- When I was in college, my classmate Ginny told me that
her 16-year-old brother had autism. One of the telltale signs, she said,
was that in a restaurant he would give the waitress his order by reading
out the menu item in full. "Eight ounces of juicy New York Sirloin,
cooked to your liking, accompanied by fluffy potatoes and served with a
fresh garden salad."
- I'll bet I formed a subconscious prejudice as soon as
Ginny told me that. Okay. I was young and stupid, thinking "How awful
that a man-sized boy would say something so silly, so 'off.'" In retrospect
I realize that I must have gone on for years harboring a mild dislike for
anyone who was autistic. The only saving grace was that I saw a TV show
perhaps three decades ago called "Joshua." It conveyed
the plight of the parents of a boy with that name who screamed non-stop.
- TEMPLE GRANDIN, AUTOBIOGRAPHER AND LECTURER
- Not long ago I was introduced to the book "Animals
in Translation" by Temple Grandin. Some book! It led me to buy her
earlier book "Thinking in Pictures"(1995), and quite recently
I found her first publication, "Emergence."(1986?) Suffice it
to say that I now like and admire autistic people. Ms Grandin is quite
the lady. Like myself, she was born in Boston in 1947 -- but has spent
most of her adult life on cattle ranches.
- Some people who are not autistic (definition to be provided
below) may have one or more traits that feature in autism. Temple points
out that some of her relatives have these. For instance her mother is
skilled at visualization, her father had a way of fixating on a goal, a
nephew is having trouble learning to read. Amazingly, her grandmother
told Temple that she, in her own childhood, had found the sound of coal
going down the chute to be 'torture' which is just the way some noises
affect an autistic person.
- In her three books, and on the lecture circuit (where
she mainly helps "high-functioning autistics"), Temple has made
it clear that the person inside the shell is just like us. At least that
is how I take her message. I also take the message to be that I am like
her. Any talent she has, such as for excellent memory, or the ability to
empathize with animals, must be something that all of us are capable of.
God did not invent a special kind of brain for a few oddballs.
- TEMPLE GRANDIN, CHILD JOINING THE WORLD A BIT LATE
- Apparently Temple was normal until age six months. The
developmental disorder known as autism does not usually begin at birth.
Age 18 months is a common time the baby is doing fine, walking and
talking, and then starts to lose speech and seems to withdraw into a shell.
Since Temple had not started to talk anyway, she did not lose speech.
She lost the ability top accept a hug from her mother when she was 6 months
old. Typically, the autistic child does not hug.
- Temple, who made it back into the world in more or less
miraculous fashion, reveals that the child in the shell often wants a hug,
even craves it, but has to pull away because touch has become painful.
Indeed she says, the tactile sense is the big sense. Tasting and smelling
are very big too, whilst the other two senses that most of us consider
the biggies sight and sound are tossed aside.
- The name of the game is sensory overload. Loud noises
are horrible, the fall of water on the skin in the shower may be painful
(can you imagine such a thing!), and focusing on two things at once is
more or less impossible. Temple credits her mother with seeing to it that
she received all the help possible to overcome her handicaps.
- She also credits luck. At one point during adolescence
she took a ride on the Roro at an amusement park. It's the one where you
stand against the inside of a huge barrel that whirls around and holds
you by centrifugal force. This seems to have jogged Temple out of her
state of chronic fear, perhaps by creating a new terror. (The floor of
the barrel falls away during the ride!) She was grateful that the situation
provided her no way to escape so she had to 'deal with it.'
- MS GRANDIN, INVENTOR
- Ms Grandin's maternal grandfather is the man who invented
autopilot for airplanes. So it is not too surprising that she became an
inventor. Her first production of a machine was one that she desperately
needed for her own use. She already had the idea of it before she encountered
a cattle chute on her aunt's ranch, but that clinched the deal. She had
noticed that body pressure, if delivered uniformly, was comforting and
calming. So she created a 'squeeze machine' that she could climb into,
and take naps in.
- During college, Temple switched her major from psychology
to animal science and has made a living as an advisor to livestock owners.
Her main contribution (a national and worldwide contribution) has been
the invention of devices that eliminate some of the cruelty to animals
that goes on in slaughterhouses. More than anyone I know, this lady thinks
about, and does something about, improving the quality of life of farm
- MS GRANDIN, INTELLECTUAL AND RESEARCHER IN NEUROSCIENCE
- Don't be fooled by the casual way in which Temple Grandin,
in her three books, spits out facts about the human brain. She has done
exhaustive research and knows the score as well as any professor. The following
is a quote from her book "Emergence" (pp. 20-24):
- "I had a fixation on spinning objects, a preference
to be alone, destructive behavior, and my intense interest in odors. I
started to speak at 3 and a half. Before that I could understand what was
being said. Screaming and flapping hands was my only way to communicate.
