reflexes.
GROSS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
If you're just joining us, my guest is Temple Grandin, and she's an associate
professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She is known
throughout the country for her work designing humane animal handling systems
and for her work improving the quality of life for animals in agricultural
settings. Her new book is called "Animals in Translation: Using the
Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior." She has autism and believes
that there are many similarities between certain ways animals think and
respond and the way people with autism do.
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, one of the things about cattle is they're very visually
responsive. I found the work with the meat-packing plants, it was what they'd
look at: reflection on shiny metal that jiggles; the chute is too dark, so
you have to add some light to light it up; there might be a metal strip going
across the floor, little visual details. That seems to really bother them,
just makes them stop.
GROSS: Is there an equivalent in your life to that?
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, I can remember as a child, we had--it rained really
hard, and we got a leak in my bedroom. And there was a spot on the ceiling
where the roof had leaked. Nothing had fallen down, just kind of a brown,
discolored spot. And that made me very afraid. I was afraid that all the
furniture upstairs would fall down into my room, and I visualized, you know,
TV and couches and stuff crashing down into my room.
GROSS: So what did your parents do? Did they paint the spot?
Prof. GRANDIN: Yeah, they painted--they fixed it. But, I mean, most kids
would not have even noticed that spot. But to me, it was, you know, possible
GROSS: Right, right. Now as you point out, a lot of children with autism are
riveted by the motion of the revolving blades on a fan that's turned on, and
you say you have the same response with screen savers. If you're in a room
with a screen saver, you can't take your eyes off of it, and there's nothing
else you can focus on.
Prof. GRANDIN: Oh, I have to just keep moving the mouse to get rid of those
screen savers. Well, rapid movement attracts attention. Rapid movement makes
the predatory animals chase, and it makes the grazing animals run away. Rapid
movement makes cattle and horses scared, and it makes lions and tigers and
domestic cats chase things. It's very stimulating to the nervous system.
GROSS: So that's a great example of a connection that you think people with
autism and that many animals have; that being riveted or stimulated by that
kind of motion.
Prof. GRANDIN: See, I think one of the main connections is that normal
people--language is how they think and how their brain operates. Animals are
going to work with the part of the brain that's subconscious in most people.
I call it the primary hard drive of the brain's computer: visual thinking,
you know, smell memories, sound memories. And then they have to put those
together into different categories to form concepts. I mean, I've always said
I think with what Freud used to call the subconscious.
And there's been some interesting research that's now starting to explain how
autistic savant skills work. What's happening--it's like having a direct line
right into the picture department. And this would be the guy that can draw
really well or the guy that can memorize the whole map of a large city, but he
can't do much else. It's a real narrow focus with these savant skills. And
animals seem to have some similar savant skills. For example, birds, when
they migrate, only have to be shown the migration route once by the other
birds, and then they remember the whole entire route.
GROSS: So you're suggesting that information only feeds into, like, one
specific part of the brain? Is that what you're saying?
Prof. GRANDIN: There's a tendency in autism for brains to become specialized.
And in some of the high-functioning Asperger's, you get a brain that actually
sort of specializes in language and drops out the visual thinking and the
musical thinking. But the other kinds of autistic people, you know, they tend
to either be visual specialists, you know; some might be sound specialists.
But there's a tendency for the brain to specialize because of abnormalities in
the frontal cortex. I mean, recent work done by Eric Courchesne out in
California has shown that the frontal cortex is all messed up because the
neurons that connect the different parts of the brain together, sort of the
computer cables that connect all the different brain departments together,
have just grown into a big tangle that doesn't connect things up right. So
one part tends to specialize.
There's also been some really interesting research with people with frontal
temporal lobe dementia. This is a type of Alzheimer's disease that destroys
the language areas of the brain in the frontal cortex. And as these language
areas of the brain get destroyed, in some of these patients, art and music
talent has emerged.
GROSS: So--yeah. So in animals, the frontal lobes, which deal with language,
are much smaller, and...
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, of course, animals don't have lang--animals do have
smaller frontal lobes, but they also don't have language.
Prof. GRANDIN: So they've got to think with the primary sensory-based
information. Let me explain to you how you can form a concept with visual
thinking, OK? When I was a little child, how did I figure out that a dog
wasn't a cat? Well, I did it by size. But then when our next-door neighbors
bought a small dachshund that was the same size as a cat, OK, why wasn't this
dachshund a cat? So I had to find a visual detail that every dog has that none
of the cats have. And every dog, no matter how small, has exactly the same
nose. So now I could categorize them by what the noses looked like. You
could also categorize them by barking vs. meowing. In other words, what I
got to do is take either pictures or take sounds, or I could even take
smells--I can categorize them by their smell, cat and dog smell--and then I
got to put those pictures or sounds or smells into different categories, sort
of like sorting them into different boxes.
