Temple Grandin on TED; Autism is a Continuum

Temple Grandin is very specific about how she describes autism, how to foster success in the autistic child, why the world needs people on the autism spectrum.

Autism is a very big continuum, from severe (nonverbal) to brilliant to (scientists). The kids growing up now can be the next great inventors.

There is a fine line between nerd and someone with Asperger’s. Many times, these ‘nerdy’ types or kids that can’t get focused on their assigned lessons in school get pushed aside because teachers just don’t know how to deal with them. They don’t know what to do with them and they don’t have the resources to help them flourish. Temple’s deep concern is expressed “…one of the things that really worries me is where is the younger version of those kids going today? They’re not ending up in Silicon Valley, where they belong!” (Grandin, 2010).

The autistic mind is a ‘specialist’ mind. Some are visual, photo realistic thinkers and are poor at algebra, They see thoughts or words just like “google for pictures”. The autistic brain picks out the details, but the ‘normal’ brain ignores a lot of details. She says if a bridge designer ignores the details, it will crumble and fall!

There are pattern thinkers, who are good at math and often have problems with reading. There are verbal thinkers, which are poor at drawing, but know every fact about everything.

Temple learned very early that she had to sell her work, not herself. Social people sell themselves in a job interview, more so than their work. Temple showed her amazing drawings! She also learned the importance of manners at an early age, through intensive mentoring as a young child.

It’s important to show kids on the spectrum interesting stuff to get them excited about learning whatever their specialty is. A mind can be social or ‘geeky’. The autism mind is less social, to the severity of being non-verbal. To take art, drafting, music out of the schools is a critical mistake, as autistic kids need to have these programs to nurture their ‘fixation’. These kids are really smart, and teachers need to know how to direct these kids.

We need to get these kids ‘turned on’. Take notice on what they fixate. If they can’t get their mind off horses, then center the [math] lesson around horses. Maybe they should skip math altogether, if they aren’t pattern thinkers! Temple cannot emphasize enough the importance of  a good mentor for helping a child develop his or her autism special talents

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