- Temple Grandin learned that autism was a challenge to be overcome rather than an impediment to her success.
- She learned to communicate with others by observing and teaching herself social cues.
Grandin used her unique brain makeup to become successful. She learned to adapt to her challenges and use them to her advantage.
Temple Grandin did not start out as a powerful communicator. She battled severe autism in the 1950s when not much was known about the condition. Her parents were encouraged to institutionalize Grandin, who did not speak at all until the age of three, and she was not expected to be a functioning person in society.
With time and therapy, Grandin learned to adapt to her autism and overcome its effects. She built a career in animal science and became a professor and author who speaks on autism-related topics. She designed a new kind of animal feedlot that considered animal psychology and kept cattle comfortable and healthy during the feeding process.
As communicators, we have important and hard-fought lessons to learn from Grandin about adapting to adverse conditions and overcoming difficulties.
Focus on What You Can Do
One important aspect of communication is to keep things focused on positive objectives you know you can reach. Grandin’s parents exposed her to a variety of stimuli and helped her progress as far as she possibly could in each area of her life. Instead of institutionalizing her, they enrolled her in intensive speech therapy to help her get ready to start school when the time came.
Grandin attended school and learned other adaptations that made it possible for her to grow as a person. Just like Grandin did not have innate advantages to help with the learning process, your brand may not have the biggest market share. However, it could possibly grow 10% this year, which is still a great accomplishment.
Be Open to Different Ways of Thinking
Grandin says she thinks in images, not in words like most people. Communicating with images can be powerful in that you can show people what you mean rather than telling them. Images are powerful in that they can reach everyone regardless of their levels of verbal understanding.
Grandin’s message about those living with autism goes beyond recognizing that they think in images. Her mission is to get people to realize that people think in different ways, and that our experiences will be more valuable if we keep our minds open to different ways of thinking, as she explained in this TED talk.
Put Yourself in Another Person’s Shoes
Because experts believe animals also think in images the way Grandin does, she could put herself in an animal’s “shoes” and empathize with them in a way she couldn’t with people. As communicators and marketers, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of our target audiences and understand their needs and desires.
Until we can empathize with those we want to understand and communicate with, we will not be able to reach them effectively, nor will we be able to design marketing campaigns (or products) that will fit their needs well enough that they will be compelled to buy them.
Solicit Questions and Feedback
Because many people don’t understand autism, Grandin has a section on her website where she answers questions that people may ask about the affliction. They can also ask about her experiences and career. Questions allow her to communicate directly with her audience without having to figure out what they want to know.
Feedback is important for marketers and helps them know many things about their customers and target audiences. Any time a marketer or communicator can get people to ask questions, they will get invaluable insights into that market segment or audience that will help them in future marketing efforts.
Take Help Where You Can Find It
For Grandin, the goal was to make the best adaptation she could to her autism and do everything she could to make her life productive and enjoyable. One thing that helped her cope with the way her brain worked was to take anti-depressants.
For Grandin, anti-depressants were and are tools that helped her overstimulated brain manage itself and keep itself calm so she could focus on other things. Communicators also have tools at their disposal, especially as technology has advanced and people have discovered ways to make communication easier.
Use Challenges to Your Advantage
Grandin likely never would have seen the success she’s had in her life without the immense challenges autism brought. Sometimes the most difficult challenges can produce the most success because they cause us to be overcomers rather than just people that go on in a more “normal” way.
Brands and individuals that embrace their challenges often find those challenges are the very catalyst for their success and come to understand they would never have been able to reach their current levels of success without having faced them.
Media Shower wants to help you meet your marketing and communication challenges by providing strategy, content, and support in your journey. Contact us to learn how we can help you take your marketing to the next level.