GROSS: And how does that relate to the frontal lobes?
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, you don't need much frontal lobes in order to do that.
GROSS: In order to do that, OK. Now, you know, we're talking about, like,
focusing on things and becoming obsessive on some of the things that you focus
on. You write about how it's very difficult for autistic people to filter
things out. You know, it might be filtering out a sound, it might be
filtering out a picture or even filtering out a thought. You say you think
you don't have a subconscious; that everything's conscious, you can't hold on
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, everything is conscious because when you don't think in
language, you have to think with the part of the brain that in most people
that would be the subconscious. And I have to tell you I see little Freudian
things in there. They're sort of like nasty little pop-up ads, and I'm not
going to tell you what's on my pop-ups, and I click them off because I don't
GROSS: But I thought in the book you say you can't click them off; that, for
instance, you can't see a violent movie because if somebody is raped or
murdered, you can't turn off that image. It's just going to stay there.
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, some of that stuff, yes. I want to just avoid that. I
can click them off, but the problem is they're down there on my hard drive and
they keep coming back. So really violent movies I just don't want to see.
But I do make a differentiation between kind of cartoon violence--but
realistic violence where there's cruelty, that's something I do not want to
GROSS: My guest is Temple Grandin. Her new book is called "Animals in
Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior." We'll
talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Temple Grandin. Her new book "Animals in Translation" is
about how living with autism has helped her understand animal behavior. She
designs humane handling systems for animals.
You teach college.
Prof. GRANDIN: Yes, I do.
GROSS: Are there things you know your students are going through emotionally
that you feel like you are incapable of really understanding?
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, some of all the romantic stuff, I just don't get into
that. And I certainly understand emotions, like being nervous and scared, you
know, before final exams; you know, being nervous and scared, you know, when I
first started teaching classes. That I fully understand. But some of the
complex stuff, the subtle stuff--I didn't even know that people had eye
signals until I read about them in a book 10 years ago.
GROSS: What kind of eye signals are you talking about?
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, little, you know, subtle eye signals that somebody's
annoyed with you. Basically, the one subtle signal I pick up--and this is
something that humans and animals share--is tone of voice. You know, if I
think one of my clients might be angry with me, I like to call him up and just
listen to what he sounds like because I can tell if he's got this little whine
that maybe he's a little angry with me. Animals are extremely sensitive to
tone of voice. They also can really clue into the voice of the good person
and the voice of the bad person.
And let's talk about fear memories. An animal can get a fear memory that--of
black hats. You know, let's say a person abused a horse wearing a black hat,
and the horse was looking right at the black hat. Now the horse is afraid of
black hats. Or a dog got hit by a car, you'd expect the dog to be afraid of
the car. No, he was afraid of the piece of pavement he was staring at right
at the time he got hit by the car. You know, they make an association, either
a sight or a sound. There's another animal that was afraid of nylon ski
jackets because he was abused by a person wearing a nylon ski jacket that made
a `shh, shh' kind of sound. So now the animal was afraid of that sound. And
an autistic kid, he can get afraid of seeing a little red fire alarm box
because you never know when that horrible thing's going to go off and blast
out your ears.
GROSS: Did you have fears like this?
Prof. GRANDIN: Oh, yes, I did. One of the things that was done with me--I
was scared of paper bags popping, and sometimes that was used as a threat to
make me behave. And I saw those bags, yup, I was cared of that.
GROSS: Who used that as a threat?
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, my nanny did, and it was--she did a lot of really good
things, but that was not one of the good things that she did.
GROSS: Well, because you were so overwhelmed by fear so much of the time,
well, did you fear work as a way to discipline you, or did it just kind of
send you off the rails?
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, there was a point where it just will send you off the
rail. I mean, it--you just get so scared, you just can't function. I mean,
I've been on anti-depressant drugs for 25 years, and if I hadn't got on
anti-depressant drugs in my early 30s, I mean, I wouldn't be here now, and I
wouldn't have done the things that I've done.
GROSS: You were talking about, you know, how if a horse is abused by somebody
wearing a black hat, the horse would become afraid of black hats. So let's
take that hypothetical example of the black hat. How would you try to
desensitize a horse to that fear?
