Temple Grandin to Autistic adults: get your butts out of the house and get a job

“Young adults with autism need to get their butts out of the house and get a job! Work experience can start small walking dogs in the neighborhood or mowing lawns,” Temple Grandin

By Ron Sandison

Temple Grandin was standing in the back corner next to the stage as I entered the ballroom of Detroit Marriott Troy at 7 AM for the continental breakfast and my first cup of Java. All the vendors and presenters were bustling to setup his or her tables for the Metro Parenting Living Autism Conference. The 3,840-square-foot auditorium was empty except for Temple and me.

Metero Parenting Conference

“Hi Temple. I am Ron Sandison. I have autism and I will be presenting on Building Social Skills & Confidence in Those with Autism,” I said reaching out my hand.

“Do you have a job?” Temple asked with a stern mechanical voice.

“Yes, I have been working full-time nine years at Havenwyck Hospital and fourteen years part-time as a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. I am also married and have a one-year-old daughter, Makayla Marie.”

“Way too many young adults with autism and Asperger’s have never had a job or only make a living speaking on autism without real life work-experience. What type of work do you do at the hospital?”

“I am a psychiatric care specialist. I lead mental health groups—working one-on-one with psych patients.”

“Since you are autistic and have a career I will come and listen to your breakout session. The other day I met a mom and her sixteen-year-old son with autism. He is verbal and has never gone shopping on his own. I am glad your mom unlike her helped you to be independent not babying you.”

Temple Grandin and Ron Sandison

I introduced Temple to my mascot Prairie Pup and honey badger — a crowd had now encircled us. As the host of the event snapped Temple and my picture including my furry companions.

Later in the afternoon, I was thrilled to see Temple sitting in the backrow, listening intently to my breakout session. Her presence made me feel nervous.

Talent Attracts Mentors

It was amazing to hear her practical advice live. It reminded me of my own journey. I loved her quote, “Talent attracts mentors.”

This quote was true for my success. My gift of memorizing over 10,000 Scriptures lead to me mentoring and interning under internationally known TV evangelist Dr. Jack Van Impe—the walking Bible. Through this internship I learned the skills required for operating an international ministry and was able to develop my interpersonal skills. Dr. Jack Van Impe shared with me his struggles in his early days of ministry as a traveling evangelist and the miracle provision from God to establish an international ministry.

My internship for Dr. Jack Van Impe’s ministry was one of the defining moments of my life. Through this internship, I developed self-confidence and also learned the important skills of working with others.

Get Your Butts out of the House

I also loved her quote, “Young adults with autism—need to get their butts out of the house and get a job! Work experience can start small walking dogs in the neighborhood or mowing lawns.” When I was fifteen-years-old my dad helped me get a job as a dishwasher at Bell Knapps. I developed social skills and manors by working in the hospitality industry.

A couple of humorous quotes Temple shared were, “Being a woman in a man’s world was harder than autism,” and “Don’t try to de-geek the geek.”

Build Your Strengths

The final insight, I gained from Dr. Grandin was build areas of your strengths not weaknesses. In her message she continually stressed that individuals with autism, academic skills will be uneven. This was especially true for me. I was unable to learn anything phonetically. I received a D in Spanish (a phonetically taught language) and I did poorly in math. My reading comprehension and memory ability as a visual learner were off the chart. During my master of divinity, I took three years of Koine Greek and earned a 4.0 GPA. Koine Greek unlike Spanish is a dead language and therefore taught visually using flashcards.

I was greatly blessed by meeting Dr. Temple Grandin. I hope to hear her again soon. She provides hope for us on the spectrum as a role model by her accomplishments, integrity, and work ethics.

Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and Charisma House is publishing his book on 4/5/16, A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom. He has over 10,000 Scriptures memorized including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.

Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with their daughter, Makayla Marie, and pet rabbit, Babs, and cat, Frishma. Checkout his website Spectrum Inclusion at www.spectruminclusion.com. You can contact Ron on Facebook or email him at sandison456@hotmail.com

Other blogs the reader may like:

Lunch with Temple Grandin eleven recommendations for artists
Temple Grandin: The 30 Second Wow – How to Sell Your Art and Music
18 Great Quotes by Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin named to National Women’s Hall of Fame


  • Wow, she says that as if it’s so easy! Hey, you think I and people like me haven’t *tried* getting a job? It’s hard when nobody wants to hire autistic people, and it’s even harder when companies like Goodwill, who actually *do* have a policy of hiring disabled people, just use it as an excuse to keep wages down. I think most of us who live with autism would prefer actual solutions to these problems, instead of someone who’s supposed to be on our side deciding to talk down at us from their place of privilege. Shame on Temple.

    • Matthew I can see your point as I have an adult son on the autism spectrum who is unemployed. He has a job coach and is in a program. He wants to work. He made a list of things he could do – dog walking is one of them. I told him the first thing you need to do is write a list. The second thing he did was tell his job coach. Now he is going to have to go to places and complete applications. He doesn’t drive and is dependent on others. I think what she is saying is do something. I believe you don’t always have to get paid at first. In the past I’ve gone unpaid on jobs to learn new skills and then employers have hired me.

  • She is living a privileged life. She was blessed with a gifted-level intellect, a parent able to house and support her, who fought every step of the way for accessibility and who cherry-picked her support professionals, then she encountered businesses who aligned with her special interests, and now, she is basking in the light of authority. She can only speak from what she knows…. and has difficulty seeing that the foundations of privilege she stood upon are not available to most people. Most employers are intolerant of autism quirks even in gifted-level employees and no matter how well the actual job is done, will be quick to fire off complaints of coworkers and/or clients because whether or not people feel good matters infinitely more than whether or not the job was done to an exceptional level…. they’d rather have mediocre work done and people liking the person. Sometimes a 504 will protect against that, but only to the level of convenience of the employer.

  • Not everyone has the money, mobility or support system Temple has. And the economy doesn’t help either. I am autistic and was fired over and over, not because I was not qualified (A couple of the employers told me even as I was being fired that I was the best employee there), but because I didn’t fit into the “work culture” or co-workers thought I was weird.

    My boys have tried and tried to get ANY sort of work, and have accepted EVERYTHING offered, even volunteer work. Their bosses have nothing but GOOD to say about their work skills and ethic. But getting work, even short term temporary positions is almost impossible. (My non-autistic daughter has not had the same problems)

    Shame on Temple Grandin. She may be exceedingly privileged, but I would have thought she could understand one of the most basic struggles of being autistic. Apparently she does not.

  • It’s often not so simple as just getting out of the house to “get a job”. There are many tentacles of this process that depend on superior supports and community-corporate-business buy-in with a lot of nurture to the process of maintaining a job once achieved.

    My son, Taylor, is 28. It is not so easy to get a job, without all the right components (too numerous to even go into here) being in the right place at the right time. In this equation, we also cannot get self-determination, responsibility, and esteem.

  • Temple Grandin can fuck right off; if I’d been in Ron Sandison’s shoes, I would have given her short shrift as soon as she started pulling all that classist crap by snootily and and condescendingly interrogating me about my employment status… indeed, I can’t understand why Ron Sandison wasn’t offended, and why he considers it an honour to have met her. I mean, who the fuck does she think she is?! Puffed up princess!

  • It seems the sensory overload look, just doesn’t go over well with today’s employers. I was lucky to get the prep. room job. I think I could have done much better and worked harder, if food manufactures were not so intent on cheating people out of a good meal with fake food. A part time job, a few hours a week, made me feel important, but I felt like, I was gasping for air, looking for just one dry inch of clothing to blow my nose on so I could breath again most of the time. When I took time off to grow my own food and heal, I was saddled, with the unreasonable burden of proving my innocents. Now Idaho State University is still refusing to recognize my rights as a more disabled student, even though I have a transferable degree in science from North Idaho College.

  • She has lost many fans after that verbal outburst. But her excuse is her Autism, I wonder who diagnosed her and when?

    The most laughable aspect to her complaints about young Auties getting out of the house and getting a job is that she never actually looked for a job herself, her family was a wealthy one as well…..she is clueless about the world, so she should hold her tongue and stick to writing books.

    I like her even less now.

