Home » The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Dr. Temple Grandin (Full Transcript)

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Dr. Temple Grandin (Full Transcript)

When I was a little kid, loud sounds hurt my ears. I still absolutely hate the vacuum toilets in airplanes. And if I’d had to deal with those when I was five, I would have been sure I’d be sucked out of the airplane. My visual thinking mind went wild when I was six years old and they were remodeling our house. They had this big circular saw and I was afraid that maybe its blade would come up through the floor of my room. Which was just ludicrous. But when you’re maybe six years old, it wasn’t quite so ludicrous. I had trouble hearing hard constant sounds. So my speech teacher slowed down, enunciated the hard consonants. She’d say cup, and then shed say cuh-puh. Slow down, enunciate it so that I could hear it.

Attention shifting. I have problems with this. Somebody rings a cellphone off, I orient. Takes me much longer to shift back. Attention shifting slowness. Some people when they go to read, the print will jiggle on the page. That’s probably about 10% of students that are having some trouble in college. Doesn’t explain all autism. It doesn’t explain all dyslexia. But there’s something wrong with the circuits back here. Shape, color, emotion, texture. They’re not merging together right. And sometimes they can be fixed with a very simple thing. Like pale pink glasses, pale lavender glasses, different print your work on some different colored papers, maybe try different background on colors on the computer screen, different fonts.

Now wouldn’t it be stupid to lose a job or flunk out of school because you didn’t do this? I’m finding one out of 50 has got this problem in my livestock handling class. Because they do really horrible on my drawing assignment. They cannot draw. If I say draw this, they’re drawing. That’s what they draw. They don’t see it. Well, there’s my head. Well, and that’s all the white matter that’s inside. And the gray matter — this is not lining up right. Something got changed here. There should be a little space there for the gray matter. Something got out of sync there on that. And that’s all the circuits, the cable bundles that are the interoffice communication. That’s where you have differences in developmental problem.

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Well, my fear center was bigger than normal. Well, that’s controlled now with antidepressant medication. Little Prozac Us visual thinkers, panic monsters. I know a lot of visual thinkers where a little dab of Prozac in the morning, or Lexapro or Zoloft, stops the anxiety. Then you’re not getting whacked out on drugs and alcohol. Cerebellum’s smaller, so I’ve got really bad balance. Simple accommodations in the workplace. Some people have got to get away from the 60 cycle fluorescent lights. They need a quiet place to work. Open office plan and I got to do serious writing, doesn’t work.

The other thing that doesn’t work with people that are on the autism spectrum is a sudden change in work routine. They come into work and they just go okay, we’re yanking out all the office cubicles today and we’re going to move them. Okay, if we’re going to do that, let’s have some warning. Maybe a week at least of warning. And I still can’t tolerate scratchy clothes. Scratchy clothes just horrible. Like sandpaper. Some cotton itches, other cotton doesn’t itch.

Now the thing is it’s okay for geeks to cry. When the space shuttle got shut down, there were a lot of people crying on “60 Minutes.” And I got thrown out of a large girls school for throwing a book at a girl who teased me. And when I went to boarding school, I got in a fistfight in the cafeteria after a guy called name – some name. And they took horseback riding away for two weeks. I still had to clean the barn, but no horseback riding. And somehow I switched to crying. It’s okay for geeks to cry. That’s perfectly okay. And I would go and hide in the electrical room, because the tech companies don’t tolerate any violence. I have to say that it made me chuckle to look in the clean room at JPL and here’s this big giant Craftsman tool chest there. To think that bolts on the Mars lander were tightened by a tool kept in a Craftsman tools chest. But you better not throw that tool, otherwise it’s bye-bye job. It’s that simple.

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It takes a village to raise a child. We got to figure out how we can all work together to make things work. Because I’m seeing too many smart kids going down the wrong road. I go to the gifted meeting, he’s going down one road. I go to the autism meeting, and you’ve got one situation where a kid that ought to be headed for Google is put in a class with kids that don’t talk. Then I go to another school system and he’s headed in the right direction really beautifully. It’s very, very, very variable. But these two silos don’t talk. Because if I look at the book table for the gifted meeting and the autism meeting, there might be a 5% overlap in the books. There should be more like a 25% overlap in the books. They’re not talking to each other. We got to get people together.

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