Prof. GRANDIN: You can desensitize it, but one of the problems that you have
is you can never erase the fear memory. Nature will not let you erase it. It
will only allow you to put a lock on the file. Now if the horse is a
high-strung horse, that lock can come off the file really quickly, and it can
come back. Now black hat's a difficult one because I can't eliminate black
hats from the horse's environment. I mean, showing that horse would be
difficult. Now let's say a horse was afraid of a certain type of bit he'd
been abused with. Now one of the ways I might be able to crack that would be
to change maybe from a jointed snapple bit to a one-piece solid bit, and that
would feel enough different. You see, these memories are very specific.
They're real, real, real specific. So I put a different bit in his mouth that
feels different, then I got rid of the feared thing. And I can control what
bit I put in the horse's mouth, where I can't eliminate all of the black hats.
You know, now why did the horse get afraid of black hats? Now that's what he
was looking at. Or you might have a dog that's afraid of Nike sneakers
because that's what he was looking at when somebody was a'whacking on him.
You know, it's what the animal associates with, you know, the bad thing that
GROSS: Our director who rides horses says that sometimes if a horse is
spooked by something, it's recommended that you kind of take that horse to
that source of fear over and over again, I guess, until the horse becomes
desensitized. Is that something that you would recommend--is if a horse is
spooked by something, introducing it to them, taking them to that source
several times, so that they...
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, I would do that. Another thing I want to do with the
horse is let's gradually introduce horses to a whole lot of things that might
be scary gradually, like, OK, let's say--you know, people say, `Oh, my horse
was fine at home, and he went berserk over at the horse show.' Well, you got
three really scary things at the horse show that we need to desensitize that
horse to at home before you go to a show: balloons, bikes and flags. Now
flags and balloons are a lot of rapid movement and a lot of high contrast.
And the best way to train the animal to that would be to decorate his pasture
with flags and balloons and let the horse walk up to these things on his own.
And then bikes--you need to just introduce it gradually. They're scary
because it's rapid movement, and they sneak up on you silently without any
And what I want to try to do is get the horse used to a whole lot of things
before he just sort of accidentally, you know, sees it out on the trail. But
you're still going to have some things that it might just--you know,
unexpectedly, you know, spook the horse. I mean, let's say a horse went up to
a puddle and just spooked a little bit of the puddle. Yeah, you just bring
him back up to it. Well, you see, that's just a little, tiny, you know,
hardly--you know, just a tiny fright compared to becoming afraid of a person
who beat him up. I mean, that's like you get degrees of scared. And things
that were really, really traumatic, it's more difficult to get the horse over
it than things that are not traumatic.
GROSS: You write about being touched. You know, a lot of people with autism
don't like being touched, certainly don't like being touched suddenly. And a
lot of animals are that way, too. They don't want to be approached suddenly.
Some animals don't like to be touched or don't like to be picked up and held.
Can you talk about some of the connections that you see there?
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, the nervous system in an autistic person is very, very
oversensitive and hyped up. And it's sort of like, you know, a little wild
mustang; you know, it just jumps away when you touch it. But then gradually
if you work on stroking--and I want to emphasize you stroke animals firmly.
Don't pat them. Some animals will interpret that as hitting. You want to
stroke, and firm pressure with a stroke is calming. Little tickle touches,
that sets off an alarm reaction. Don't do that. Same thing is true with
little autistic kids. And then gradually you can work on desensitizing them
to touch, so they'll like hugging.
GROSS: That's interesting that tickling sets off that reaction. You know,
when you have a pet and you tickle them and they kind of go nuts (laughs), you
don't know whether that's fun nuts or bad nuts.
Prof. GRANDIN: I would not tickle a pet. You know, stroke a pet. You know,
the mimic the motions of the mother animal's tongue. You know, horses like to
be, you know, scratched up on the withers, or sometimes they just like to be
scratched because they're itchy. And so they--lots of horses really enjoy
GROSS: Temple Grandin will be back in the second half of the show. Her new
book is called "Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to
Decode Animal Behavior." I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Coming up, rock historian Ed Ward looks back on the early career of
Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page when he was a session musician in London.
