News Article Details

New children's book explores autism, creativity

Press-Republican - 10/27/2018

Oct. 27--PLATTSBURGH -- Author Amy Guglielmo renewed her acquaintance with Dr. Temple Grandin during the autism/animal advocate's visit Wednesday to the North Country.

Grandin is the subject of Guglielmo and fellow Plattsburgh High school alum Jacqueline Tourville's latest children's book, "How To Build A Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine."

The Simon & Schuster book is illustrated by Giselle Potter.


"Jacqueline and I like to write about pioneering women, and she was on our list," Guglielmo said.

"We thought that her hug machine was a great way to tell her story of creative problem solving."

In the book, the young Grandin loves folding kites, making obstacle courses for her dog and building lean-tos.

But, she doesn't do hugs. No. No. No.

They made her feel like she was entombed inside a scratchy, cologne-saturated sock.

To solve her need for touch and to level her hypersensitivity to outside stimulus, she ingeniously built a hug machine.

Like many, Guglielmo was introduced to Grandin's journey with autism via the HBO's biopic, "Temple Grandin," starring Claire Danes.

"In the movie, it shows Temple being a visual thinker," the author said.

"She thinks in pictures, and she talks about it a lot. Her story is interesting because she grew up in the '50s. They didn't really understand anything about autism at that point."


Grandin's doctors wanted to institutionalize her but her mother, Eustacia Cutler, fought valiantly to have her daughter educated and lead a normal life.

"Her mother said absolutely not," Guglielmo said.

"Instead her mother introduced her to things like the arts. She said the arts saved her -- exposure to music and art and theater. Her mother had her try everything.

Now, Temple says expose kids to all different things, and have them try everything and then they'll know what they like. That really changed her life."


At a New Hampshire boarding school, Grandin was able to twine her love of the arts, science, inventing things and animals.

There, she was introduced to experiential learning and a mentor, Mr. Carlock, who got her.

"Which is something that we talk about now, making real things," Guglielmo said,

"From making things, she solved problems and found her niche. She is now a professor of animal science (Colorado State University) and an autism advocate. She speaks around the world and writes books."


Grandin's TED TALK, "The World Needs All Kinds of Minds," is on YouTube.

"She's a real character," Guglielmo said.

"We had a conversation on the phone, and she said, 'Kids need art.' I said, 'I know.' She really likes hands-on learning and getting kids doing things. That's what saved her, and she thinks that's what will help everyone."

Grandin was a great person to write about, in Guglielmo's estimation.

"I didn't know other people were visual thinkers," she said.

"I really connected to that. I see things in pictures and my mom, also. So someone else who has a mind that works like mine. That was a nice connection for me, and it's just a nice story to show kids how to solve problems creatively.

Guglielmo attended both of Grandin's appearances at the Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall in Altona and Beekmantown Central School.

"She was so sweet," Guglielmo said.

"I asked if she liked the book; she said very much. She wanted to know how many I've sold, and if it was doing well. She said give me your phone number. I gave her a thank-you note and a copy of the book, and she wrote my phone number inside the book so she would never lose it, which I thought was the sweetest thing ever.

"I was happy she liked it."


Tourville and Guglielmo had to convince others that Grandin's story was one worth telling.

"Our editor, Emma Ledbetter, was really excited about it, too," Guglielmo said.

Giselle Potter does illustrations for a column on autism for the New York Times, she added, "so she was the perfect illustrator."

"How To Build A Hug" will be featured on the Cadyville Recreation Park'sStorybook Trail in April 2019 for Autism Awareness Month.

The book came out at the end of August and is now in its second printing.

"That is exciting," Guglielmo said.

Email Robin Caudell:



WHAT: "How To Build A Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine" by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville. Illustrated by Giselle Potter.

PUBLISHER: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division.

AGES: 4 to 8.

Available locally at the Corner-Stone Bookshop,110 Margaret St. in Plattsburgh and

Staff Writer Robin Caudell interviewed Dr. Temple Grandin for a story that ran in the Oct. 23 Press-Republican. Read it at:


(c)2018 the Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.)

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