Lectures for a New Year: Temple Grandin on Autism

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This is a TED classic: Temple Grandin explaining what it's like to be autistic, shortly after the release of a movie based on her book Thinking in Pictures. In the book and in the talk, Grandin explains how her cognitive experience as an autistic person differs from that of an average person (let's not say "normal"). Grandin's brain is very visual, and that has helped in her animal husbandry work -- she can think as an animal presumably thinks, and because of that, she's uniquely situated to understand why animals behave as they do.

Grandin's lecture shows two crucial qualities in a good lecture: first, an engaging persona -- we enjoy Grandin's enthusiasm about tangents like church steeples and her repeated concerns about whether kids these days will be taken care of; and second, an actual point -- she's saying, quite simply, there are different kinds of minds. Rather than pathologize these differences and try to "fix" them, we can celebrate them, and as a society we actually need all these different sorts of thinkers. The Q&A at the end is also surprisingly good (albeit brief). Oh, and she even wears a super-cool shirt. I mean, this is pretty much solid lecture gold.

Topics: the autistic spectrum, thinking in pictures, how to teach kids, why we need different kinds of people, and some thoughts on her book and the movie that was made based on it.

For: everyone, especially parents.

Viewing note: you can watch a higher-quality video on the TED site. The YouTube quality is not too bad on this one, though.

Further Reading

I highly recommend Grandin's book Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism. This is a book that appeals to basically everyone: there's a strong element of memoir, a bunch of information about what it's like to be autistic (including some amazing material about Grandin's hug machine), and a bunch of stuff about animal husbandry (which, quite frankly, most people never think about). It was adapted into an excellent HBO movie (YouTube trailer link) with a stellar performance by Claire Danes and directed by Mick Jackson (who did L.A. Story, among others). If you want a sample of the movie, check out this clip.

Transcript

TED provides an interactive transcript as well as subtitles, downloads with subtitles, and so on.

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January 18, 2012 - 5:00am
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