Autistic Culture
The Autistic Culture Podcast
The Trouble with Temple (Episode 24)

The Trouble with Temple (Episode 24)

Temple Grandin might be the Christopher Columbus of Autistic Culture.
Listen to Autistic podcast hosts discuss: The Trouble with Temple. Autism podcast | Temple Grandin might be the Christopher Columbus of Autistic Culture. The good, the bad, and the ugly--we're diving deep on the world's most famously Autistic woman.
A: So God forbid you're a black or brown or an indigenous Autistic person, your voice is— M: Off to the asylum for you! A: Yes, exactly. Exactly.

In this episode of The Autistic Culture Podcast:

On this week’s virtual culture trip, hosts Angela Lauria and Matt Lowry discuss the first autistic celebrity: Temple Grandin. Although Grandin has indelibly changed the way Americans think about autism and what it means, her prominence on the world stage has brought to light several issues.

“We can't talk about Italian American culture without talking about Christopher Columbus, and Temple Grandin in Autistic Culture may be our Christopher Columbus. We're going to talk about colonialism, capitalism, ableism, and a lot of not good things.” –Angela

Temple was diagnosed with "brain damage" as a child in the 1950s. Her privileged upbringing provided resources and opportunities that help her "pass" as neurotypical. Temple went on to become an animal science PhD, prolific author, and sought-after speaker at autism conferences. She is considered the most famously Autistic person.

However, the hosts argue much of Temple's messaging is problematic. She advocates autistics must learn to act "normal" and mask to get jobs and function in society. Temple draws a line between "high functioning" autistics who are valuable to society, versus "low functioning" who should be cured or prevented from existing. Temple aligns with capitalist, ableist values, (similar to Autism Speaks and advocates for ABA for autism) and her fame gave her an outsized influence on autism narratives. She is embraced by the autism community, but is often seen as problematic by the Autistic community. Her story erases much of the diversity among Autistic people.

“But holy God! The advocation for not allowing non-speaking people or people with higher levels of care to not survive…So, if I was to use the phrase, ‘kiss my ass please,’ Would that make me high-functioning or low-functioning?” –Matt

Podcast hosts, Angela and Matt see Temple’s “success” as only possible due to privilege. Most autistics couldn't access the supports she did as a child and the resulting financial independence and respect she’s gained as an adult. Still, she made positive contributions like raising awareness of sensory issues and (along with her family) ending the institutionalization of many Autistic individuals. She broke through many ceilings and paved a path (after all, she was the first to say “different, not less”) but also furthered stigma and advocates for eugenics. Temple Grandin's legacy shows the complexity within Autistic culture.

*Trigger warning: This is a complex episode that discusses troubling viewpoints and ableism. Listen with care. 

How do you view Temple Grandin’s role in Autistic Culture? Share with us in the comments!

Show notes and resources:

The Oliver Sacks Piece

Temple Grandin’s books

Temple Grandin Ted talk

Temple Grandin BioPic

More on Types of Thinking

Evolution of the DSM perspective on Autism

Related episodes:

Want to learn more about the controversy between the autism and the Autistic communities? Check out: Episode 36: Bad Autism Diagnosis and Episode 20: Sesame Street is Autistic

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Learn more about Matt at Matt Lowry, LPP

Matt’s social media: Autistic Connections Facebook Group

Learn more about Angela at and Difference Press

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Autistic Culture
The Autistic Culture Podcast
Welcome to the Autistic Culture Podcast. Each episode we dive deep into Autistic contributions to society and culture by introducing you to some of the world’s most famous and successful Autistics in history!
Whether you are Autistic or just love someone who is, your hosts, Dr. Angela Lauria, the Linguistic Autistic and Licensed Psychological Practitioner, Matt Lowry, welcome you to take this time to be fully immersed in the language, values, traditions, norms, and identity of Autistica!
To learn more about Angela, Matt, and the Autistic Culture Podcast visit