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VINE VOICEon March 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Very well written text on autism and brain science. The collaboration between Grandin, probably the world's best known individual with high functioning autism, and Panek, a well regarded science writer, was a smart move for this book. While I have not read a previous work by Grandin, as a parent with a child diagnosed with moderate level autism I have frequently read about her and have seen enough interviews of her that I could hear her voice as I made my way through this text. Out of necessity, I have read a high number of books and research papers associated with autism, and the vast insight that Grandin shares from her own experience is valuable, as is what she shares about brain science and the opportunities she has had throughout the years to participate in ground breaking research that included scans of her own brain.

These two topics are interwoven throughout the book, and I agree with other reviewers here that this book probably has a wider audience than what the authors may have originally surmised. However, because I have read so much with regard to autism, potential readers of this book should be aware that the criticisms from autistic readers that Grandin mentions in this book about her past assertions with regard to how "thinking in pictures" is a common trait across autistic individuals, might cease but be redirected toward the fact that Grandin heavily concentrates on high functioning autism, not the entire spectrum. The DSM-5 may no longer include different degrees of autism, but even Grandin explains her reservations about DSM diagnoses. Potential readers just need to keep in mind that the vast majority of her focus here is on those with high functioning autism like herself.

That said, interestingly enough Grandin is probably among the most optimistic writers with regard to the potential of those with autism. In one of the best brief written summaries of the history of the DSM, for example, she writes the following words of encouragement for those with autism in their lives: "Unlike a diagnosis for step throat, the diagnostic criterion for autism has changed with each new edition of the DSM. I warn parents, teachers, and therapists to avoid getting locked into the labels. They are not precise. I beg you, do not allow a child or an adult to become defined by a DSM label." For those of us that have had to battle ICD codes while seeking treatment for our children, we realize that this categorization is probably not going to go away any time soon, but it is about time that someone of Grandin's stature is questioning their long-term validity.

As a parent, I especially appreciated chapter 1 ("The Meanings of Autism"), in which Grandin discusses the history of the autism diagnosis and reflects on the original diagnosis that she was given, "brain damage", chapter 4 ("Hiding and Seeking"), in which sensory disorders, an oft neglected area in research, are discussed in relationship to autism, and how Grandin came to realize that there exists great variety, chapter 5 ("Failing on the Spectrum"), in which she furthers her earlier thoughts on the DSM, and chapter 7 ("Rethinking in Pictures"), in which Grandin writes that "of course autistic brains don't all see the world the same way - despite what I once thought" after realizing that those with autism exhibit multiple rather than one type of visualization.

Although I enjoy the conversational style of this book, I also especially appreciated the way she shares her thought process in chapter 5. Following her thoughts on what she refers to as two phases of autism the diagnosis (1943 to 1980, and 1980 to 2013), she discusses how it is time for another shift. "Thanks to advances in neuroscience and genetics, we can begin Phase Three in the history of autism, an era that returns to the Phase One search for a cause, but this time with three big differences." She later furthers this thought by writing: "Phase Two thinking says, 'Let's group people together by diagnosis.' Phase Three thinking says, 'Forget about the diagnosis. Forget about labels. Focus on the symptom.' Focus on the cause."

"Instead of - or at least in addition to - assigning human subjects to studies through a common autism diagnosis, we should be assigning them by main symptom. I sometimes see researchers pooh-poohing self-reports. But as I learned from examples like Carly Fleischmann's description of feeling overstimulated in the coffee shop, I think what researchers should be doing is looking at the self-reports very carefully as well as eliciting them in new ways. They they should be putting the subjects into studies based on those self-reports." Bravo! In my opinion, this is the climax of the book. Concentration on the individual. Looking at every case of autism as an individual will lead to the broadest spectrum possible, a holistic analyses that includes the brain science that the authors discuss, and continues to encompass the entire being, both for classic and regressive cases of autism.
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VINE VOICEon March 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
*The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across The Spectrum* is hands down *brilliant.* Every parent and teacher of an autistic child should get a copy of this book and read it with highlighter in hand. In fact, Grandin has written a book that will help teenage autistic children understand their differences and *abilities.* And therein lies its brilliance.

The chapter called "Lighting Up the Autistic Brain" asks the question what does an autistic brain look like -- and is it different from a brain that has suffered trauma/injury? Grandin takes us to Schneider's Pittsburgh lab, where HDFT technology is literally lighting up those differences. For those of us with brain injuries, HDFT can illuminate which fibers are damaged and how many. But, as Schneider tells us, the autistic brain is *not* damaged. He says: " we're looking at anomalous growth, be it genetic, be it developmental, etc.,within that process." In other words, the autistic brain is not the product of trauma. It is not damaged. It's *different.* I'm still pondering the profundity of this concept and how the book leads us to examine the autistic differences of being.