And we continue our conversation with Temple Grandin about autism and animal
(Soundbite of song)
LED ZEPPELIN: (Singing) The leaves are falling all around. Time I was on my
way. Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay. But now it's
time for me to go. The autumn moon lights my way. But now I smell the rain
and, with it, pain, and it's headed my way. Ahh, sometimes I grow so tired,
but I know I've got one thing I've got to do. Ramble on. Now's the time, the
time is now. Sing my song. I'm going 'round the world. I gotta find my girl
on my way. I've been this way 10 years to the day. Ramble on. I gotta find
the queen of all my dreams.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Temple Grandin. Her new
book, "Animals in Translation," is about how living with autism and keeping up
with the scientific literature about autism has helped her understand animal
behavior. She designs humane handling systems for animals raised for the food
industry and teaches at Colorado State University. Her new book is called
"Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal
You know, one of the things you're very famous for--and we talked about this
the last time you were on our show--is a chair that you describe that you call
like a squeeze chair. And I'm going to ask you to describe it again.
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, this was modeled after a cattle squeeze chute, what
cattle get in for their vaccinations. When I got into puberty and the
hormones hit, I was in a constant state of stage fright all the time. I was
like so nervous all the time I couldn't stand it. And I noticed that when
they put the cattle in the squeeze chute for their vaccinations that sometimes
they relaxed. So, of course, I went and tried out the squeeze chute, and then
I found the pressure relaxed me, and then I built a device that I could get
into that works just like a cattle squeeze chute. And it's actually being
used, you know, therapeutically with some autistic children and adults. A lot
of therapists use pressure to help calm down autistic kids--I mean, things
like, you know, getting under sofa pillows and cushions, wrapping up in that
because the deep pressure calms down the nervous system. It's sort of like,
you know, wrapping up a baby on a swaddling board.
GROSS: Or like being hugged but you wouldn't want to be hugged.
Prof. GRANDIN: That's right. Well, I wanted to feel the good feeling of
being hugged, but it was just too overwhelming. And I think it's really
important to desensitize young autistic kids. I want to emphasize that these
problems with touch sensitivity are in other disorders as well, not just
autism. You know, you work gradually, you know, with firm pressure and the
child will then get to like hugging. You need to work on desensitizing it.
GROSS: So how old were you when you first found that kind of squeeze cattle
Prof. GRANDIN: I was 16 then, and this was when the nerves were just tearing
me apart. You know, I had headaches, I had colitis. My nervous system was
turned on all the time to fight a lion. Even though there wasn't any lion to
fight, my nervous system was turned on to fight it. And that was due to a,
you know, biological defect in the nervous system. And some of these people,
like me, when they get older, they're going to need a little tiny bit of help
from something like Prozac to calm down their anxiety, or they're just not
going to be able to function.
And I want to emphasize there's all different types of autism, and some of
them are not going to benefit from that drug. And this is one of the problems
with the disorder; it's very, very, very variable.
GROSS: Just one more question about the cattle chute. Did you live near a
farm where you found this or you live near a slaughterhouse...
Prof. GRANDIN: Yeah. No, I lived near a ranch. You know, I went and visited
my aunt out in Arizona, and a cattle chute was on the next-door neighbor's
GROSS: I see. OK, now you're talking about medicines and how your nervous
system was always on alert, always prepared for danger. And you lived in this
constant state of fear until, about the age of 33 when you started taking
anti-depressants. Can you talk a little bit about how anti-depressants
changed your ability to deal with the world, changed how you felt, how you
responded to things?
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, just imagine if you felt like final exam nerves--well,
let's say you felt like your very first really, really big, most important
interview you ever did nerves. And imagine that that's the way you felt just
all the time. And I was just desperate for relief. And I can remember two
days after taking the anti-depressant drugs, a lot of that anxiety went away.
And I'm going, `Wow, I really am a believer in biochemistry.' And I had kind
of resisted the idea of taking medication 'cause I thought it was normal to be
that nervous all the time, you know. And this little pill came along and
drastically reduced the nerves. It helped me in a whole lot of things 'cause
it was so much easier for me to socialize and do things with people because I
wasn't, you know, so anxious all the time.
GROSS: So you, at this point, are a believer in medications for people with
autism if they respond to it.
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, if they respond to it. And I think there's way too many
powerful drugs given out way too casually in real little children, and I am
against that. You know, two- and three- and four-year-olds getting real
powerful drugs, I'm not a fan of that. But you get into--especially inn the
high-functioning autism--I was one of the types--and this is where you have
different types--where the anxiety got worse with age. It got worse and worse
and worse with age. That was my type. And the ones that are my type, they're
going to need a little bit of help from Prozac or one of the other SSRI drug
or they're going to be in really big trouble.
GROSS: Would you ever use negative reinforcement punishment as a way to
discipline an animal?
