Vail Symposium focuses on autism |

Vail Symposium focuses on autism

Special to the Vail DailyTemple Grandin, who speaks in Vail Thursday, is an renowned designer of livestock handling facilities and a professor of animal Science at Colorado State University. She is also an autistic person. She has written several books about living with the condition.

VAIL, Colorado – Temple Grandin’s mind works differently than that of most people.

“My mind works sort of like Google Images,” said Grandin, who speaks in Vail, Colorado Thursday.

Her mind is sensory-based, not language-based. As someone who works with animals, that has helped her understand animals better.

“I don’t think in language,” Grandin said. “They think in pictures, in sounds, in touch sensation, in smells.”

Grandin is an renowned designer of livestock handling facilities and a professor of animal Science at Colorado State University.

She’s also a person living with autism. She has written several books about her experiences with the condition.

Autism is a neurobiological disorder that impairs one’s ability to communicate and relate to others. People with autism often have rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such are arranging or lining up objects.

The disorder has certainly made Grandin’s life more difficult in ways. Learning social interaction is like learning lines in a play, she said.

Grandin is a frequent speaker on the topic of autism. There is hope for the treatment of autism, but early detection is crucial, Grandin said.

“The worst thing you can do with an autistic 3-year-old is nothing,” she said.

Grandin and other experts will be featured in a “Symposium on Autism,” organized by the Vail Symposium, today. Grandin will deliver the keynote address and then participate in the panel discussion.

One in 150 people is dianosed with autism, according to Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization.

Autism can be diagnosed in children as young as 6 months old, and is normally diagnosed reliably by age 3. No one knows for sure what causes autism. Studies suggest genetic makeup is a basis for autism. There is currently no cure for autism.

Other participants in the panel discussion will include:

• Sallie Bernard is the co-founder and executive director of Safe Minds (Sensible Action for Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders).

• Robin Gabriels, Psy.D. A clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center.

• Susan Hepburn, Ph.D. Clinical psychologist at Vanderbilt University, assistant preforessor of psychiatry and director of research for the JFK Partners, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the University of Colorado.

• Betty Lehman, chairman of the Colorado Autism Commission and executive director of the Autism Society of Colorado.

Carrie Marsh, executive director of the Vail Symposium, said the group has been considering putting together a program on autism for a long time.

“I’m really discovering how much of a lack of service and support and awareness there is for mental health in general, but specifically autism,” she said. “There are many kids here who live with it, and parents who have to deal with it.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or

Call 970-476-0954 or go to

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