Tag Archives: Temple Grandin

An Aspie Life: Questions Raised by Temple Grandin’s Example.

When I look at Temple Grandin’s life, I feel ashamed of how little I have accomplished.

Mostly all I’ve done is love someone and raise three children with a whole lot of cooking, washing, ironing and housecleaning in between.  I went to university late, earned a degree.  Wrote some books.  Started a Quilter’s guild.  It seems a minimal contribution at best.  But then I look at my three children and suddenly my life seems to have some significance.

Not that I take any credit for how wonderfully they turned out.  I know I was an inadequate parent.  I didn’t know about Asperger’s least of all that I had it, and so did my daughter and possibly my son.  Maybe we all did.  One daughter and two grandchildren diagnosed.  I am so proud of who they are today.  Fine people.  They have become my friends as well as my children.  We mentored each other along the way.  I was very young when I had them, you see, just eighteen when I had my first and when she was three, the youngest was born.  I was fertile if nothing else.

And because of my autism, my Asperger’s, I was socially very immature.  So we grew up together.  I helped them where I could.  And when they saw me stuck they’d step in and give me a nudge in the right direction.  I wasn’t mature for most of my first two marriages.  But in the third one I think I finally mastered at least some of the art of maturity.  Not that I’m anywhere near finished yet.

My children are independent, organized, kind, and intelligent.  I don’t know what more I could ask of them.

But of myself I have to ask this: what have I done to better the world I live in?

Offhand?  I don’t know the answer.  And that seems a sad thing.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Grandin: Understanding Individual Brain Differences Can Help Control Behaviours

You really get Temple Grandin’s enthusiasm when she talks about brain differences.  Just knowing how your brain is unusual can help people with autism better understand and control their behaviours and emotions, Grandin says in her latest book, The Autistic Brain.

She gives the example of her own brain.  For instance, the amygdala is the part of the brain that processes emotions like fear.  Just so happens, Grandin’s amygdala is enlarged.  Since this is the part of the brain that signals the fear emotion, Grandin credits this brain anomaly with her hyper anxiety.

Because she now knows that her brain construction is probably responsible for her high levels of anxiety, she finds that anxiety easier to deal with.

Grandin gives the example of students talking  under her bedroom window at night.  This creates anxiety for her regardless of whether they are talking softly or loudly.

Knowing that this state of anxiety is not caused by any real threat, she can reassure herself that the problem is not outside;  the problem lies within her brain.

She can then deal with the fact that threat is not real.  What is real?  How she feels about it.  And that she can deal with.

 

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Which is more limiting? The Autism Label? Or Our Parenting?

Temple Grandin, whom I greatly admire,  refers to parenting as a “major source of therapeutic momentum”.  But she adds, when children are diagnosed on the autism spectrum, parents may not have enough expectations for their children.

 

They bring the child through school to graduation, but in the meantime, they have not given the child the kind of experience that teaches them life skills, leaving the graduate either unemployed or under-employed.

Autistic children need to learn how to work, Grandin asserts.  They need to learn basic coping skills, like how to shop, how to order food in a restaurant.  Showing up on time, being responsible for a task outcome, these are skills that are needed in order to learn how to be on the job.

 

That’s why I personally feel that involving kids on the autism spectrum in some kind of volunteer activity, where they must show up regularly, and perform expected tasks, is invaluable to today’s kids, autistic or not.

 

As a volunteer, they must learn to be courteous (a missing factor in today’s world, Grandin laments) and to be reliable, to learn certain work routines and to cope with organizational structures.

As a volunteer, they will also meet retired people who have similar interests and who can mentor them.

The best part?  The child can choose the type of organization he/she wishes to volunteer with and select from a schedule of available days and times those which would be most suitable for them.

These kinds of situations force spectrum kids to interact with others, and Grandin says to insist on social interaction for your child is not only desirable, but necessary if you want him to succeed.

 

“The skills that people with autism bring to the table should be nurtured, for their benefit and for society’s.”  That’s why Grandin believes parents must help their children get out into the work world, learn coping skills and the basics of social etiquette.

As parents, we either help, or hinder.  While we cannot help how children are viewed by others, our most important work is in how we encourage our children to see themselves.

 

Quotes from: http://www.templegrandin.com/

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Autism Spectrum Children Over-Protected: Temple Grandin

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.

 

 

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Asperger’s and Autism: Disorder? Disability? Or Difference?

While some folks out there see autism and Asperger’s as disabilities or disorders, while they are busy searching for cures, others like Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University and Dr. Jim Tanaka of the University of Victoria, BC see these syndromes as conditions.  Conditions that do not necessarily call for cures.

While some disabilities are created by the syndrome, certain talents often also result.  One examples of this theory is Temple Grandin, a brilliant animal behaviourist with autism.

Baron-Cohen gives the further example of Einstein who said, “I do not socialize because it would distract me from my work.”

He also points out that people on the spectrum are far more interested in how systems work than in social cognition.

Jim Tanaka has done work on facial recognition, and developed new games as a result of his research that help ASD children with social interaction.

He encourages everyone to look at ASD not as a disability but as a difference integral to one’s personality.

I agree!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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