*The Autistic Brain* is part memoir and part scientific exploration of the multiple differences of the autistic brain. Don't be but off by the science part of it. Temple Grandin writes in a way that is uncomplicated and direct. She makes sense of a very complex subject. (Her explanation of the "kinds" of autism is one of the best I've ever read.) Because she lives the differences inherent in autism, we come to see those differences and respect them. Grandin calls these different ways of thought Picture Thinking, Word/Fact Thinking, and Pattern Thinking. In the margin of my copy, I wrote: The theory of multiple intelligences for people with autism. Right on!" (In the back of the book, Grandin even lists possible careers for these different ways of thinking.) Temple's understanding of the autistic brain is hard-won, and now she's passing on her knowledge to parents and teachers and the rest of the world.

Speaking as a woman with a brain difference, I cannot recommend *The Autistic Brain* highly enough. It's a book that you will return to for years to come.
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VINE VOICEon March 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love Temple Grandin . She gives me hope for the future for my autistic children and for everybody else's autistic children. This book discusses new research in neuroimaging--comparing brain scans of autistic people (including hers) and nuerotypical people. There is also new information in different types of intelligence (pattern thinkers and two types of visual thinkers) that correspond to different neurological pathways in the brain. I find all of this fascinating. What I particularly like is that everytime I had a question about something, inevitably she answered it in the next paragraph or so.

She also is very clear on focusing on strengths--obviously there are deficits in the autistic brain, but why not focus on what they CAN do well? She also includes some resources in the back for exploring different jobs and on-line learning and apps and such. And she herself is such an inspiration. I met her at a conference once. She is so intelligent, although also straightforward and to-the-point (although she can be funny) and is so successful -hey, maybe my kids can also be successful!
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on May 2, 2013
Temple Grandin has written a book involving her being a subject in a variety of autism brain research studies and takes on genetics and more general autism stuff. The book is well-written, but Grandin employs an assistant author (has been the case with many of her books) Therefore, it's hard to discern how much of the book or its research is actually the product of Grandin or assistant author, Richard Panek. The findings in her brain are probably not applicable to many persons on the spectrum who would have compliance issues in an MRI scanner. There are more inconsistencies as to when she was diagnosed as autistic, first in Emergence she states in 1950, later in thinking in pictures at age 5 or 6 1952 or 1953 and now at age 12 in this book.

Grandin contradicts her tenets about the genetics of autism being beneficial to society and providing an evolution advantage in previous writings now that the research of Jonathan Sebat and others refute what she's said in the past.

The subsequent chapters involving the tests are not as interesting as these previous chapters.

She gives her old pat and simplistic solutions about how easy it is for persons with autism to find work. As a person on the spectrum who had to retire at age 51 due to multiple problems in the workplace and numerous terminations, I know there are no simple answers and obsessions usually cannot be channeled into careers and social skills as easily taught as she makes them out to be. The example of the autistic being suitable as an airport screener due to good attention to details misses the boat in that the people contact under adverse circumstances on this job would tax the autistics lack of social skills.
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on December 31, 2014
Have you ever worked with anyone who is living with autism? Over the years I have been in situations where I have interacted professionally and informally with folks who have some form of autism, but I have never looked into this subject. Therefore, recently, I decided it was time to look below the surface and find out more. Temple Grandin's 240 page paperback, "The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum" was the first resource I nabbed, and how grateful I am to have picked it up. Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and accomplished author speaks on autism from the inside out. The book is her story dancing together with the life-stories of many others who live with autism.

"The Autistic Brain" is, surprisingly, an easy read. In spite of the fairly technical chapters on brain formation and functionality, and the different ways autistics think (word-fact, picture or pattern), the author keeps the reader's attention focused and flowing. Like a trail guide at a national park, she walks the person who is reading on the right track, moving to the side on occasion to point out significant scenery, and then resuming the trek further along to trail's destination. Grandin tackles nature and nurture in graceful ways that give hope and insight both to those who are living with autism and those who live around autistics. As the author puts it, "Neuroanatomy isn't destiny. Neither is genetics. They don't define who you will be. But they do define who you might be. They define who you can be" (174).

