Ideas From Temple Grandin’s The Autistic Brain

by jackiejmo on June 26, 2013

I’ve always found Temple Grandin’s books quite powerful, and I’m equally happy with this new one, The Autistic Brain:  Thinking Across the Spectrum.

I love her admonition to parents and teachers to avoid defining a person by a DSM label.  There were two huge things I’m taking from this book:

  1.  She points out how totally debilitating sensory oversensitivity can be.  She references a distinction made by another autistic author as experiencing reality with an “acting self” and a “thinking self.”  She explains that if your brain receives too much sensory information, your acting self might easily look underresponsive while your thinking self would feel overwhelmed.  (I wonder if this works the same way for emotional/energetic sensitivity.)  She referenced a 2007 research paper proposing that autistics with sensory problems suffered from what they called “Intense World Syndrome.”  Wow!  I can certainly see some ADDers as suffering from this.  She explains how to identify the different kinds of sensory problems and offers tips to help.
  2. She explores the idea of kinds of thinkers and expands from her earlier two types — picture thinkers and word-fact thinkers — to include pattern thinkers as a third type.  She also learned that there is research now that identifies her picture thinkers as object visualizers and pattern thinkers as spatial visualizers.  She proposes that our kind of thinking can be identified as a strength to be enlisted in our education and careers.  Of course, ultimately, she is saying that we need to look at each individual, trait by trait and strength by strength, to assist each person in reaching their potential.


Near the end of her book, she says:

“When something is “all in your mind,” people tend to think that it’s willful, that it’s something you could control if only you tried harder or if you had been trained differently.  I’m hoping that the newfound certainty that autism is in your brain and in your genes will affect public attitudes.”

I second her hope and would expand it to also include ADHD as we work to change public attitudes.

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