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)

Well, you’re kind of born with those things. Okay, there’s two ways you can do the math. You can do it the verbal way, or you can do it the more visual spatial way. And there’s kids that can just do the math in their head. And the school says well, you can’t do that. They don’t get it that he thinks differently. Well, I’m saying let him do it in his head. But we will take some precautions against cheating. So we’re going to put him in a room stripped of everything electronic, and if he can do it, then just absolutely fine.

Now I just want to show you something that’s definitely not my mind. That praying mantis is made out of a single sheet of folded paper. No cutting, no tape. And what you see in the background, that is the folding pattern. And people look at that and go, wow. Well, there’s no way I could start with a square piece of paper and make it into a praying mantis. That’s not my mind. And here are some great little origami stars that some kids gave me. Well, they need to be in the advanced math class. Now my thing was art. And when I was in elementary school, my ability in art was always encouraged. And I was encouraged to do lots of different things. So I wasn’t just drawing the same horse head over and over again. You got to take the things they’re fixated on and broaden it out, because you’ve got to learn how to do stuff other people are going to want. I always like to show my drawings off again.

And here’s a beautiful bridge that Jessy Park drew. She was more moderate. Well, her favorite thing used to be electric blanket controls. Well, we had to get her off of that. And while on the subject of bridges, I think our governments are going crazy when you’ve got a governor and his aides are deliberately creating traffic jams on a bridge. The one that looks just like this. This is absolutely ridiculous! They’re getting totally separated from reality. We have great things going on with private industry docking with the space station. But instead we have a stupid thing on the news this morning about government officials messing up traffic on purpose on a bridge, and some dumb thing about I think sports players getting scared by their own mascot. I mean, that was on the news this morning when I was having breakfast. I think there’s more important things to have on the news than that. And these people, as far as causing a traffic jam on a bridge, that’s the kind of mindset of about an eight year-old. It’s also something that I would have learned when I was eight years old that you don’t do stuff like that because it inconveniences other people.

You don’t do those kind of things because you wouldn’t like if you were in that traffic jam. It’s just that simple. There’s some other gorgeous artwork made by a person that was at mid-level on their autism spectrum.

All right, now I’m going to tell you math people why you need to have us art minds. One of the things that really worries me, with all the STEM emphasis– and we’re going to have to have algebra now. How could I get through college with algebra? Know how I got through college? Because thank goodness for the educational fads of 1967. And in 1967, the required math class was finite math. Probability, matrices, and statistics. Bit more visual, tons of tutoring. I managed to get through it. But the engineering mind does need the art mind. Because I’ve learned there’s certain things the engineering mind doesn’t see.

Now what’s there? I don’t know if that came from — I got a satellite image. I don’t know if it’s Google’s or not. I did get that off the internet. I certainly wasn’t going to fly over it and get my own picture of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Not something you want to get very, very near, that’s for sure. Because sometimes the most obvious is the least obvious. So I was getting all these newspapers, all this stuff, and reading about it on a plane because I find this stuff interesting.

And when I found out why this happened, I’m going how could you do this? I can’t design a nuclear reactor, there’s no way. But if I had been drawing the concrete work for the plant and doing my site elevation drawings, there’s no way I would have made a mistake they made. All I have to know about a nuclear reactor is if the emergency pump fails to work after you’ve scrammed it– see it doesn’t quite get turned off all the way – it burns up and you’re in so much trouble it’s not funny. That’s all I have to know about it.

Well okay, earthquake broke all the power lines and everything. There’s no electric power to run the main stuff, so they had to scram it. And what happened is the emergency generators that ran the emergency equipment were in a non-waterproof basement. How could you make a mistake that basic? Now when I was young, I used to think, well stupidity. No. I found the mathematical mind doesn’t see it. I could see the water smashing out the baby blue louvers. This plant was painted baby blue, of all colors, with little clouds on the top of the boxes, make it look innocent and pretty. See those baby blue louvers getting busted out. And two seconds later, those big generators, all the electric panels under water, and it’s not going to work. There’s no way I would have done that.

I mean, I would’ve been going to every shipbuilding company that there was and say, I want catalogs on all your waterproof doors. I want to try out all your waterproof doors. I want to find waterproof doors that are really easy to open, don’t have to have training to open and close them, close really tight, obvious when they’re closed. And it wouldn’t have happened. This is why you really need all the different kinds of minds.

Now I’ve been thinking about a lot of other things too. You see, because I can visualize ways that it can break. Especially anything mechanical sort of stuff. Okay, Steve Jobs went to college. And he also did a calligraphy class, which he didn’t pay for. But it really influenced computing, and all the computers have nice fonts as a result of that. And he was an artist. He developed the interface for the phones. Oh, and I know there’s a lot of bad blood going on with the lawsuits. I read all about that. Steve wanted to go thermonuclear on Android. I know all about that kind of stuff. But again, I can only talk about the dead ones. So that’s the reason why I have these slides.

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