"The Autistic Brain" is a valuable and lucid asset. This book will benefit anyone with autism, giving them a sense of anticipation. It also should be in the hands of parents who have children (young, teen or adult) coping with this neurological irregularity, to encourage them and aid them as they support and love their child. I gladly recommend the book.
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on August 8, 2014
Ms. Grandin has attempted to translate the current and earlier research in the field for the layman. She offers some critique of the cause/effect and dispels the absolute connection between vaccinations and the condition.
As an academic she writes well and as someone who is on the Autistic scale she is very empathetic and straight forward. Temple offers an assessment tool as well as suggestions for the various 'symptoms' affecting the senses of the 'different thinkers'. I recommend it to readers and recently sent it to a family member who is a high functioning Aspberger.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It was an honor to read this new work by Dr. Temple Grandin. It's release is extremely timely with the impending update of the DSM-V and the unfolding of the more generic classification called the Austistic Spectrum. The idea of spectrum assumes that there are gradients or darker and lighter hues of autism. I am unsure if this solves much in the way of "labels" but Temple goes on to discuss "label-locked thinkers" which most of us are ... always looking to name "it". I hunger for an academic look into the brain of an autistic ... wondering what is ticking there. Dr. Grandin walks the reader through her own inquisitive journey and study into the autistic brain. Putting herself through Functional MRI imaging, researching genomics and trying to understand the various genes that may play a role in autism as well as scouring academic journals for information on sensory issues. She possesses an inquisitive mind that seeks knowledge and understanding. This book very much highlights this latest part of her journey in understanding.

Telling her story and sharing her journey, she goes beyond the brain and what fMRI's show (anatomically) and looks at DNA - marveling at the term "junk DNA" this spurs her to research deeper into the human genes that may play a role in autism. She asks many questions and the book is a search for some of the answers from an insider's viewpoint. What could be better?

We can read books on the autistic spectrum by those academics who look at it with pure science but without empathy. Dr. Grandin gives us both science and empathy because what she is sharing is her own experience and discovery for the sole purpose of helping others. Her chapter on genes is quite interesting and detailed. Expect a little bit of a science lesson.

Temple ventures into sensory issues that are so much a part of what the world understands as an autistic trait. She challenges conventional thinking and goes on to challenge the DSM-V's definitions of ASD and how it may bounce some who have been diagnosed out of ASD or into other disorders altogether. She does not mince words on her feelings about changes in the DSM-V. It's a shame that they didn't consult her when switching things up! She states that she "smells a strong case of 'If we label them that, then we don't have to give them ASD services and we can just let the police deal with them.' The DSM might just as well call this category , Throw 'em all in jail." Strong words from a strong woman who shares many of her own experiences and convictions. She states again the dangers of "label-locked thinking".

The book crescendos into looking at one's own strengths. Autistic people's strengths are too often treated as a by-product of faulty wiring. Temple uses research to challenge this thinking and is not talking about savant skills but other strengths that can be harnessed (details, associative thinking, patterns).

Dr. Grandin closes her book by rethinking some of her early postulations about "thinking in pictures". She introduces a new category of thinking called "pattern thinkers" (that would be me) along with "visual" and "auditory" thinkers. Those who have read Temple's other books will see that she still continues on her journey to understand autism and help people to rethink the way they perceive it.

Bravo Dr. Grandin on a great book and a great read into a gifted mind living on the spectrum.
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on August 10, 2015
This book has significantly enhanced my understanding about autism. It also carries a powerful and inspiring message. If society just changed its attitude and started viewing flaws to be ironed out, rather as strengths to be nurtured and encouraged, then the human skill-set needed to solve some of the world's biggest problems will only be enhanced. I was getting a bit fed up with sitting in front of people telling me my child needs to concentrate more and do this and do that, when my own gut instinct kept shouting at me "let him be himself....let him follow the paths which his brain is channeling him down, rather than trying to divert it." The fact that he is attracted to details which no one else in his class sees, makes him different for sure. Because of this book, now I get it. He's a pattern thinker! He likes detail and he's happy when he's immersing himself in it. That's a strength I'm going to nurture, not a kink I'm going to try and get rid of. He's my child after all and all I want is for him to be happy and find his own path. Not someone else's and certainly not the one the Hong Kong "one-size fits all" education system wants to send him down. This is, as I say, a great book and a must read for any parents dealing with the issue of autism or Asperger's. Thank you, Temple Grandin for this.
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on February 1, 2014
I am not sure why I picked the book The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek to read. I loved the Temple Grandin story and have always been interested in understanding more about autism so I guess there was some kind of appeal in the title and author.

The book was not exactly what I expected but I had no regrets in reading it. There were three themes in the book: 1) The brain and how science is learning how it works; and 2) Studies of disorders in the general area of autism and the classifications and mis-classifications of these disorders; 3) Autism and how parents with autistic children can assist their children. I found topics 1 and 2 extremely interesting, but less topic 3 (probably since it did not apply to me).
Some of the most fascinating parts of this book for me, included:

* Grandin's own experiences being a subject of many brain studies. Often these studies included some kind of MRI or brain scan. Over the years she has gained significant understanding of how own autistic brain works though these studies. Even the geometry of her own brain gives clear explanations why she struggles in certain areas and has exceptional abilities in other areas. For example, she has amazing visual recall abilities. Studies of her brain show how statistically (as compared to the norm) it has a very large channel connecting her visual input system (close to her eyes) to her brain storage system (the part of the brain that stores images). This larger than normal channel can be explained by giving the actual physical dimensions of this channel and comparing it to the channel size of a more typical brain. Her channel is much larger and thus it is not surprising that is works so well.

