Synopsis (from the back of the book): Temple Grandin may be the most famous person with autism, a condition that affects 1 in 88 children. Since her birth in 1947, our understanding of it has undergone a great transformation, leading to more hope than ever before that we may finally learn the causes of and treatments for autism.
Weaving her own experience with remarkable new discoveries, Grandin introduces the advances in neuroimaging and genetic research that link brain science to behavior, even sharing her own brain scan to show which anomalies might explain common symptoms. Most excitingly, she argues that parents and teachers of kids on the autism spectrum must focus on their long-overlooked strengths to foster their unique contributions. The Autistic Brain brings Grandin’s singular perspective into the heart of the autism revolution.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: The Autistic Brain by Dr. Temple Grandin and co-author Richard Panek is a brilliant overview of the science of autism, and a look into the mind of an autistic woman who is also what she calls a picture thinker.
In this book, Dr. Grandin focuses on how the minds of autistic people might work, and what their potential strengths are. According to Dr. Grandin there are potentially three types of thinkers: picture thinkers, like her, pattern thinkers, and word-fact thinkers.
The book is full of relatable individual experiences (if you’re autistic) and up-to-date summaries of autism research. Dr. Grandin even includes her own brain scan compared to that of a neurotypical (non autistic) persons, and she explains in detail how the very shape of her brain may play a role in her autistic symptoms.
Dr. Grandin emphasizes autism being in your brain rather than in your mind. Here is a quote from the book explaining why: “When something is ‘all in your mind,’ people tend to think that it’s willful, that it’s something you could control if only you tried harder or if you had been trained differently. I’m hoping that the newfound certainty that autism is in your brain and in your genes will affect public attitudes.”
At the back of the book Dr. Grandin includes a few lists with jobs that will suit the various kinds of thinkers. Examples include photographer for picture thinkers, historian for word-fact thinkers, and computer programmer for pattern thinkers. This is a practical way to get people thinking less about what an autistic person can’t do, and more about what they can do.
The book also includes an AQ test, or Autism-Spectrum Quotient created by Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre. While this tool is not suitable for making a diagnosis, in the first major trial using the test 80% of those diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 or higher (out of 50). For those who are wondering if they are on the spectrum, taking this test could help lead someone to seeing a specialist to rule out, or diagnose, autism.
Overall I enjoyed the tone of the book. I found only one typo (at the very top of pg. 194 “How do you that?” Presumably should be “How do you do that?” It’s well formatted with frequent breaks, and intelligent use of bullet points, and images. The notes section is full of references for further reading.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in autism.
Type of Reader Suited For: Autistics, friends, relatives, spouses of autistics.
Additional Notes/Links: Dr. Temple Grandin has a TED talk that is informative and inspirational. It is a must-see.