Prof. GRANDIN: Most of the times I would not, but I would never say never. I
would never use punishment on something that's fear-based behavior 'cause that
will worsen it. If you want to teach the animal a new skill, like if you want
to teach a dog a trick, I want to do that all with positive reinforcement.
You want to teach the lion or the dolphin at the marine park or the zoo to
cooperate with veterinary work, that's all done with positive reinforcement,
totally, totally, totally.
There's only one thing where--to punishment is--you just about have to use
punishment, and that's stopping prey-drived behavior. You've got a dog that's
killing cats, or you've got a dog that's killing sheep, and they've already
done it. I absolutely despise shock collars, and I despise a lot of the
things that hunters are doing to shock collars. I think it's totally wrong.
But there's one legitimate use for it: car chasing, jogger chasing, cat
killing, deer chasing, anything that's prey-drived behavior. And this is not
aggression, and it's not fear. It's a very special other kind of emotion that
the animal has. And you'd want to put the collar on, have the dog wear it for
two days and then--'cause you never want him to find out that the collar did
it. And then one day a thunderbolt from the sky blasts him for chasing deer.
And that's one of the few situations I would use a punishment, but all kinds
of other things, no.
GROSS: Why is prey-based behavior different?
Prof. GRANDIN: It's a completely different set of brain circuits. You know,
they enjoy, you know, chasing things. It's not aggression, it's not anger and
the brain circuit's different. And this is discussed in detail in the book.
I've got a little section in there called The Happy Hunter.
GROSS: Yeah, and the new book is called "Animals in Translation." My guest
is the author Temple Grandin. And she has written in the past about living
with autism and about working with animals. She lives with autism. She is an
animal scientist who is both a college teacher and worked in the agricultural
animal industry designing humane systems. And the new book makes connections
between animals and people with autism in terms of their behavior and their
Prof. GRANDIN: I want to mention another really important thing on
socializing animals. We've got an awful lot of problems today with aggression
in dogs, like between strange male dogs. And a lot of this is caused by not
socializing the young animals. We get the puppy socialized. We're doing a
pretty good job of that. But we also need to get adolescent dogs socialized
to other dogs because animals that are reared by themselves, that don't have
an opportunity to socialize with other animals, can get extremely vicious
towards other animals. And this behavior can sometimes be almost impossible
We've got to correct this by raising animals in social groups, so they learn
social behavior from other animals. Like, if you have a horse that's just
been in a backyard pasture, and he's never socialized with other horses and
you mix other horses in there with him, he'll try to kick those other horses
to death because he hasn't learned the give and take of social behavior. And
some of this cannot be corrected. We have to make sure we prevent these
problems by raising animals so that they have opportunities to learn social
skills with other animals.
GROSS: Well, apply that to house pets.
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, let's say you've got a puppy. First thing you want to
do is go to puppy class, and so you socialize it to all the other little
puppies. But you also need to get the adolescent dog socialized. And if
they're just on leashes all the time, they don't learn any social behavior.
You need to get adolescent dogs actually out in the dog park and interacting
with each other.
You know, when I was a child, all the dogs ran loose. We had no dog bites.
We did have dogs hit by cars, unfortunately, but no dog bites. Very few dogs
bite because when a new dog came in--when we got our new dog Andy, you know,
as soon as he was six months old and he was running around the neighborhood,
Lightning just put him in his place. Lightning was the Frazes'(ph) dog that
lived next door, and Lightning put Andy in his place. And Andy learned, you
know, where he was in the hierarchy. And we didn't get these vicious dog
fights that just don't stop because they've done this social interaction. Now
today we're going to have to do that in a dog park.
But, again, I think this is one of the reasons we have so much horrible
problems with intermale aggression between dogs. And I went to a dog behavior
seminar at one of the veterinary conferences, and something like two-thirds of
the dogs--they cannot correct this problem. This dog just can't seem to get
along with other dogs, and it has to do with how they're raised. And they
need to learn social skills, and we need to work on trying to prevent these
problems to start with.
GROSS: My guest is Temple Grandin. Her new book is called "Animals in
Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior." We'll
talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Temple Grandin. She wrote about living with autism in her
first book, "Thinking in Pictures." Her new book, "Animals in Translation,"
is about how autism has helped her understand animal behavior. She designs
humane handling systems for animals.
The last time you were on our show, after the publication of your book
"Thinking in Pictures," we talked a little bit about the humane slaughter
systems that you had devised for cattle in the meat-packing industry. And you
talked a little bit about how you devised those systems and some of the things
you look out for. What kind of work are you doing now? Has your work changed
at all in the past few years?
