The Autistic Brain is the first book by Temple Grandin that will be neither a memoir nor a book on animals. As always, Temple's ability to cut through the jungle of information and make the science clear is evident with each listen; her skills as a scientist and her original thinking offer some significant new insights into the understanding of autism.
Temple Grandin teaches listeners the science of the autistic brain, and with it the history and sociology of autism. By being autistic--by being able to look from the inside out and from the outside in--the author's insights are not just unique, they're groundbreaking. According to Temple, our understanding of autism has been perhaps fundamentally wrong for the past 70 years.
©2013 Temple Grandin and Richard Panek (P)2013 Recorded Books
As I listened to Temple Grandin and Richard Panek’s 2013 “The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum” I realized Grandin’s book is much more than “just” a book on autism. I desperately hope this book it isn’t overlooked or undervalued because of its title.
In Grandin’s parlance, I am “neuro-typical” (not autistic), and so is my entire family. I do know people with autism and I have friends with autistic children, but I don’t have a particular passionate interest in the disorder. The Amazon reviews I’ve read make it clear that “The Autistic Brain” is an extremely important book for the autistic community who have the passionate interest I lack. I believe “The Autistic Brain” is equally important for “neuro-typicals” - especially parents.
The seachange in “The Autistic Brain” is Grandin’s hypothesis that people think in at least three different ways: in pictures, or visually, as she does; verbally, or in words, like the majority of people do; or in a new category, patterns. I know I am primarily a verbal thinker, but by concentrating, I can and do think in pictures or in patterns, for short periods of time. When I am able to do that, I often solve problems I can’t solve otherwise. Grandin proposes the idea that an autistic person’s education, skill development, likely abilities and strengths should be tailored to their type of thinking. I agree completely, and it should be taken a step further: it should apply to “neuro-typicals” too.
For parents, she talks about some important child raising tactics: for example, if you’ve got a kid who really knows math well and the kid’s in “baby math”, the kid may get bored and act out. A lot. Give the kid real math to do, and you may have a model student. And math doesn’t have to go in the order it’s usually taught: basic math; algebra; geometry; calculus . . . and if a kid doesn’t ‘get’ algebra, try geometry, or statistics, or something else. These, and her other education recommendations, apply equally as well to “neuro-typicals.”
The book starts with a discussion of the genetic, biological and environmental causes of autism – as well as other usually less disruptive neurological conditions, such as migraine and depression. Grandin’s explanation of how and why the brain works, and some of the things that can go wrong, is the most understandable I have ever heard. By analogy, Grandin describes an engine (the brain) misfiring by describing how the engine is supposed to run, but pointing out that the engine is missing a sparkplug, has a clogged hose, or doesn’t have enough gas – or perhaps, all three.
For those of us who have long been puzzled by the actions of autistics acting out, Grandin discusses the often extreme sensory problems autistics can have. I realized I actually knew what that was like. Twenty years ago, I had a case of the flu so severe that I lost the ability to screen out noises in other apartments in my building, and I could only wear the softest cotton clothing – and that hurt. When the landlord started refinishing the hardwood floor in the next apartment over, the noise was so excruciating all I could do was put my hands over my ears and cry. I was only that sick for a day. Some autistic children were born that way. I will never again wonder, in annoyance, why a parent ‘can’t control’ their autistic child’s sensory tantrum again.
Grandin’s book also discusses, among so many other things: problems with even peer reviewed and published scientific studies caused by inaccurate assumptions, improper data collection, and bad analysis; the problem with diagnosing hypersensitivity or under sensitivity based on outward behavior; incorrectly applying diagnostic labels to individuals, and how that can hurt their development; how a typographic error erroneously caused a misdiagnosis of autism; why the ‘epidemic’ of autism may not really be an epidemic at all; the tablet/iPad revolution, and why it works so well for autistics; identifying sensory disorders; the number of undiagnosed autistics in Silicon Valley (she estimates 50%); what drugs may help autistics, and why; the upcoming and new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders (DSM-V) . . . and so much more.
The narration was clear and crisp, and Andrea Gallo did a good job with the scientific terms and distinguishing the authors’ voices from discussion; and with quotes.
Husband, father, building contractor, inventor and audio book lover.
This is an amazing look into the mind and more importantly the brain of people diagnosed with Autism. We are finally finding some answers, but of more interest are the questions this book raises. Temple Grandin gives a look behind the curtain of Autism from the point of view of an eye witness. Are we missing a great resource in specialized thinking? What have we to learn about the power of our brains from the anomalies of the Autistic brain? Most fascinating might be that behind the facade of the non-verbal person with autism, might be a high functioning, communicating individual, that is trapped inside an uncooperative outer shell. Would you treat a nonverbal person with autism the same, if you knew they understood everything you said, but were just unable to get their response past the wall of their muscles and vocal cords. Being close to some people with Autism makes me attune to these questions, but I think that we all have something to gain when we have the answers to these questions and more. This book is a good place to start.
I hesitate to write a critical review because this book is amazingly well researched and written. Temple Grandin is, without doubt, a ground-breaking expert in this area and has invaluable insights to offer, especially for people who have personal experience with autism. I just didn’t find the writing (or reading, which was too slow) all that compelling; I actually fell asleep a few times while listening in the car (as a passenger). I must stress, however, that it’s the writing, not the content, that left me wanting. For comparison, I read her book, “Animals in Translation” and couldn’t put it down, which is why I chose this book to begin with.
Absolutely! There is a huge difference between learning about autism from the perspective of researchers and from the point of view of a person actually on the spectrum. Temple Grandin provides insight that makes the diagnosis understandable and more human. She not only has experienced autism herself but she is so interested in the anatomy, the most recent developments, and how the diagnosis varies from one person to another. Her passion alone makes the book interesting.
It's a good balance between the latest research and technical information regarding autism as well as explanation of how the research and understanding relates to her personal experience and experiences of others she has met with autism.
This book helped me understand how my daughter takes in the world, now I watch to see how she learns and what she is interested in. She is still in her own world, won't communicat with us unless she really wants something, but she loves to help make dinner, and learn new things.
For years we wondered. This book helped us understand just a little better. There are practical tips. Most of all it was written by a person with autism. I would highly recommend this book
A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!
I appreciated the insight Grandin provides into living with autism. As autism can look so different for different people, I found her story a bit limiting and judgmental at times. I would recommend the book to those interested in understanding autism more.
I am the parent of a child on the spectrum and a software development manager. I read the book to help me help my son, but walked away with so much more. This book explains how the brain works for neural typical people and how autistic brains can differ. Dr. Grandin explains in detail different types of thinkers, how autism can enhance it and how to play to the strengths of the individual. Managers in the tech industry can leverage this understanding to help motivate and thus better utilize engineers and scientists who are on the spectrum as well as those who are not.
I loved it! Dr. Temple Grandin provides a clear and unique perspective on the autistic brain that is accurate. She is inspiring. This book helped me better understand the differences and the similarities between everybody's brains, not just the autistic individual. The book also helps dispel the use of titles attributing to individuals and prompts us to focus more on the actual causes of how individuals can think and perceive the world. This movement away from categorizing individuals to acknowledging their differences of brain function will lead to more effective treatment and understanding so that those individuals can have a more fulfilling life.
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