Friday, December 28, 2007

Thinking In Pictures

(I lifted this image from amazon just to give credit where credit's due I suppose and to let you know that you can't really search inside the book from this photo!)

I've been wanting to write this post for quite some time now. I am reading an excellent book by Temple Grandin and I want to shout about it to the world. For those who don't know who she is, Temple Grandin, a brilliant engineer and an excellent writer, is diagnosed with high functioning autism. She designs slaughter houses and other machinery which processes animals for various purposes. In this book, Thinking in Pictures, she describes how she sees the world. It is like having an interpreter for my son. I am so thankful for her perspective and her ability to write clearly and with a healthy dose of humility and her own brand of humor.

The most striking thing to me is how she understands *herself* in relation to the rest of the world. For her, the study of how non-autistic people function is just that - a scientific study. She has used her amazing powers of observation to figure out how the non-autistic population thinks and is able to critically examine her own abilities to function in that world. Priceless. I couldn't pay any medical specialist enough to give me the information I've gleaned from this book (and so far I'm only 2/3 of the way through it). In fact, after years and years of reading about and researching autism, this is hands-down the most useful source I've ever encountered on the topic. Her definition of the autism spectrum is the most concise I've ever seen. She also covers such topics as sensory differences, medications, empathy and autism, her own design process, the visual abilities related to autism and even dating (in the chapter she's rather tongue-in-cheek titled "Dating Data"). This book is rich.

This is the first comprehensive source of information about autism I've ever encountered which is written entirely from the perspective of a person with autism. All else is merely speculation since it implies an understanding of the autistic thought processes without any first-hand knowledge (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is the first example that comes to my mind - I hated that book! *see note below). This is especially helpful to me since Philip's language skills and mental level will never allow him to articulate his thoughts so clearly. Ms. Grandin has given me lots to look for in his behavior and thought processes that will help us both relate to each other.

This isn't a new book - the edition I have was copyright 1995 - but it's one I've been meaning to get my hands on and now I'm sorry I didn't do it much sooner. If you have an autistic loved one, run to get this book! Even if you have a child with any related condition - sensory issues, a visual learner, brain injury - there are so many applications of her ideas here I can't list them all. Basically, if you have a child with special needs you will glean something from this book. I just can't recommend it highly enough. Thank you Temple Grandin for taking the time to share your insights! The world is truly a better place with you in it!

*The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was supposedly written from the p.o.v. of a boy with autism. However, it was written by a typically functioning author who works with children with autism. The story very acurately portrayed how misunderstood the main character with autism was but, more importantly, how the main character clearly misunderstood the world around him. His world completely fell apart around him, mostly due to his own inability to relate to others and to pick up important social cues. I found it to so accurately highlight my own frustrations that I learned nothing about the boy's perspective. Believe me, I don't need anything that highlights my own frustrations with autism! What I need is something which helps me understand the "why's" of autistic behavior so that I can be a more understanding and compassionate parent. Temple's book fills that bill!

1 comment:

LucisMomma said...

Mair, you ought to post that information on the FG BB.

susan w.

ps the post about the dog is hilarious!!