The main thrust of personalities on the autism spectrum is social awkwardness, Temple Grandin, an autistic scientist, best-selling author and public speaker maintains. Her most recent book, “The Autistic Brain” is the topic of her speech available at www.chicagohumanities.org.
“It’s like our brains have been programmed with all the social circuitry left out.” Grandin says. “Who do you think invented the spear?” She asks. Certainly not those social types sitting chatting around the fire!
But Grandin is concerned that children today are allowed to become recluses in their bedrooms or the basement. They are over-protected, she asserts, and as a result, they become adults on welfare sitting home playing video games.
Because kids on the autism spectrum are socially awkward, Parents may tend to protect them from social situations, allowing the children to avoid all participation. The problem as Grandin sees it is that as parents, we are not pushing our autistic children hard enough. Listening, I can hear that Grandin is looking back at tasks she was made to do as a child which she dreaded at the time. Now, however, she sees the value in her mother’s determination.
For instance Grandin’s mother forced Temple to play hostess at her cocktail parties, to take on family tasks and to visit relatives independently each year. Nowadays, these daily routines are missing. Grandin mourns the loss of paper routes which taught children how to work, and chores which taught children basic skills like cooking and sewing. Grandin also regrets the loss in some schools woodwork and metalwork classes. These lessons taught not only basic skills, but also practical problem solving and resourcefulness.
The solution? Autistic children need their boundaries pushed. Her message is that children need mentors and to have that, they must socialize. Common interests are the threads that bind autistic people with others socially. Her suggestion? Retired people who work with the skill-sets that interest your autistic child are the kind of people who could be good mentors for your child.
Her talk is interesting and thought-provoking. For anyone with autism spectrum issues in the family, it is well worth the hour spent listening. Her video is available at: http://chicagohumanities.org/events/2013/animal/temple-grandin?gclid=CjwKEAjw68ufBRDt0Zmrn4W_8AwSJADcjp1c8n1Utyy3mnJeYdd940H2AEKV1F2Imhly0MZsHZr5SxoChdfw_wcB
A shorter version can be found on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWePrOuSeSY.