Thinking in pictures: My life with autism Dr. Temple Grandin

Memory Shaw
Dr. Brad Witzel
SPED 561 Thursday
Thinking in pictures: My life with
Dr. Temple Grandin
“All my life I have been an observer, and I
have always felt like someone who watches
from the outside.”
• Thinking in Pictures is the story of Dr. Temple
Grandin’s life as she struggled to succeed
in the world as a person with Autism
Spectrum Disorder.
• Her story touches on issues she faced from
early school experiences, dating, religion,
college life and her career.
• Dr. Grandin provides the reader with firsthand knowledge into the world of an
autistic brain; offering many explanations
for behaviors and help in understanding for
anyone who experiences autism in their life.
Reflection one: Visual Perception
People with Autism relate to the world by
creating visual images in their minds.
When they recall words or events it must
relate to a visual picture for them to make
connections. For example, to remember
a person’s name, one would have to
recall a visual image of the person’s face
and make the connection.
Visual pictures must also exist for
vocabulary and objects. EX: A 14 year
old student calls a chair “sit down”
because she relates the function to the
words she has always heard.
Eye contact is very difficult for people with
autism. Dr. Grandin quotes: “autistic
people with normal vision have depth
perception problems and problems
processing visual information in the brain.
Looking into other people’s eyes is difficult
because their eyes do not stay still”
(Grandin, 1995, 69).
Reflection 2: Sensory Deficits
•Many people with autism have difficulties with all
their senses. They will be tactile sensitive, very picky
eaters, and highly oversensitive to smells and sounds.
•Smell is a more reliable sense than vision or hearing.
•Many can not tolerate the smell, texture, taste or
sound of food in their mouth.
•Many persons with autism say that they cannot
interpret 2 senses at one time. Ex: They cannot hear
and see at the same time.
•Many people with autism report boundary issues
within their bodies. Some claim that the rocking
motion commonly associated with autism is due to a
failure to feel their own bodies unless it is in constant
-Grandin, 1995, Chapter 3.
Reflection 3: No Limit To Success
Dr. Grandin graduated high school, junior
college and earned a doctorate degree.
Over 1/3 of the cattle and hog handling
facilities in the US operate on designs by Dr.
Grandin (Grandin, 1995, 167).
Autistic savants can accomplish amazing feats
of memory, drawing calculations, even
musical composition…and yet have no social
skills (Grandin, 1995, 216).
There is, however, no limit to what a person
with autism can achieve with proper
education and mentoring.
Often times, people with autism can function
when taught appropriate social responses and
behavior with a model. This often includes
how to dress, how to have a conversation,
even how to express emotions properly.
Application for Educators
Common autistic characteristics are engagement in repetitive activities,
resistance to change, unusual responses to environment or sensory
experiences and stereotypical movements (Lerner, 2006).
Educators for individuals with autism must always focus on routine,
schedules, visual imagery, concrete ideas and sensory integration.
Teachers should use pictures to aid in communication.
Be conscious of clothing you were: avoid clothes with varied patterns or
Leave off the perfume/cologne – oversensitivity to the smell could be
painful to the child with autism. Also applies to sounds; often noises barely
audible to us are amplified in the autistic mind.
Praise and positive reinforcement are your most valuable tools. Rewards
are motivators.
Remember to allow for personal space. Many people with autism cannot
tolerate touch.
Teach knowing that all students CAN learn.
Grandin, Temple. 1995. Thinking in pictures: My life
with autism. Vintage Books, New York.
Lerner, Janet. 2006. Learning disabilities and
related disorders: Characteristics and teaching
strategies. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston,
Other Books By Temle Grandin, Ph.D.
• Emergence: Labeled Autistic
• Livestock Handling and Transport
• Genetics and the Behavior of
Domestic Animals
• Developing Talents
• Animals in Translation
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