Most helpful critical review
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Special Skills, Special People
on October 11, 2010
Thinking in Pictures, by Temple Grandin (page cites)
Emergence: Labeled Autistic, by Temple Grandin
The Way I See It, by Temple Grandin
These are excellent books for anyone dealing with autistic people. Temple Grandin, Ph.D. describes her own autism in Thinking in Pictures, with her brain's profound difference from other people's. Oliver Sacks, the brilliant neurologist, says "Temple does not romanticize autism, nor does she downplay how much her autism has cut her off " from others (xviii). For her words are a second language; basically her perceptions, her understanding of the world is in pictures. Emergence is devoted to her early childhood while Thinking concentrates more on her adult life. She used her faculties successfully and now one-third of cattle and hogs in the United States are processed in systems she has designed. To design this equipment, Temple uses her special visual thinking abilities to examine blue-print simulations three-dimensionally. She can run images over and over in her head, from different angles, to study them and improve their design.
After talking with hundreds of families and individuals with autism or Asperger's, Temple has come to see three basic categories of specialized brains: visual thinkers, music and math (or pattern) thinkers, and verbal logic thinkers, and recommends that there be more educational emphasis on building the strengths of each individual rather than trying to repair deficits. Each group brings its own strengths. After briefly describing her own early childhood behavior, Temple notes that within each brain pattern category there are different levels of ability, from high performing to savant, from Asperger's to Kanner-type autism.
Temple stresses that autism has both a cognitive and sensory component depending on the wiring of that child's brain. Thus these will differ in each child. Consequently the expression of autism is different in each child and it is impossible to predict from the severity of the symptoms at age two or three a long-term prognosis (48). She believes the highly variable volatility of autism is due to the interaction of multiple genes (54), and training and education should be tailored to the individual child. Emergence stresses this point and the last chapter, Autistics and the Real World, lists a series of factors that a parent or caretaker should consider for each child diagnosed as autistic. In The Way I See It, Dr. Grandin emphasizes that parents and teachers should not focus on the diagnostic label, but encourage the child to reach his or her highest potential. She believes that many brilliant contributors to society from Jefferson to Einstein were on the Asperger's continuum. It is interesting that in her earliest book, Emergence, Grandin talks of `reformed' or `recovered' autistics, a label that she definitely drops in her later works. Rather she emphasizes their positive interactions over the image of damaged or failed people. In The Way I See It, Grandin moves further away from the `damaged' concept to showing how autistics bring special skills and abilities. She reinforces how to be a successful autistic person by learning life skills and finding a job or hobby that matches the autistic's skills.