Mind Shadows

9/27/06


Home_____Temple Grandin, PhD, on Her Autism

Grandin was described by Oliver Sacks in his book, An Anthropologist on Mars. Sacks' title approximates how Grandin feels around so-called normal people. Dr. Grandin has been featured on ABC's Primetime Live, the Today Show, and Larry King Live and appeared in a BBC Horizon documentary, broadcast 8 June 2006 as "The Woman Who Thinks Like A Cow." She has been written about in periodicals, including Time, People, Forbes, and the New York Times.

"I think in pictures," she writes. "Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head. When somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures. Language-based thinkers often find this phenomenon difficult to understand, but in my job as an equipment designer for the livestock industry, visual thinking is a tremendous advantage.

Visual thinking has enabled me to build entire systems in my imagination." (Autism and Visual Thought)
"People who aren't autistic always ask me about the moment I realized I could understand the way animals think.

They think I have had an epiphany.

But it wasn't like that. It took me a long time to figure out that I see things about animals other people don't. And it wasn't until I was in my forties that I finally realized I had one big advantage over the feedlot owners who were hiring me to manager their animals: being autistic. Autism made school and social life hard, but it made animals easy.

I had no idea I had a special connection to animals when I was little. I liked animals, but I had enough problems just trying to figure out things like why a really small dog isn't a cat. That was a big crisis in my life. All the dogs I knew were pretty big, and I used to sort them by size. Then the neighbors bought a dachshund, and I was totally confused. I kept saying, "How can it be a dog?" I studied and studied that dachshund, trying to figure it out. Finally I realized that the dachshund had the same kind of nose my golden retriever did, and I got it. Dogs have dog noses.

That was pretty much the extent of my expertise when I was five.

I started to fall in love with animals in high school when my mother sent me to a special boarding school for gifted children with emotional problems. Back then they called everything "emotional problems." Mother had to find a place for me because I got kicked out of high school for fighting. I got in fights because kids teased me. They'd call me names, like "Retard," or "Tape Recorder."

The called me Tape Recorder because I'd stored up a lot of phrases in my memory and I used them over and over again in every conversation. (Animals in Translation)

Dr. Temple Grandin's Web Page

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