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View Full Version : Temple Grandin Biography / Autism Discussion



SunDeck
03-01-2010, 04:32 PM
Hi all,
Some of you may have heard of Temple Grandin. HBO recently released a movie about her life; she is autistic and has learned to use her "gifts" to find a place in the world and to excel professionally (she is one the world's foremost leading experts on animal behavior).
Grandin is on the "high functioning" side of the autism spectrum, which is a continuum of traits and symptoms that includes both people like her (mildly autistic) and those who may not be able to speak or interact with others at all. We all know or have known people like her- we call them quirky, or nerds, or geeky, people who are socially awkward but who are highly intelligent in some arcane way.
Here is a link (http://www.ted.com/talks/temple_grandin_the_world_needs_all_kinds_of_minds. html) to a short lecture she gave on TED recently. It's about 20 minutes long. She talks about the differences in the way autistic people think, compared to others.
Here is another (http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/health/2010/02/28/temple.grandin.ted2010.cnn?iref=allsearch), a shorter version on the same themes she did for CNN. The end of it is kind of funny, if you know anyone who is autistic. She just declares that she needs to leave, and off she goes. :)

pedro
03-01-2010, 05:36 PM
I heard an interview with her on NPR a few weeks ago. Very interesting.

RedsManRick
03-01-2010, 06:23 PM
I just downloaded her book Thinking in Pictures as an audiobook a few weeks back. It's a bit repetitive, but its a very interested read/listen. It's of particular interest to me because my little brother has a disorder which includes many autistic tendencies.

Sea Ray
03-01-2010, 10:28 PM
Hi all,
Some of you may have heard of Temple Grandin. HBO recently released a movie about her life; she is autistic and has learned to use her "gifts" to find a place in the world and to excel professionally (she is one the world's foremost leading experts on animal behavior).
Grandin is on the "high functioning" side of the autism spectrum, which is a continuum of traits and symptoms that includes both people like her (mildly autistic) and those who may not be able to speak or interact with others at all. We all know or have known people like her- we call them quirky, or nerds, or geeky, people who are socially awkward but who are highly intelligent in some arcane way.
Here is a link (http://www.ted.com/talks/temple_grandin_the_world_needs_all_kinds_of_minds. html) to a short lecture she gave on TED recently. It's about 20 minutes long. She talks about the differences in the way autistic people think, compared to others.
Here is another (http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/health/2010/02/28/temple.grandin.ted2010.cnn?iref=allsearch), a shorter version on the same themes she did for CNN. The end of it is kind of funny, if you know anyone who is autistic. She just declares that she needs to leave, and off she goes. :)


She seems very high functioning, in fact she seems pretty darn sharp to me. Not too many people I know can speak that quickly and fluidly in front of a group of people

SunDeck
03-02-2010, 09:04 AM
She seems very high functioning, in fact she seems pretty darn sharp to me. Not too many people I know can speak that quickly and fluidly in front of a group of people

Exactly- I think your use of the term "sharp" shows exactly how people like Grandin are changing the perception that autism is equated with diminished intellectual capacity. The common understanding of autism is still Rainmain, whereas the psychiatric community has recognized that a whole family of traits and behaviors and not just IQ are part of the spectrum.

Thirty years ago, most people with Grandin's IQ and her ability to function (at least marginally) in a social world would be labeled "quirky", "odd", "nerd" whereas now they might instead be recognized as "Aspergers", "PDD-NOS", "high functioning". She was an exception to that and received therapy and help, due largely to her mother's efforts.

Sea Ray
03-02-2010, 09:49 AM
It seems to me that the definition of autism has widened greatly in recent years, especially if you include the autism spectrum disorders. There's no medical test, only clinical evaluation. Much of this evaluation centers on social interaction. If a person is a loner, is he autistic? I would hope not. Is autism permanent or can you grow out of it through therapy and/or diet?

IslandRed
03-02-2010, 10:33 AM
Social interaction is just one of the "triad" of things they look for to make the diagnosis of autism. Besides impairment in social interaction, they also look for impairment in communication and the presence of restricted/repetitive behavior. It's a permanent condition, although therapies can lessen the severity of the behaviors.

SunDeck
03-02-2010, 10:33 AM
It seems to me that the definition of autism has widened greatly in recent years, especially if you include the autism spectrum disorders. There's no medical test, only clinical evaluation. Much of this evaluation centers on social interaction. If a person is a loner, is he autistic? I would hope not. Is autism permanent or can you grow out of it through therapy and/or diet?

