I came across this modern Helen Keller story and although I know many of you have heard of her before, I thought you might enjoy meeting Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin didn't talk until she was three and a half years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. She is autistic.
Today she is world renowned as a scientist and speaker. Perhaps her greatest accomplishment is that she has been credited as the person who has provided the greatest insights into understanding autism to date.
Grandin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and was diagnosed with "brain damage" at age two. Her parents placed her in a structured nursery school with what she considers to have been good teachers. Grandin's mother spoke to a doctor who suggested speech therapy, and she hired a nanny who spent hours playing turn-based games with Grandin and her sister.
At age four, Grandin began talking, and she began making progress. She considers herself lucky to have had supportive mentors from primary school onwards. However, Grandin has said that middle school and high school were the worst parts of her life. She was the "nerdy kid", the one whom everyone teased and picked on. She would be walking down the street and people would say "tape recorder", because she would repeat things over and over again. Kinda like Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man.
After graduating from Hampshire Country School, a boarding school for gifted children in Rindge, New Hampshire in 1966, Grandin went on to college. She received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College (also located in Rindge) in 1970, her master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975, and her Ph.D. in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.
There are many heroes in this story. Her parents did not give up on her at a time when many brain damaged children were not understood or even tolerated. With the help of teachers, mentors, doctors, speech therapists, nannies and family, she overcame great odds to become who she is today.
For your enjoyment, here is a video of her speaking at a convention. Although she is standing alone on this stage, and although you can't see them, there are many, many average, everyday people that stand behind her.