Review: Temple Grandin and Asperger's

Temple Grandin gave a highly informative TED talk about how Asperger's can enhance the workplace. That's right. It was great to see someone focus on what Aspies do well instead of dwelling on the negative. Just like everyone else in the world, they just need to focus on what they're good at. 

I found her speech by searching "Asperger" into the TED Talks web site. You can find talks on pretty much anything you're into. All the speakers are informative and inspiring. They're often experts in their field. This video below is a powerful one that spoke to me.

First, who is Temple Grandin? She's a published author with books about Asperger's, animals, and social rules. Oh, and there's a movie about her. You know you've made it when Claire Danes stars in a film about you.

Temple said Autism is a spectrum. I have written about this repeatedly because it is important to never form stereotypes. Asperger's is on the extremely mild end. Like mild salsa. And Autism is more extreme like hot salsa. Anyone around you could be Aspie and we wouldn't notice at all. The movie (info at IMDB) trailer reminds us that it doesn't need to be 'cured'. It's not wrong, it's just different. I'm just amazed this film exists. If only I knew about it during the release in 2010. But hey, there's always the DVD.

She focuses on how Aspies think in pictures. As an Aspie, she could see a detailed mental photo of everything that was needed. This actually makes Temple a great speaker because she knows everything about the picture, story or scene. Other people might need to remember all the words they are going to say. And that would be too much to remember. It would feel too rehearsed. But Temple just has pictures and a heading in her slides. If you can mentally see what you are going to say, there is plenty to elaborate on. It's like what they say - a picture tells a thousand words.

Temple's brain has more 'wiring' (so to speak) towards the visualising side of the brain, and less on the social part of the brain. I would like to add something Temple should have emphasised at this point. The wiring to the social side is not non-existent. There's just a bit less of it. That's just from me looking at the picture, not from any expert knowledge. But the point is that Aspies can learn to be social. There is just a different way of learning it.
 
I felt a sigh of relief hearing Temple say she's bad at algebra. I, too, could never get the hang of it. X was just x. It wasn't a concrete thing. I could never construct much from this number which was a letter which was an undetermined something. And, just like I always said during school, I can survive as an adult without algebra (shh, don't tell the teenagers). But I was thrilled to hear Temple say there's an Aspie explanation to it.

This is because there are 3 types of learning she identifies. School now teaches us the learning types. But her talk used those categories to explain the benefits of Asperger's. They are visual drawing or photo-taking types, then those who use patterns for things like math and music, and then verbal learners who can recall all the specific facts. Aspies are known for being the first type. But we all have a bit of all 3 capabilities. One is usually just more stronger than the others. I'm keen to tell you what I took away from this.

Which one am I? I could see the visual representations of music, but I couldn't as easily construct my own patterns of notes in the way composers and song writers can. I can take a photo and Instagram it (ok, so everyone does that). But I'm too uncoordinated to draw. I also highlight or underline whenever I read anything. At all. Sometimes in different colours. So what I got out of the video is that I feel more visual than anything else. 

I'm really glad Grandin encouraged Aspies to focus on the stuff they're fixated on. Some people it's bad to focus on a specific thing because then you're not giving attention to all the other stuff. It looks like an 'obsession.' But it totally isn't. But this is how specialists and experts exist. High school was difficult for me because there was too much variety in the subjects. Even the first year of university is a broad array of subjects (or units) in everything. It's impossible to focus in the first year. And sometimes they even make you do math. No offence to the math types, I'm just jealous. Anyway, you can't do everything all the time. Why not do the stuff you're best at, for most of the time? 

There's a whole context Temple gives in the video. I have focused here on applying her ideas to my own life. But the video will tell you more about her life. Even if you can fit in 10 minutes of it, you will learn a lot.


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