  • She trivialized one of the greatest problems autistics deal with. They face repeated rejection to the point ordinary people couldn’t emotionally handle. The strength of people who continue to try deserves respect and those who say “screw this I’m sick of this” need support that find solutions. Up to 87% of autustic adults don’t have jobs. Walking dogs and mowing lawns and other seemingly simple jobs create challenges for autistics that she needs to understand.

  • It is BECAUSE she is autistic, that she dosen’t realise how arrogant and out of touch she is with less able autistic people. Forgive her, because of her Autism. But dont take her seriously, or let her bother you.

    • It’s not about her autism it’s about her vast privilege. She is white, wealthy, white, cisgender and has less issue with communication than most.

    • Autism can certainly do that to some people, but I think what we’re angry about the most is not so much what she’s saying, as the fact that she’s saying it from this position of so much power and influence. She therefore runs the risk of more people who don’t know better the idea that we’re just lazy if we don’t have a job, just like so many people have been led to believe vaccines cause autism because of Jenny McCarthy’s position of power and influence. With great power comes great responsibility, and I have to see powerful influential people reinforcing the wrong information and attitudes, instead of fighting to correct them.

  • I am surprising she would not see my work as work. It take a lot of time and energy to give keynotes and speeches something she does too. Why she shaming Autistics that want to do something she does? That make no sense to me! I love my advocacy work and I do feel it work I do get paid for It! I had the dish washing job before and it was so awful I have ptsd syntoms from it. That type work there lots of sensory issues how can she not understand that. That makes me sad she discouraging Autistics from doing same work she does.

  • Shameful capitalist propoganda that shows little awareness for the lives of most autistic people, or most people middle class or lower in this economy.

    Grand in has some of the most hideous ideology on autism, seeing our value purely based on how “productive” we are in a capitalistic context. She has no love for “low functioning” autists.

  • Haven’t she realize that one size fits all doesn’t work for autism? You got employers that are clueless about autism, you have to navigate your way through the work culture and deal with the work politics.

  • We had the opportunity to see Dr. Grandin speak, two weeks after our (then) 10 year old daughter had officially been diagnosed with autism. These words spoke to me, and we have lived by them, to this day, “Do not let the diagnosis define your child. Find what they are passionate about, and encourage them to work for it.” Fast forward 6 years…our daughter’s GPA falls within the top 10% of her entire high school class (of over 1000 students), she has become a fine artist, and will be attending AP classes her junior and senior years, that will continue to develop her strengths in art. She ultimately wants to be an animator…she even studied Mandarin as her foreign language in high school, because many animation companies have Chinese employees…she wanted to be able to communicate with them (and she currently has a higher grade in Mandarin, than in English.)

    Was it easy? Oh gosh no. Quite the opposite. But, we refused to let the diagnosis define her…autism is something she may have, but having autism isn’t who she is.

    Find your child’s passion and strengths…and encourage them to let them soar…I won’t lie…the lows can be really low, but to have a highly functioning young adult, who happens to have autism, is GOLD.

  • In the spirit of trying to suggest solutions about how to get work and/or simply work experience, I would suggest checking out AutismHR.com. It likely won’t be a fit for everyone, but it may help some.

    AutismHR is an education site attempting to teach autistic adults how to use the Gig Economy for free.

    As a result, the idea is to provide an alternative to, and/or a springboard for, autistic adults with creative skills that can be digitally delivered online to find meaningful, paid, project work on their terms.

    Full disclosure, AutismHR.com is my site, but I certainly wouldn’t have suggested it if I didn’t think it was relevant to this post and many of the comments shared here.

  • I accepted temporary jobs, continued my education, and accepted other jobs. With autism, the employment challenges include passing interviews and being able to keep a job that’s why I’m still getting support. Now I’m getting employment services. At least there should be some progress. For autistic people, getting a job may be a lot harder than it sounds. Since we tend to take things literally, it can be a problem at work. When we hear do a very good job and take your time, how much time are we supposed to take? I’ve been wearing ear plugs and ear muffs at work to control sensory overload. Having an invisible disability can mean the autistic person has to speak up which can be hard for an autistic person. It might sound like we’re imagining.

  • I took some time to process the article and Temple’s words. She means well. It seems like she wants full employment for all on the autism spectrum.

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