Temple Grandin Discusses Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome (Transcript)

Full transcript of an insightful presentation titled Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome by Dr. Temple Grandin, a noted expert and author on early intervention, educational strategies, visual thinking, social skills, medications and mentoring. Here in this presentation, she addresses sensory issues, brain function, social skills, job skills, medications and more…

Grandin presents around the world and is the author of several books including Emergence: Label Autistic, Thinking in Pictures, Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, co-authored with Sean Barron. In addition to several DVDs, her recent release of Animals in Translation maintained a top 10 position on the New York Times best-seller list. Based on statistics provided by the Autism Society of America, it is estimated that one in every 150 children born in the United States has autism and approximately 1 million in this country have this disorder, which does not include Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), Asperger’s and other spectrum disorders. A new case of autism is diagnosed nearly every 20 minutes, meaning approximately 24,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. per year.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgEAhMEgGOQ

Books authored by  Temple Grandin can be found at Amazon.com


Introducing Speaker: Please join me in welcoming Dr. Temple Grandin.

Temple Grandin – Author, Thinking in Pictures

Well it’s good to be here today. Once I press this button and my slides come on. If they work, that’s good. One of the things can’t emphasize enough with the young autistic children is early educational intervention. That’s just absolutely super important. I was 60 just this summer and by the time I was two and a half years old, I was in a very good program. I’m — mother took me into a, you know, the children’s hospital in Boston and a doctor named Bronson Crothers referred her to a speech– to speech therapist that worked out of their home and they were just those a little experienced teachers that knew how to work with kids. And then my mother hired a nanny who spent hours and hours and hours doing turn taking games with me and my sister. We’ve got to be teaching these kids turn taking. See one of the things about being a child in the ’50s is it turned– everything you did with another kid that was fun involved turn taking. Turn taking is really important.

We got to teach that really, really early. As a teacher, I’m kind of grabbing the kid’s chin. My teacher did that with me. She said, come on, just pay attention. Some autistic kids you can kind of pull them out of it but there’s others where if you do this, you’re going to drive them into sensory overload. And one of the biggest most neglected areas is the sensory problems.

When a loud — school bell went off, it hurt my ears. This is a picture of a young man sent to me it’s actually from a book called Little Rainman. It’s — a young autistic boy drew this and showing how loud sounds hurt his ears. Now the thing is, is these sensory problems are very variable. One kid might like the sound of running water, another kid is going to — will get away from the sound of running water.

Now, high-pitched intermittent sounds, things like smoke alarms, those tend to be the worst things but these are really real problems. You know, if you have a child and you take them in at a big supermarket or a Walmart or some place like that, he just has a meltdown and start screaming, that is sensory overload. So you kind of want to figure out, if your child got a lot of sensory problems, what happens at Walmart or the big supermarkets or the shopping mall. And if every one of those trips are screaming fit you’ve got really big sensory problems because some kids can see the fluorescent lights flicker on and off like being in a discotheque. It just drives them crazy or they go down the detergent aisle and they just want to gag because it’s just too much smells. Too much is overwhelming stimulation.

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Now the thing is, one of the things they want to test me before is to make sure that I wasn’t deaf. So I got a hearing test and I wasn’t deaf. But the problem is auditory threshold tells you nothing about auditory detail. Auditory detail is the ability to hear hard consonant sounds. Like if I said cat or was it rat or bat, you know, differentiating between cat, rat and bat, and my speech teacher would enunciate those sounds. She’ll hold up a cup and say, cup. In fact, she used a lot of kind of aba type of things. And the thing that’s most important that I’m going to be adamant about is that real little kids the two, three and four year olds, they need 20 hours of one-to-one with a really great teacher. And who that good teacher is? That’s the most important thing.

Now, this is work done by Ami Klin and he had with Aspergers and people with high-functioning autism watch who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Well, I have to say that’s a boring social movie and I wouldn’t be that interested in. I don’t even think I could keep the headphones on a plane for this one. And look at how many times a normal person looks at the eyes. I didn’t even know that people had all these secret eye signals until I read a book about it when I was 50 years old. But the other thing is most people explain this picture just from a social standpoint.

There’s also a big problem with attention shifting. Look at how many times the normal person looks back and forth, how quickly they can shift attention back and forth compared to the red line which is the autistic person. And the autistic person is looking at the mouth because you got to remember, they do not hear auditory detail very well. Some of these kids are like a really bad cellphone connection and when they get tired, it’s going to get worse. You know, how you yell on the phone, you’re going, oh, it’s breaking up, it’s breaking up. That’s the way some of these kids’ hearing is. It’s like — and it’s going to vary as to how much of the signal get through. One of the places where there needs to be a lot of research done is in the sensory problems. I’m kind of really sick of all the theory of mind research because these sensory problems can be so debilitating. How can you socialize if you can’t even stand being in a restaurant, you can stand being at a sporting event or other places, a noisy restaurant, places like that.

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Now, some people have visual problems. I didn’t have them. You know, where the image will break up like a mosaic. Donna Williams described this in some of her books. And oftentimes people will have these problems — they’ll have problems with depth perception.

Okay, how can you tell the kid’s got visual processing problems? Obviously, if he’s got sound sensitivity, he’s going to cover his ears. They do a lot of flicking around the eyes. That’s a tip-off. They’ll tend to tilt their head because they can see better if they look out the corner of their eye. Oftentimes, they hate escalators because they can’t tell when to get on and off the escalator. Fluorescent lights can be a big problem. In fact, when they look at things, they may have to make accommodations for in college getting away from fluorescent lights is probably big number one. Problems with catching a ball and you go in and you do eye exams and they’re going to be normal. Their problem is inside the brain. Don’t get hung up on diagnostic categories. These diagnostic categories are not precise. They are labels, just like profiling a hijacker. It’s only sort of accurate. It’s — and I’m saying this really, really seriously. It’s not accurate like tuberculosis is accurate.

I mean what other kinds of syndromes do people sit around a hotel room and decide have diagnosing. I mean, that’s the same way building codes are figured out and, you know, engineers sit around hotel conference rooms and decide how to change building code. They’ve not done that in animal welfare codes. Now the thing is if the profile is used correctly, there’s a high correlation with brain scan data. But I find once you get out of the way from the big medical centers, profiles are not used correctly.

Okay. What’s the difference between Asperger’s and Autism? Well right now, until they change it, real simple. Autism has to be onset before age 3. There’s obvious speech delay along with the other autistic symptoms. Asperger’s, there’s no obvious speech delay. So to put it very, very simply, when the kid is 3, nobody’s running off to the doctor.

So what’s PDD? It’s early onset but not quite enough symptoms to call it autism. Now, a lot of these sensory problems I’ve been talking about. Dyslexics can have them. ADHD can have them. Lots and lots and lots of the different labels can have them. And I can tell you, I can’t wait until they can get high speed brain scanning and that could be used to diagnose the brain systems where we have problems. Now some kids really good to read some autistic kids, not everybody these sensory things are very, very variable. I didn’t have these visual problems. They go to read white — the white paper with black print on it and the writing will kind of jiggle on the page because there’s problems with the circuits of process motion in the brain and they’re seeing motion when they shouldn’t be seeing motion.

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