It is indisputable that Temple Grandin is an extraordinary human, who has lived an extraordinary life. For decades slaughterhouses were run the same way. Human’s design for what was cheaper and what made sense from their perspective. I believe that they would all be run the same exact way if Temple Grandin hadn’t come along. She was the first person to acknowledge that there was something wrong with their loud mooing. The men working in the field had learned to just tune them out and follow the system. Many people say, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!” What if it is broken, but it takes someone seeing it from a different perspective. Autism does that. It allows people to see things from a different perspective. Through countless hours of research and just spending time with the cows, she was able to identify the flaws with the system. The original slaughter houses relied heavily on using electrical shock (cattle prods) to force cows to go into the direction that the humans wanted them to go. Then they were forced to go through a dip to get rid of any insects that may be on their fur. The problem was that they sometimes would slip, break a leg, and then drown. Once they had drowned, they could not be used for meat. Temple watched closely to how the cattle like to move in circles. She personally crawled through the cattle shoot with the wide gaps in the fencing and realized how the sun reflected off of metal surfaces, causing the cattle to get startled. She watched them walk into ponds and realized the flaw in the dipping process was that it was slick and steep going in to the water. Temple arranged the cattle shoot to move in circles, with solid fencing so that reflected light wouldn’t get in and startle them, and then she created a less steep transition into the bath that had grooves so that they would not slip. All of this kept the cattle calm through the entire process. Cattle prods were rarely needed (if at all). And most importantly, cows weren’t injuring themselves leading to drowning. In the end it was a win win situation. The cows were calmer and the ranchers weren’t losing money on drowned cattle.
So many times people tune out things to force something to happen in their timing and in their way. But what if you can’t tune those things out. So instead you hear them and they rip your soul to shreds. Some people say that autistic people don’t have empathy. That is a total lie, straight from the pit of hell. In fact, if anything, we over empathize. We not only experience what others are feeling, but we feel it even more intensely. The problem is not that we don’t feel it, we just often don’t know what to do with the ever-present, intense emotions. Then we are overwhelmed by the emotional storm inside us that we often push the source away or run away from it.
My youngest daughter has spina bifida. She has endured through 10 surgeries in her 4 years of life. Three surgeries this year (2020). This most recent one is a little more difficult for me. She had an ileostomy placed. If you don’t know what this is, they disconnect the small intestine from the large intestine, and direct the small intestines into a bag outside of the body. The plan is to wait a year and then reconnect the small and large intestine. It will take time for the small portion of intestine that is outside of her body to not look so raw. In the meantime, it is extremely difficult emotionally for me to even look at her stoma. I must fight the overwhelming urge to run away and instead comfort my recovering baby.
Going through this experience, I was reminded of how my dad handled similar circumstances when I was a child. I remember breaking my arm when I was 12. My dad could not be in the same room while they casted it. My mom has told me numerous times that my dad could not ever be in the same room when I was having any medical test or treatment. Many people would look at that behavior and think how cruel and cold, but now, I get it.
I would put myself in my kid’s place a million times over if I could go through it instead of them. The emotional pain is so intolerable and there is nothing I can do to get rid of it. I just have to feel it. I talk about painful experiences a lot. I do this because it helps me to process and work through these painful events. I am trying to get better at processing these things. Do you have a method or specific approach that helps you process the emotional turmoil caused by difficult trials? What has helped you?