This is a problem with diagnosis of autism. On the one hand, it's probably a good thing that the psychiatric profession has gotten a better hold of autism, so that people's behavior can be better understood. On the other hand, it's a label that people outside the psychiatric community don't understand very well, and in particular it amounts to a negative label. Additionally, social mores and conventions are so extremely important in human society and it is hard for people to grasp that behavior can be a function of hard wiring rather than poor parenting or some personal failing.

There are therapies for those who are autistic. Grandin writes that it was critical for her to learn how to navigate the social world and because of that she has done well.
There are also those who believe certain diets such as non dairy/non gluten can cure autism, but the science on that has not proven conclusive. It doesn't mean some people have not had success with this kind of therapy, though.

Sea Ray
03-02-2010, 11:26 AM
There are also those who believe certain diets such as non dairy/non gluten can cure autism, but the science on that has not proven conclusive. It doesn't mean some people have not had success with this kind of therapy, though.

I have a friend who treated his son at an early age with such a diet and now he's about 10 years old and to my eye functions quite normally. I wonder, is he still autistic? I honestly don't know. I also don't know if they discontinued his diet plan if he'd regress.

bucksfan2
03-02-2010, 01:32 PM
I think Autism has become the "it" diagnosis/disease/condition of the past decade. This is a good thing because not only has it brought autism to the forefront, but it also has succeeded in raising millions upon millions of dollars to autism research. Over the course of my lifetime I am pretty certain that a cure will be created for autism.

I may be way off base, but I have begun to believe that some of the great minds in history have had traits of Aspergers syndrome or have had some autistic traits. Guys who were very prolific in math, science, art, etc. who have also been noted as socially awkward I believe in today's world would be diagnosed with a form of autism. From an outsiders point of view there are parallels to the disease today but no one know about autism at that stage in history.

SunDeck
03-02-2010, 02:09 PM
I think Autism has become the "it" diagnosis/disease/condition of the past decade. This is a good thing because not only has it brought autism to the forefront, but it also has succeeded in raising millions upon millions of dollars to autism research. Over the course of my lifetime I am pretty certain that a cure will be created for autism.

I may be way off base, but I have begun to believe that some of the great minds in history have had traits of asbergers syndrome or have had some autistic traits. Guys who were very prolific in math, science, art, etc. who have also been noted as socially awkward I believe in today's world would be diagnosed with a form of autism. From an outsiders point of view there are parallels to the disease today but no one know about autism at that stage in history.

There are several books, articles and web sites devoted to the retrospective diagnosis of Aspergers. Einstein, Mozart, Jefferson, Edison, Tesla, the list goes on. And I recently heard about a study that found a higher occurrence of Aspergers among those with PhDs. That shouldn't be earth shattering, after all what environment is more suited to someone with Aspergers than being allowed to focus on one particular aspect of knowledge for an entire career?

camisadelgolf
03-02-2010, 02:17 PM
It might surprise some of you to know that I'm diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Every day is a struggle, but therapy has helped me a great deal.

Yachtzee
03-02-2010, 02:48 PM
From what I gather, Temple's a bit of a controversy among the parents who follow Jenny McCarthy in their crusade to stop immunizing children. She doesn't really subscribe to the notion that children with autism are "damaged" by doctors and pharmaceutical companies out to make a buck by pushing immunization. Yet 22 or 23 studies have been done showing no link to autism and the one study that did show a link was done by a researcher who has now been discredited.

My experience with friends and family with autistic children seems to fall in line with Temple's notion that a lot of people with autism are people whose brains are just wired differently. They definitely have serious problems with social interaction, but they are quite talented in their own way. I don't think these children could ever be "cured," but their parents have worked hard with therapy and personal interaction with their children to the point where they have progressed and made strides in being able to interact with people and other children on a social level. The difficulty is that they had to find a way to communicate with the kids in a way the kids understood. It takes time, patience and a lot of effort.

camisadelgolf
03-02-2010, 03:00 PM
For whatever it's worth, I wasn't immunized, and although I'm anti-immunization, I don't think Jenny McCarthy's claims are completely valid.

bucksfan2
03-02-2010, 03:07 PM
From what I gather, Temple's a bit of a controversy among the parents who follow Jenny McCarthy in their crusade to stop immunizing children. She doesn't really subscribe to the notion that children with autism are "damaged" by doctors and pharmaceutical companies out to make a buck by pushing immunization. Yet 22 or 23 studies have been done showing no link to autism and the one study that did show a link was done by a researcher who has now been discredited.