* She talks about how a weak or small part of the brain is often compensated by a larger "work-around" that gives a person with a disability and strong trait that to a certain degree helps compensate for the weakness. She gives examples of personality compensations that can be directly mapped to the brain, for examples: a person's small channel between points A to B in their brain, might be offset by a larger than average channel from A to C. It is as if the river was blocked at the bend, but power of the water has found a new path around the blockage. The result may be that a person's weakness in one area is offset by strengths in other areas (maybe poor interpersonal skills but exceptional analytical skills). This can even sometimes be seen with a person with a brain injury, who loses some ability after an accident, but then another personality trait or skill becomes stronger as the brain attempts to compensate.

* She explains how the newest advanced brain scans are orders of magnitude more accurate and detailed than the current generation of MRI and deep brain scan equipment. The new generation (that is only in a few hospitals and research centers at this time) was developed with funding from the US Department of Defense, who was trying to assist brain injury victims (in particular soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with alarming high rates of brain injuries). The older systems could see a bundle of fibers moving from point A to point B in the brain, while these new high definition systems can count and measure each individual micro fiber than makes up the channel (down to the diameter of each thread like fiber that makes up the channel).

* I am dyslexic and an engineer and tend to be a very visual thinker. I always want to map things out on a white board during a meeting, even if they are just concepts we are discussing. However, when Grandin gives a detailed description of how she thinks visually, I realized she is at an entirely higher level what I could have ever imaged. She gives an example of how her brain works by explaining what goes through her head when some asks her to think of a word. This type of questions starts with an extremely detailed high speed picture show in her brain, that flips through detailed images, one after another. An example she gives, if you asked her to think of the phrase "church steeple", most people would visualize a generic church steeple. However, when she does the same process with "church steeple" she might see her uncles church that she attended when she was ten years old and the details of the clouds blowing by in the distance, then an image of a church see saw the previous year, with the fine details of the paint peeling on the steeple and on and on it goes until she breaks out of the picture show.

* It used to be thought that there were two types of thinking: Visual and Non-Visual. Grandin is always very sensitive to labels that over simplify traits or people so was suspicious that this was an over-simplification. Based on this she went on a search to see if there was any research on further sub-classifications of these two types of "Thinkers". She found a new branch of study that breaks visual thinkers into two groups: a) Picture Thinkers; b) Spatial Thinkers. Artists are more likely to be Picture Thinkers and engineers & architects are more likely to be Spatial Thinkers. A set of simple tests were developed that will indicate which of these two groups of visual thinkers you fall into. These tests show a very strong correlation between engineers and architects scoring high as Spatial Thinker while visual artists scoring high as Picture Thinker. Grandin knew she was a strong Picture Thinker but with her education and world renowned ability as a designer of cattle pens and related facilities and equipment she felt she would also score high as a Spatial Thinker. She was clearly disappointed when she scored low as Spatial Thinker. She went back to the researchers to try to figure what was wrong with their tests. After more thought she realized they were right and she had just compensated for her less than stellar Spatial Thinking with her extra strong Picture Thinking. Google Spatial Thinking to learn more about this topic and the simple tests to see which of these two types of visual thinking you score higher in.

* Grandin makes the comment that likely in a 100 years we will look back on this time as the very start of our learning how the brain works (or in other words, we are just at the baby step level of understanding this 3 pound grey mass).
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on March 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love this book! "The Autistic Brain" is exceptional and highly readable, as many of Temple Grandin's book.

In this book, Grandin speaks about the exciting, cutting-edge research and technologies being used by neurologists to map individual features within the brain. Technology like High Definition Fiber Tracking is being used to map areas of the brain and predict how damage or changes will affect a person's body or cognitive ability. Grandin's brain was mapped by the HDFT technology as a part of a 60 Minutes Segment (by Leslie Stahl) that never aired. She says that the brains of autistics are neurologically different. Their brains have not suffered "damage" in the typical sense, instead something happens at the age of two or three -- that causes their brains lobes to wire differently. So many autistics will start out normally as infants "babbling" stage, then their brain will miswire in a way where they are forever changed.

For Grandin, an area of her brain that should have connected with controlled language and meaning, instead joined the visual center of her brain. Therefore, she became a highly visual thinker. But, because Grandin is a visual thinker, does not mean that all autistic individuals think in pictures, because the way that the brain "miswires" or wires varies from person to person.

Grandin also speaks about the differences between types of thinking: visual, pattern and words(verbal). Additionally,Grandin also speaks, again of her own childhood and struggles that she faced as an autistic (but it was nowhere as in depth as her book Thinking in Pictures). I'm planning to re-read this book because I enjoyed it so much, and learn a great deal every time I read one of Grandin's books. She continues to be an inspiration for me.
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