Prof. GRANDIN: It has. Last time I interviewed with--I was strictly working
on the engineering side of things and the design side of things. Now I'm
working more on what I call the management software for my hardware. For the
last seven years I've been working with McDonald's and Wendy's and the Burger
King Corporation on animal welfare auditing. I designed a very simple scoring
system, where an auditor can go into a plant and determine, you know, how good
the welfare is.
And it's not somebody's opinion. You watch a hundred cattle go through the
plant, and you count, `Well, how many cattle out of a hundred were mooing and
bellowing?' Now that's really bad if they're mooing and bellowing. We're
only allowed to have three cattle out of a hundred mooing and bellowing while
they're being handled, and they go into the slaughter plant. How many were
hit with an electric prod? It used to be all of them. You know, now in most
plants, it's only 5 or 10 percent. How many fall down? How many were
rendered insensible on the first attempt? You can measure these things.
And I worked with the McDonald's food safety auditors on implementing these
measurements, and it's resulted in tremendous improvement. And about 90
percent of the beef plants are involved in this. There have still been some
bad problems in plants that are outside of this audit system, but right now
about 90 percent of the cattle are a part of this audit system.
GROSS: So, in other words, if a lot of the cows are mooing and bellowing, it
means something's wrong in the way they're being treated. And the ultimate
goal here is to fix how they're being treated.
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, yes. Mooing and bellowing is a sign of pain and fear.
I mean, cattle moo and bellow when they're being handled. If you're making
them scared or you're pinching them in some piece of equipment or you're
shocking them with an electric prod, those are all things that make them moo
and bellow. And when we first started, there was lots of mooing and bellowing
going on. Now you go into a plant that's really well run and it's almost
And the plants had to fix a whole lot of little things, like add a light to
get rid of a dark entrance, move a light to get rid of a reflection, add a
piece of solid metal to block seeing some moving equipment. And when they
made these small changes, then the cattle were no longer scared and they were
now willing to walk through the equipment. They also had to do a lot of
training. They also had to do a much better job on just maintaining their
GROSS: You mentioned shadows. Even a shadow can be very upsetting to cattle.
Prof. GRANDIN: It'll just make them stop, especially a moving shadow. If a
shadow's moving, they'll just stop and they won't want to walk over it.
GROSS: Because they are afraid of it?
Prof. GRANDIN: It attracts their attention. And they have to look at it,
determine that it's not dangerous and then walk over it. But the problem is
you don't have time in a busy slaughter plant to let all the cattle look at
it. So what tends to happen is you try to drive the cattle forward, they see
the shadow, then they just turn back. And they keep turning back and turning
back and turning back, and then they end up just getting all excited because
then the person keeps trying to drive them forward, and they just keep turning
back at the shadow.
GROSS: Let me ask you a question I know you've been asked a million times.
You obviously love animals. You feel very specially connected to animals.
Yet you work in the design of humane slaughter systems. And some people might
say, `Well, there's nothing humane about slaughter. If you really loved the
animals, you'd have nothing to do with their slaughter for chopped meat.'
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, one of the things is the cattle that we raise for food
would never have even been bred if we hadn't bred them, and they wouldn't have
lived at all. But I feel very strongly that we owe these animals a decent
life. And some of my biggest concerns now, especially in animals like
chickens and pigs, are problems with genetics. And I'm not talking about
bioengineering; I'm talking about old-fashioned breeding, where you overselect
for single traits like rapid growth, and then you get problems like lameness.
I think these are some of the worst animal welfare problems, and I'm very,
very concerned about that. And those kinds of problems need to be corrected.
You know, we've raised these animals, we must give them a decent life. I
think that's extremely important. They feel pain, they feel fear. That has
been scientifically proven.
GROSS: And what about a decent death? What does that mean to you for
Prof. GRANDIN: It means they just walk up the chute and--Bang!--it's done,
and they don't know what's happen. That would be a decent death.
GROSS: A death without a lot of fear?
Prof. GRANDIN: Just walk up the chute--Bang--it's done. Right now, looking
at some of the research, there is some--they get a little bit scared when they
go in to get vaccinations. And I compiled a whole lot of studies together,
and the amount of stress hormone that was secreted was measured at the
slaughter plant. It was also measured in a chute where they just went in to
be held, like, for vaccinations. And the levels of stress hormone were the
same at the slaughter plant as back on the farm in a chute that'd be used to
hold cattle for vaccinations.
