Founders Krista and Dave Mason with Dr. Temple Grandin (Photo Courtesy: Benjamin’s Hope)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD TV8)-Temple Grandin, regarded as one of the most inspirational individuals with autism in the world, visited the campus of Benjamin’s Hope in Holland Saturday afternoon. Benjamin’s Hope is a farmstead community providing 24/7 care and support for adults with autism. The beautiful 40-acre campus in Holland, Michigan is designed to create purposeful and integrated experiences for adults with autism, their families, and the entire community. Benjamin’s Hope offers essential services such as housing and meaningful day programming partially funded through public healthcare dollars and the remainder supported by faithful giving from the community.

Grandin traveled to West Michigan on a speaking engagement and visited Benamin’s Hope while in town. “Young people with autism often become fixated on their favorite subject,” says Grandin, who was named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2010. “But the key is to take those things and expand it. You need to be able to do things with it that people want.”

Grandin didn’t speak until she was three and a half years old. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. Today, she has her PhD, is an associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University, has designed one-third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States, consults for major corporations, and is a best-selling author. The HBO movie Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes, won seven Emmy Awards.

“Autism is a very important part of who I am,” Grandin says. “People ask me all the time if I could snap my fingers and not be autistic, would I do it? No. I like the logical way that I think.” Krista Mason, founder and Executive Director of Benjamin’s Hope, has been profoundly influenced by the work of Dr. Grandin.

Photo: Barn Manager Anne Brand with Dr. Temple Grandin and the alpacas (Courtesy of Benjamin’s Hope)

“My son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism in 1997. Dr. Grandin’s book, “Thinking in Pictures” had just been released. I remember absorbing every word she wrote. She gave me a window into Ben, helped me understand his autism, and gave me a vision for his future. I think her love of farming were the seeds of the Ben’s Hope. She inspired me and gave me hope!”.

Photo: Grandin observing Speet and RPM student Nathan Buel (Courtesy of Benjamin’s Hope)

While visiting Benjamin’s Hope Grandin enjoyed learning about how the men and women who live at Ben’s Hope are developing skills caring for the animals and tending gardens. She enjoyed a farm to table dinner prepared by the residents of Ben’s Hope. Anna Speet, the only Certified Soma®RPM practitioner in the state of Michigan, is the director of the RPM program at Benjamin’s Hope. Speet recalls, “Hearing Temple Grandin speak as a freshman at Hope College literally shaped my career focus. I thought to myself, ‘This is it. I want to work with adults with adults with autism.”