(CNN) -- Temple Grandin sees her autism as a gift, not a disability.
The professor at Colorado State University, who has become a prominent animal rights activist, spoke at the recent TED Conference in California about how people's brains work in different ways -- and how that's something that should be appreciated, not stigmatized.
Grandin, for instance, thinks in pictures, "like Google for images," she said.
She also grabs hold of details, a brain function she feels could help politicians.
"I get satisfaction out of seeing stuff that makes real change in the real world," she said. "We need a lot more of that and a lot less abstract stuff."
One of her biggest real-world accomplishments, she said, was when a mother recently told her that her autistic child had gone to college because of Grandin's inspiration.
Grandin's life also is the subject of a new HBO film, in which she's played by actress Claire Danes.