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Internationally known advocate for those on the autism spectrum speaking in Ventura County

Temple Grandin speaks at a TED event.
Temple Grandin speaks at a TED event.

Temple Grandin will speak at California Lutheran University Wednesday night. She says we need to do more to prepare those on the spectrum for careers.

She’s known as the face of autism.

Temple Grandin couldn’t talk until she was three years old, and was diagnosed with autism in 1950. During that era, if someone was diagnosed, they were often sent to institutions.

But, her parents didn’t give up. Neither did she.

She became a university professor, author of multiple books, and has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

Grandin has pushed to help the world understand autism. Her latest focus is to help connect people on the spectrum with careers that fit the unique ways their brains work.

"Where there's been some really good progress has been in the early education of very young children," said Grandin. "That has improved a whole lot. Now, where were having problems is a lot of autistic individuals aren't making a successful transition into the world of work."

Grandin said people with autism think differently, and that can be a huge asset.

"Einstein would land in a autism program today. He had no speech until the age of three," said Grandin. "I'm an extreme visual thinker. Another autistic kid might be an extreme mathematician,"

The autism researcher talks about the ways people think. She said it starts with seeing people don't all think in the same way.

"Accountants and artists hate each other. The problem is they think differently," said Grandin. "The first step is realizing how they think differently, and we can use these things with complementary skills."

Grandin is speaking at a free event Wednesday night at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. The 7 p.m. event at the Samuleson Chapel is themed “Great Minds Are Not All The Same.”

Grandin says while we’ve made great strides in early diagnosis, and early intervention, she says we need to do much better when it comes to preparing kids for life in the world. It means teaching work ethics, so someone can fit in with the workplace. She says it also needs to include teaching basic life management skills.

"The big problem I'm seeing now is that you have a kid who's diagnosed, fully verbal, doing well in school, and the parents won't let go. They aren't learning basic stuff, like how to shop, and how to have a bank account," said Grandin.

Researchers have made great progress towards understanding those on the spectrum, and debunking myths like vaccinations cause autism. But, there is still a lack of availability of social skills programs to help high functioning people live independently.

The latest statistics show one in 36 kids is on the autism spectrum, and one in 45 adults. Those numbers are up from few years ago, when the number was one in 44. But, many researchers say it’s not necessarily because there is a surge in autism. It’s because we are better at diagnosing it.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.