Different, But Not Less: What An Autistic Woman Teaches Us About Being Ourselves

Temple GrandinHave you seen the movie, Temple Grandin? Maybe I should back up. Have you heard of Temple Grandin? I’m sure you’ve heard of the actress, Claire Danes…she played Temple in the 2010 Emmy Award-winning movie documenting her life.

Diagnosed with autism at a time (1950’s) when most doctors recommended institutionalizing children with autism, Temple Grandin, with the help of parents who refused to institutionalize her and a few special teachers and mentors along the way, went from being a stigmatized, misunderstood young woman to a B.A.-, M.S.- and Ph.D-educated scientist, author, speaker and animal advocate.

Temple Grandin inspires me. Like, really inspires me. Rent the movie – you’ll see what I mean. And she has a lot to teach us about being ourselves…even if that means being a little bit different.

: | “Different, but not less”.

One of my favorite lines of the movie, it’s one Temple’s mother uses to describe Temple to one of her teachers. I love this line because it speaks to our often tendency to equate our differences with deficiencies and to see ourselves as less than because of them (especially the more significant we perceive our differences to be). Try instead seeing your differences as gifts that make you unique and special. As Dr. Seuss so wisely said, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Tweet this –> Instead of seeing your differences as deficiencies, see them as gifts that make you unique and special.

: | Use your differences to your advantage.

Temple is different. She speaks differently. She feels differently. She thinks differently. But Temple found a way to channel her differences (her autism) into a pretty remarkable career. It’s her autism that enables her to relate to animals so well and, in turn, design an innovative livestock-handling system for over half of the facilities handling cattle in the U.S. This may not sound fancy to you, but Temple’s system has transformed the cattle industry. How can you use your differences to your advantage? Think about things your differences allow you to do that no one else can. And then do them.

: | Use your differences to help others.

Today, either through her website or through speaking at national conferences, Temple uses her differences to help children with autism and their parents in a way that only someone with autism can. I believe we’re given our differences for this very reason – to help others. Feeling different can feel isolating. Think about how you can use your differences to help someone else along. Because, like Temple, you can do so in a way that only your differences allow you to do.

So, whenever you feel yourself thinking of your differences as deficiencies, repeat to yourself over and over, “Different, but not less.”

Now it’s your turn! Share with me in the comments below:

1. Why do you think it can be hard to be different in our society?
2. What can each of us do to inspire a greater sense of patience and tolerance for people’s differences?

To being yourself,



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  1. Love this post! Lots to digest and it’s
    A good way to end the day!

  2. We can each make a point to acknowledge others’ hardships and causes. Help them to highlight issues which need addressing. Check out the story of one mom’s journey to help her daughter and others like her whom may fall through the cracks. Ring a bell on Dec. 7th to raise awareness of youth mental illness. http://www.newbrunswickbeacon.ca/9659/youth-with-mental-illness-fall-through-the-cracks-richard/