From what I have heard the scientific community vehemently denies any link between the MMR shots and autism. The scientific links just don't support the hypothesis. I think there are some serious dangers to having a young child not immunized, not only to themselves but to the people they come into contact with.

As for Jenny McCarty I think her fight against autism is a good fight. I do however wonder if we fail to look at ourselves and blame outside forces. I do wonder if years of hard partying and high living had any correlation to an autistic child. I have absolutely no proof but just something that I have thought about.


My experience with friends and family with autistic children seems to fall in line with Temple's notion that a lot of people with autism are people whose brains are just wired differently. They definitely have serious problems with social interaction, but they are quite talented in their own way. I don't think these children could ever be "cured," but their parents have worked hard with therapy and personal interaction with their children to the point where they have progressed and made strides in being able to interact with people and other children on a social level. The difficulty is that they had to find a way to communicate with the kids in a way the kids understood. It takes time, patience and a lot of effort.

You may very well be correct. I really haven't had much direct association with an autistic kid. I have a neighbor with an autistic kid any my sister and good friend work with autistic kids for a living. I tend to find disorder interesting and like to discuss it with them. It does make sense that neurologically autistic kids brains are wired differently. But for me that is a little vague. Maybe a cure for autism isn't possible but then I do believe the cause of the disorder will be found. To me with the amount of money being pored into the research of autism and the number of highly intelligent people working in autism research a break through is bound to happen. What that break through becomes is a whole different story.

Sea Ray
03-02-2010, 03:24 PM
The controversy about the immunizations has to do with the preservative they use. Well they quit using that preservative about 5 years ago so Jenny McCarthy doesn't have much to fight now.

As for finding a cause or a cure, probably not because there are so many different causes. I know a family who is battling this disorder and their kid just learned to walk and he is 3 yrs old. He had bad seizures when he was about one and that has been successfully treated for now but I think those seizures were indicative of a serious wiring problem in the brain. He can mouth about two words. He's never going to be Temple Grandin and my hunch is his problem is totally different than hers

After awhile I wonder why they have to put a name on this stuff. If a person "is wired" differently then fine. Why can't the human race be diverse and leave it at that?

Blimpie
03-02-2010, 05:32 PM
Thimerosal is the preservative to which you are referring. Granted that was one of the primary theories associated with the MMR immunization hypothesis. Many autism activists also feel that the combination of the three vaccines being administered at the same time can also be an "overload" to certain infants (15 months) who are predisposed with the genetic mutation linked most times to autism.

I have a nephew who is profoundly autistic and was found through genetic testing to be extremely vulnerable to metals. Also, it was determined that his body was unable to metabolize certain vitamins properly--further compounding the problem.

Many major medical journals here and in the UK argue that children should be vaccinated. I can tell you without a doubt that there is also compelling research to the contrary emerging from the autistic support community.

It all comes down to whom you believe...

M2
03-02-2010, 05:51 PM
Based on experience and what seems to be emerging from studies, birth trauma would seem to play a role in autism spectrum disorders.

The good news, and again this is from experience, is kids with mild disorders are able to progress in life without being pharmacological guinea pigs. I'm soon to be the father of a fairly typical teenage boy (lucky me). Ten years ago, I wasn't so sure I'd ever be able to type those words. And all he's ever required is a sensible strategy for educating him in a mainstream classroom and a family that understand what his challenges are.

Yachtzee
03-02-2010, 06:53 PM
From what I have heard the scientific community vehemently denies any link between the MMR shots and autism. The scientific links just don't support the hypothesis. I think there are some serious dangers to having a young child not immunized, not only to themselves but to the people they come into contact with.

As for Jenny McCarty I think her fight against autism is a good fight. I do however wonder if we fail to look at ourselves and blame outside forces. I do wonder if years of hard partying and high living had any correlation to an autistic child. I have absolutely no proof but just something that I have thought about.



You may very well be correct. I really haven't had much direct association with an autistic kid. I have a neighbor with an autistic kid any my sister and good friend work with autistic kids for a living. I tend to find disorder interesting and like to discuss it with them. It does make sense that neurologically autistic kids brains are wired differently. But for me that is a little vague. Maybe a cure for autism isn't possible but then I do believe the cause of the disorder will be found. To me with the amount of money being pored into the research of autism and the number of highly intelligent people working in autism research a break through is bound to happen. What that break through becomes is a whole different story.

While I applaud people like McCarthy who raise lots of money for research, my concern is that she and those who follow her are promoting bad science. Rather than supporting research using the scientific method to look for potential causes, they've already decided that immunizations are the cause and continue to put money into trying to prove they're right. That, and she promotes all kinds of new agey treatments based on psuedoscience. My sister-in-law doesn't even have autistic children, but won't immunize her kids and takes them to the chiropractor instead of a real pediatrician because the autism moms have stirred up such a distrust of the medical profession.

SunDeck
03-02-2010, 08:23 PM
My sister-in-law doesn't even have autistic children, but won't immunize her kids and takes them to the chiropractor instead of a real pediatrician because the autism moms have stirred up such a distrust of the medical profession.

I don't think it's necessarily "autism moms", but rather there is this subset of the population who have grasped on to the immunization thing generally. The supposed link to autism is a convenient vehicle.
Just my impression.

Yachtzee
03-02-2010, 11:35 PM
I don't think it's necessarily "autism moms", but rather there is this subset of the population who have grasped on to the immunization thing generally. The supposed link to autism is a convenient vehicle.
Just my impression.

My sister-in-law is a bit of an autism hypochondriac. She learned about autism in grad school and since then has been "diagnosing" anyone with shyness or any kind of introversion as having autism or Aspberger's.

bucksfan2
03-03-2010, 08:30 AM
While I applaud people like McCarthy who raise lots of money for research, my concern is that she and those who follow her are promoting bad science. Rather than supporting research using the scientific method to look for potential causes, they've already decided that immunizations are the cause and continue to put money into trying to prove they're right. That, and she promotes all kinds of new agey treatments based on psuedoscience. My sister-in-law doesn't even have autistic children, but won't immunize her kids and takes them to the chiropractor instead of a real pediatrician because the autism moms have stirred up such a distrust of the medical profession.

I agree with what you have said here. No way do I consider Jenny McCarthy to be a leading voice on autism and do agree that her methods can promote bad science. But what I think makes a difference is seing McCarthy associated with autism. Granted IMO Jenny McCarthy really should have the celebrity pull that she does. But if Jenny McCarthy gets your average Joe to participate in an Autism speaks event or walk that money goes to a good cause. Donating directly towards McCarthy may not be the best solution, but becoming more aware of Autism is important.

SunDeck
03-03-2010, 10:00 AM
becoming more aware of Autism is important.

If the result of this thread is that one person will take a moment to think differently about a person who shows symptoms of being autistic, then this will have been worth it.
And I don't mean we should all start trying to diagnose people with autism, but rather that a little new knowledge and understanding might cause someone to react in a more informed way to those who exhibit the markers of being on the spectrum.

Sea Ray
03-03-2010, 10:00 AM
Thimerosal is the preservative to which you are referring. Granted that was one of the primary theories associated with the MMR immunization hypothesis. Many autism activists also feel that the combination of the three vaccines being administered at the same time can also be an "overload" to certain infants (15 months) who are predisposed with the genetic mutation linked most times to autism.

I have a nephew who is profoundly autistic and was found through genetic testing to be extremely vulnerable to metals. Also, it was determined that his body was unable to metabolize certain vitamins properly--further compounding the problem.

Many major medical journals here and in the UK argue that children should be vaccinated. I can tell you without a doubt that there is also compelling research to the contrary emerging from the autistic support community.

It all comes down to whom you believe...


You make some very valid points but I disagree with those that say that children should not be vaccinated. IMO they should be vaccinated but preferably after the age of three.

Blimpie
03-03-2010, 03:53 PM
You make some very valid points but I disagree with those that say that children should not be vaccinated. IMO they should be vaccinated but preferably after the age of three.I agree, as well. Which is why I chose to vaccinate all three of my children. However, after much soul-searching, I insisted that the pediatrician break apart the MMR into three separate vaccines for my children when they were 18 months old. While it meant that they would get stuck by the doctor more times, it diminished the risks of the 'overload' theory.

My sister tried desperately to talk me out of the choice, but I feel mine was definitely a well-informed decision at the time.

SunDeck
03-04-2010, 12:15 PM
Those who point to immunizations as the cause of higher levels of diagnosis have really never adequately dealt with the other possible reasons for the historical increase, some of which may well include: higher awareness, better understanding of the spectrum and diagnosing in order to receive special education designation or public benefits. That last one is not to say people seek the diagnosis just to get on the public dole, but rather many exasperated parents need help with their child and a diagnosis is the vehicle for getting it. As the Autism spectrum has expanded in definition, it follows that more people qualify for public assistance to get therapy.