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Children get blunt answers from Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin hands a signed copy of one of her books to Gordon Maass, 13, of Rochester, after speaking at the Mayo Civic Center Friday, February 18, 2011.

Temple Grandin was blunt when asked about the state of education today: She's not happy with it, and she's not happy with parents either.

She's the internationally known expert on animal science and also a person who overcame autism to get a doctorate. She was the subject of an award-winning movie about her life.

Grandin came to Rochester for the Rochester Regional Science Fair and to talk with students. At a dinner Friday, attended by about 900 people at Mayo Civic Center, she talked about her life, but it was in the question-and-answer time when students had a chance to ask her questions.

Grandin didn't shy away from giving her opinions about things from the mundane, such as how she buys clothes, to why children aren't learning as well today.

First, the clothes. Because of her autism, she can't stand some fabrics touching her skin.


"I'm sort of an Old Navy fan," she said, but she doesn't like 100-percent cotton pants. Many people with autism go to thrift stores because clothes are broken in.

Video games? She's not a fan at all. Maybe one person in 10 who's addicted to them will have a career with them. Grandin is practical; she wants kids and teens to get fixated on things that can lead to jobs.

She's even more appalled at the amount of medications given to youths — they're given out like candy, she said. There's a place for medications, she needs them, but they are not cure-alls.

"To me, a career makes life worth living," she said.

Social media are shortening attention spans, so Grandin wants to challenge children with things they can do with their hands, things that take hours of concentration. That, in turn, will make the children want to know more, leading to reading.

Grandin also said she wants to bring back social skills, such as saying please and thank you, things that can be used daily.

"Teach about the real world," Grandin said.

Parents give children too much sugar and bad breakfasts, but not enough exercise. Let them have pop for breakfast and no exercise, and of course they will be fidgety and tired in school, she said.

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