Life in the Spectrum Lane

Tuesday, Nov 21, 2023
Jim Sutton

The Eagles were a band back in my day that had a popular song called “Life in the Fast Lane” that ultimately lamented (in the last verse) that feeding your addictions to the point where they blind you will leave you stuck in the “fast lane”. The band members commented on this in various forums throughout the years, recognizing that a lifestyle with that focus is destructive in the end.

For those that live in the “spectrum lane”, whether it be ADHD, Autism, Asperger's, etc., there seems to be a related tendency to make life choices that have deleterious effects on the quality and perceived purpose of one’s life. Why our society seems to be experiencing an upsurge in people with these symptoms currently has a divergent set of intriguing opinions. Regardless of the cause, the question remains as to how those who find themselves on the “spectrum lane” can live healthy, productive, and satisfying lives.

Enter Temple Grandin, PhD, a person who did not talk until she was three and a half years old. When she was young, she was considered weird and teased and bullied in high school. The only place she had friends was activities where there was a shared interest such as horses, electronics, or model rockets. Today she is a professor or Animal Science at Colorado State University, a prominent author on autism and animal behavior. Dr. Grandin has been featured on NPR (National Public Radio), and a BBC Special – “The Woman Who Thinks Like A Cow”. She has also appeared on National TV shows such as Larry King Live, 20/20, Sixty Minutes, Fox and Friends and she has a 2010 TED Talk. Articles about Dr. Grandin have appeared in Time Magazine, New York Times, Discover Magazine, Forbes and USA Today. HBO made an Emmy Award winning movie about her life, and she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. She was named one of the top 10 college Professors in the Country in 2020 by CEOWorld magazine. There is much more I could write about her life accomplishments!

I was intrigued by Dr. Grandin’s work with cattle, especially when I found out that over half of the cattle processing plants throughout the world use her techniques for humane slaughter of cattle. Her personal experiences with the sensory effects of autism in her own life played a huge part in developing methods for the humane handling of livestock. But her understanding of how to better the lives of those who find themselves on the spectrum has changed the field of psychology. Just one indication of her influence was when the diagnostic criteria for autism was changed in 2013.

Reading through her website reveals a wealth of information that brings hope and resources for any who find themselves feeling disconnected from society, family, and relationships in general. My only regret is not having access to the information she shares and makes available on her website while my wife and I had a young family. My hope is that my readers will be aware of Dr. Grandin’s works that will enhance anyone’s ability to understand and work better when traveling life on the spectrum lane by themselves or with others. You can visit Dr. Temple Grandin’s website at: