A preview to Dr. Temple Grandin's visit to Utah State University

Dr. Temple Grandin

If you’ve been following us on social media, Temple Grandin’s upcoming visit to Utah State University isn’t news, but here are some things you may not know.

She has literally made the humane treatment of livestock her life’s work, speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves. She has authored 400 articles and become a world-renowned speaker. Nearly half of the meat processing plants in the United States follow her design, and her influence is international.  You can read more about that on Utah State University’s Aggie Post blog.

Her interest in humane livestock treatment is shared by Dr. Lyle G. McNeal, a professor at USU's  Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Science Department. They share a similar philosophy on using an animal’s psychology in its handling, rather than frightening or forcing it. They worked together on these ideas long before they became widely used in the industry.

“I’m overwhelmed that she is visiting USU,”  he said. “I’m almost 70 years old, with my own physical issues. But the way she carries her life — I know that if she can do it, I can do it, too. She is a role model for our youth.”

While Lyle may be a draw that brings her to USU, she will also be in Salt Lake City to receive the Peek Award. It annually honors an actor, filmmaker or subject of a film who helps to promote positive images about people with disabilities in our society. Named for the real-life Rain Man, the award recognizes the woman who inspired the HBO movie Temple Grandin, which won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy. There will be a free screening of the movie in the Taggart Student Center Auditorium on Nov. 1.

Dr. Grandin also has spoken up for people with autism. She’s on the spectrum herself, and she did not speak until she was four years old. She received early intervention long before it was cool. And because she can communicate, she has opened a window into a world that professionals in the disability field could only guess at when she was a child.

“I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk… and when the school bell went off it hurt my ears like a dentist’s drill hitting a nerve,” she said in a recent interview on Utah Public Radio. “Scratchy clothes were just like sandpaper.” Others who have ASD may be bothered by flickering fluorescent lights or other stimuli.

Read more on the CPD website.

CPD by the numbers

For every dollar of university support received in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the CPD generated an additional $8 in external funding.

Meet the CPD's Volunteer of the Year

Laurie Fifield likes singing with a guitar. It allows her to interact with the participants.

Laurie Fifield is the 2011 Volunteer of the Year.

If the last name sounds familiar, that’s because she’s the wife of director Bryce Fifield. She’s also a dream volunteer. “I don’t have to check up on her,” said Jeff Sheen, the CPD’s volunteer coordinator. “She’s a community member, she’s reliable, she’s consistent.”

She also helps out in one of the CPD’s more challenging places for volunteers: the Disability Skills Laboratory. It requires some dependability, since the clients there need some structure. Volunteers who work there need to undergo a background check. For many of them, working at the DSL requires a step outside the comfort zone, at least at first.

It was a step Laurie took because she wanted to volunteer, preferably at the CPD. She didn’t know what to expect at first, but it grew on her. “I know it’s worth it,” she said. “I like the reactions that I get… It’s just fun to make them smile.”

Laurie brought her experience as a preschool and second-grade teacher with her. She began helping out with outings at the DSL, but eventually the staff invited her to sing songs and tell stories once a week. She began a weekly story time in August of 2009, bringing a guitar along with her. It’s a good instrument, she said; she can face people while she sings. Read the rest on the CPD blog.

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