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How Autism Can Help Us Understand Animals

Sep 1, 2009 (Fresh Air from WHYY)

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It's Animal Week on Fresh Air; during these last days of summer, we're featuring rebroadcasts of our best conversations about animals and how we live with them.

Temple Grandin is one of the nation's top designers of livestock facilities — and she also happens to be a person with autism. She uses her personal experience with the disorder to develop better ways to understand and communicate with animals.

Grandin tells Terry Gross that animals have emotions, including "fear, rage, separation anxiety and seeking." One of her first assignments as a consultant to the livestock industry was designing humane chutes to get the cows to slaughter, a task that drew on her understanding of the animal brain:

"[I] had to really understand how animals process information and how their senses compare to human senses because some things that would upset animals wouldn't upset us," she explains.

An associate professor at Colorado State University, Grandin is the author of Animals Make Us Human and Animals in Translation.

This interview was originally broadcast Jan. 5, 2009.

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