GROSS: You know, a little earlier we were talking about the recommendations
you'd give parents of children with autism, and I'm wondering if you'd
recommend pets for children.
Prof. GRANDIN: You know, some autistic children, it would be good. I would
recommend against getting a small, delicate dog that the child might hurt.
There's sometimes a tendency for them to grab and squeeze the animal too tight
because they don't know how to stroke the animal the way the animal wants to
be stroked. You know, in some cases, a pet can be good because a friendly dog
will always want to keep interacting, you see. And you want to try and get
autistic kids to interact and then interact back.
GROSS: So not all kids would probably do well with pets, and you have to be
careful of the pet.
Prof. GRANDIN: With real young autistic children, you need to make sure that
the child doesn't hurt the pet.
GROSS: Right. OK. What has it been like for you to become, you know,
reasonably famous? You're very well known within your field, and now you're
also well known outside of your field because of your work, because of your
insights into autism and animals, because of your previous book, "Thinking in
Pictures," and now you have a new book, "Animals in Translation." Is that
level of recognition comfortable for you, or has it kind of opened the door to
new things to worry about?
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, I just want to share my knowledge. I think I have
knowledge that's, you know, beneficial to people. One of the things I learned
a lot a long time ago--and this is one myth that I learned about Icarus: you
know, that he flew too high to the sun, and the wings melted and he fell in
the ocean because he got hubris. I've seen a lot of people in business, you
know, get too big a head; they think they got, you know, such a big head,
stuff like that. Don't ever let yourself get that way. And I still do plenty
of things where, `Yep, I got to go out on a job and we got to stay in a
really, really junky motel.' And that just fine because that just keeps my
head where it should be.
GROSS: You're doing a lot of consulting now for Wendy's, McDonald's, other
companies like that.
Prof. GRANDIN: Yes.
GROSS: Do you eat hamburgers?
Prof. GRANDIN: Absolutely I eat them. I happen to have the kind of
metabolism where if I don't get some animal protein, I don't even feel right.
That seems to be something--our whole family seems to have this problem; my
mother's the same way. We had to stay at this hotel where they just had
muffins on the breakfast bar, and then we had to go do some talks. And I know
we had to go find a restaurant that served some eggs or, you know, sausage,
you know, things that--some animal protein.
GROSS: Now I've only left you a minute for this answer because we're out of
time. But, you know, you've spoken about how you think people with autism
don't think in words; they think in pictures. But we're listening to you
speak, and you're incredibly articulate, so it seems like a real
contradiction. If you don't think in words, how can you possibly speak so
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, when I was talking about the horses, I'm actually seeing
videotapes right now in my mind of the horse, Goldie. And I'm seeing her; I'm
actually back there now. I'm holding her. I remember holding her when she
was being shod, have her shoes put on, and she was just absolutely fine. I'm,
like, narrating the videotapes that I'm bringing up out of my visual memories.
Language narrates the videos that are in my mind.
GROSS: And you've been able to master language itself.
Prof. GRANDIN: Yeah, and I get better and better and better--because another
thing about being autistic, there's no magic turning point; it's a gradual
emergence. You just keep learning more and more and more and more. It's like
you never really grow up. I didn't even feel I was a grown-up adult until I
GROSS: Temple Grandin, thank you so much.
Prof. GRANDIN: Well, thank you so much for having me.
GROSS: Temple Grandin's new book is called "Animal in Translation: Using the
Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior."
Coming up, rock historian Ed Ward considers Jimmy Page's early career, before
Led Zeppelin, when he was a session guitarist in London studios. This is
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Profile: Early career of guitarist Jimmy Page
TERRY GROSS, host:
The session musicians who have played on hits from the very earliest days of
rock 'n' roll have very rarely gotten any credit. And for many of them,
that's just how they like it. Few of them go on to be stars, but one big
exception is Jimmy Page, the British guitarist who began in London studios and
graduated to stadiums with Led Zeppelin. Ed Ward tells us about Jimmy Page's
(Soundbite of "All Day And All Of The Night")
Mr. RAY DAVIES (The Kinks): (Singing) I'm not content to be with you in the
daytime. Girl, I want to be with you all of the time. The only time I feel
all right is by your side. Girl, I want to be with you all of the time, all
day and all of the night, all day and all of the night, all day and all of the
night. I believe that you and me last forever.
