Person of the Week: Autistic Scientist Temple Grandin Inspires Children, Champions Animals

Woman who stole the show at the Emmys inspired many before hitting small screen.

ByABC News
September 3, 2010, 5:58 PM

September 3, 2010 — -- Temple Grandin stole the spotlight at the Emmys, standing up right in the middle of the awards show again and again, smiling far wider than the Hollywood stars beside her.

Temple is not a movie star, but an HBO biopic about her life has thrust her into the spotlight.

Long before her life made it to the small screen, Temple became an inspiration to so many. She is a renowned scientist, credited with single-handedly improving the lives of cattle. She's also autistic.

"She was one of the first people to challenge these completely absurd and very accepted theories of autism. Autism was meant to be the product of a frigid mother," said actress Claire Danes.

Danes portrays Temple in the HBO film, "Temple Grandin."

Temple was born in 1947 in Boston, Massachusetts. At just three years old, doctors diagnosed her with autism. Her mother, like so many parents at the time, had no idea why her daughter wasn't talking, wasn't smiling and wasn't hugging.

Doctors told Temple's mom, Eustacia Cutler, that a lack of love might be the reason for her daughter's behavior. Doctors said that there must have been a lack of bonding with the mother, that she hadn't given Temple affection when she most needed it.

Temple's mother knew that wasn't true. She refused to give up.

She took her daughter to a neurologist, a speech therapist and later, a private school. Her mother staged an intervention for her child that was unheard of at the time, a move that Temple said changed everything.

"It's absolutely awful mothers went through all that pain. They were blamed for something they didn't cause," Temple said. "You know, autism is a neurological disorder of the brain. It varies from someone who is non-verbal all the way to the geniuses of Silicon Valley. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of early intervention education."