Spinning was another favorite. I'd sit on the floor and twirl around. This
self-stimulatory behavior made me feel powerful, in control.
- "Mechanism in the inner ear controls balance and
integrates visual and vestibular input. Through a series of nerve connections
the eyes, after some amount of spinning, will start jumping about, and
the stomach gets queasy. Autistic kids demand more spinning as a kind of
corrective factor in their immature nervous system. When I was preoccupied
with a spinning coin, I saw nothing and heard nothing. It was as if I
- "Autistic kids are over-responsive to some stimuli
and under-sensitive to other stimuli. Could this be due to an inability
to integrate incoming sensory input and choose which stimulus to attend
to?" The answer is yes and it is an important answer. It has led
Temple Grandin to advise families to call on the services of sensory integration
specialists who can help the child make some progress.
- INTRODUCING MY SERIES OF "AUTISM IDEAS" ARTICLES
- I am writing this series of articles on Autism Ideas
in conjunction with a larger theme I have been working on, and which is
described in my book "Prosecution for Treason" (free, online,
to all comers!). Its subtitle is "Weather War, Epidemics, and Mind
Control." The key word here is "Epidemics." I consider it
settled that the AIDS epidemic is a well-planned genocide. Could autism,
too, be something that was deliberately leashed on the population?
- Reading the online magazine "Age of Autism"
has also stimulated my interest. I am duly furious about what has been
going on, with doctors and government making families of autistics look
like baddies. The parents' 'bad behavior' has consisted both of looking
for new treatments now more correctly called 'interventions'
for their children, such as vitamins and art therapy, and for taking a
position (rightly or wrongly) against vaccinations. Some of them have
become activists -- God forbid.
- Here is an example of the crazy put-downs by doctors
that demoralize citizens here in Australia (and demoralize many doctors
too).This is from the Channel 7show 'Sunrise':
- Channel 7:Well, heated debate continues over plans to
vaccinate a million Australians against Meningococcal disease. Some groups
say it could even cost more lives than it saves.. Here with us from Lismore
is Meryl Dorey from the [activist] Australian Vaccination Network. And
from Adelaide we're joined by Doctor Trevor Mudge from the Australian Medical
- Meryl, just to start with you, why are you against the
(meningococcal) vaccination process? DOREY: Well, I believe that this vaccination
has not been investigated thoroughly by the government. If you look at
the information from the manufacturer, it says specifically that this vaccination
has never been tested for effectiveness. And when we look at what's happened
overseas with this vaccination, we see that when they used it in the United
Kingdom they had over 16,000 serious adverse reactions.
- Channel 7: Trevor, some frightening statistics that Meryl's
just given us there. 16,000 adverse reactions. What's your comment? MUDGE:
Well, I haven't seen that data, but the history of the anti-vaccination
movement is that the science doesn't hold up. Their claims really have
never had any scientific veracity, and I doubt very much if this one has
- Channel 7: So do you not see the vaccination as any more
dangerous than any other? MUDGE: There's absolutely no reason in theory,
or indeed in the wide experience in the UK, to suggest that it does anything
other than save lives.
- DOREY: Well, I find that absolutely shocking, I've got
to say. Because all of the statements that my [Meryl Dorey's] organization
issues are backed by references. And almost always from medical journals.
And I have the papers on 16,000 serious adverse reactions and I have faxed
that around to quite a few news media. We simply rely on overseas testing
and many times that testing is funded lock, stock and barrel by the very
same companies that actually release the vaccines to market.
- Channel 7: Trevor, are you saying that Meryl's claim
could be responsible for more damage than the vaccines could? [Note: I
take that to be a planted question.] MUDGE: Oh, absolutely. Look, I think
if you look worldwide the anti-vaccine movement has been responsible for
a number of deaths and I think that they really should not be given any
scientific veracity at all.
- In my opinion, Mudge was probably programmed to answer
the way he did. I tend to judge who is programmed according to the (small)
amount of embarrassment they show when delivering foolish talk. Many evince
no embarrassment at all. Now consider the fact that the Australian Medical
Association is so proud of Dr Mudge's performance that it has published
the entire Channel 7 interview. (It's at ama.com.au/node/583.) Would you
say we are in trouble?
- The mission I'm on (yes, mission) is to not let those
things pass uncriticized. My general approach is "It doesn't have
to be like this." I hope you agree!
- Please stay tuned for further episodes in my little series
of articles about autism. The next one, entitled, "Offit, Come Off
It," reviews a book by pediatrician Paul Offit, who seems to think
the within-science censorship of anti-vaccine research is quite acceptable.
Fancy that. The article after that one will be about "Finding the
Causes of Autism."
- Mary W Maxwell, PhD, is the editor of "The Sociobiological
Imagination." She can be found at credosbooks.com. As for Ms Grandin,
she is the subject of a new Home Box Office movie. If you don't have access
to that, you can see her 'author's video;' at Amazon.com.