ED WARD reporting:
For years the question of whether or not Dave Davies actually played the slabs
of guitar on two of The Kinks' first hits, "All Day And All Of The Night" and
"You Really Got Me," has been a subject of heated debate, mostly because the
other contender's been Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame. Page himself has
never been sure. And why should he be since he was one of the most prolific
session guitarists in London? Actually, it seems that he did play on at least
"All Day And All Of The Night," as well as The Who's "Can't Explain" and Tom
Jones' "It's Not Unusual."
In case that seems odd, consider that the record companies back then didn't
think this rock 'n' roll fad was going to last, nor did they think that the
groups were going to stick together. Getting as many hits as often as
possible was the name of the game, and making them sound as good as possible,
whether the band was that good or not, was really important. So along with
the keyboard player Nicky Hopkin, Jimmy Page was all over the place. He was a
teen-age guitar prodigy, he understood this music and he worked fast. No
second takes for Page. When he knew the song, he was ready to go.
(Soundbite of "Leave My Kitten Alone")
Unidentified Man: (Singing) Well, Mr. Dog, I'm gonna hit you on the top of
your head. That girl's gonna miss you and you're gonna wish that you were
dead if you don't leave my kitten alone.
Backup Singers: Leave her alone, yeah. Leave her alone.
Unidentified Man: (Singing) Yeah, I love my little kitten, just like you
hounddogs love your bones.
Backup Singers: Leave her alone, yeah. Leave her alone.
Unidentified Man: (Singing) Oh, come on.
(Soundbite of music)
Backup Singers: Leave her alone, yeah. Leave her alone.
Unidentified Man: (Singing) Well, Mr. Dog, I'm gonna hit you on...
WARD: All in a day's work, but a solo like the one on the First Gear's "Leave
My Kitten Alone" was a bit avant garde for 1964, and that was probably just
one of the factors that didn't sell that record. It's an early showcase for
one of Page's favorite guitars, the one he called the Black Beauty, a Gibson
Les Paul with specially filed-down frets, which made it easier for him to move
his fingers around.
Having worked on famous bands' records, he was obviously going to be called in
when one of them sold a song to another group, as The Who did to a band called
Le Fleur de Lis.
(Soundbite of song)
LE FLEUR DE LIS: (Singing) Circles. My head is going 'round in circles. My
mind is caught up in a whirlpool, dragging me down. Time will tell if I'l
take the homeward track, if dizziness will make my feet walk back, walk on
back to you.
WARD: Although he worked for everyone, Jimmy Page was a particular favorite
of The Rolling Stones' manager-producer Andrew Luke Oldham, and occasionally
he'd work with him not only as a session guitarist, but as a producer, too.
(Soundbite of "The Last Mile")
NICO: (Singing) Rivers were made for flowing, so why not let them flow?
People were made for showing, so why not let them show? Show a little
laughter, show a little smile 'cause we've started on the last mile.
WARD: If the voice sounds familiar, it might be because this beautiful young
woman was going to be Oldham's next Marianne Faithfull, except that her
singing wasn't so hot, nor were the songs Page and Oldham wrote for her. Her
next stop would be New York, where Nico joined The Velvet Underground.
By 1966, Page was getting itchy. He'd already turned down an offer to replace
Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds, letting Jeff Beck take the job, but he was
reconsidering. In the meanwhile, his expertise at crafting a hook was
responsible for one gigantic hit recorded in 1965 but not released for almost
a year afterwards. Four notes grab your ear right away and don't let go for
(Soundbite of "Sunshine Superman")
DONOVAN: (Singing) Sunshine came softly through my window today. Could have
tripped out easy, but I've changed my ways. It'll take time, I know it, but
in a while you're gonna be mine, I know it. We'll do it in style 'cause I
made my mind up you're going to be mine. I'll tell you right now, any trick
in the book now, baby...
WARD: In 1966, he finally decided to join The Yardbirds, first on bass, then
as second lead guitar. Out of the studios and playing at last in front of
audiences, Jimmy Page wasn't going to be anonymous anymore.
GROSS: Ed Ward lives in Berlin. Led Zeppelin will be getting a Lifetime
Achievement Award at this year's Grammys.
(Soundbite of "Kashmir")
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
(Soundbite of "Kashmir")
Mr. ROBERT PLANT (Led Zeppelin): (Singing) Oh, let the sun beat down upon my
face, stars to fill my dreams. I am a traveler of both time and space to be
where I have been, to sit with elders of the gentle race this world has seldom
seen. They talk of days for which they sit and wait, all will be revealed.
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