Thanks to Autism Live for this great conversation in which Dr. Temple Grandin answers questions. She talks about inclusion, the changes in autism diagnosis for the DSM-5 and much more. She makes many useful recommendations and says some things I've never heard from her before. I'm not sure what she says about the Sandy Hook shootings is very helpful, but it is interesting.
Dr. Grandin's brain was previously featured on 60 Minutes.
The first detailed look at the brain of Temple Grandin reveals "striking" differences from typical neural structure, according to graduate student Jason Cooperrider:
Grandin’s brain volume is significantly larger than that of three neurotypical controls matched on age, sex and handedness. Some children with autism have abnormally large brains, though researchers are still working out how head and brain size changes across development.
Grandin’s lateral ventricles, the chambers that hold cerebrospinal fluid, are skewed in size so that the left one is much larger than the right. “It’s quite striking,” Cooperrider says.
On both sides of her brain, Grandin has an abnormally large amygdala, a deep brain region that processes emotion. Her brain also shows differences in white matter, the bundles of nerve fibers that connect one region to another. The volume of white matter on the left side of her brain is higher than that in controls, the study found.
Using diffusion tensor imaging, the researchers traced white-matter connections in Grandin’s brain. They found what the researchers call “enhanced” connections — defined by several measures including the fractional anisotropy, or integrity, of the fibers — in the left precuneus, a region involved in episodic memory and visuospatial processing.
Grandin also has enhanced white matter in the left inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, which connects the frontal and occipital lobes and might explain her keen visual abilities, the researchers say.
Grandin also has some “compromised,” or weak, connections, defined in part by decreased integrity of the fibers. She has a weak left inferior frontal gyrus, for example, which includes the famous Broca’s area for language. She also shows compromised connections in the right fusiform gyrus, a brain region involved in processing faces.
Dr. Temple Grandin advises special educators to start with their students' strengths, then work to expand them:
When I was in elementary school my teachers and my mother always worked to broaden my art skills. Kids with autism often become fixated with drawing the same thing over and over. I was fixated on drawing horse heads. Drawing the head was easy, but drawing the legs accurately was more difficult. My teacher encouraged me to work on creating the entire horse. I then proceeded to make a horse sculpture from clay that included the entire horse.
In the summer we went to the beach, so I was encouraged to paint pictures of the beach. It is important to expand a skill and encourage a child to use their skill to do a variety of different work. When I painted a nice watercolor of the beach, mother rewarded me by having it framed in a professional frame with glass. Only artwork that was really high, adult quality went in glass frames.
Some adults lose important opportunities because they have not learned to expand their interests:
Learning how to use abilities to do assigned tasks is essential. I heard a sad story about an art student who got straight A’s in an elite art school, but he lost a job because he did not want to waste his time doing his employer’s stupid bird graphics.
A job requires work, and if the employer wants stupid birds, then he should draw really good stupid birds. Then he should put them in a portfolio and get a better job doing more interesting things.
Speaking in Arkansas, Temple Grandin advised young people who are involved in agriculture to use social media to teach the world about farm life:
"People living in the cities are totally separated from agriculture," she said. "They don't know anything about beef cattle. They think that beef cattle grow up in a feed lot. They don't know that cattle are born naturally out on the ranch.”
"You need to talk to your friends in the cities," Grandin said. "Show people the good things you're doing with your animals."
She urged 4-Hers to "Put up YouTube videos of what you're doing with horses, steers, chickens or rabbits."
"The thing I've found is that what's considered chores for you, the general public finds interesting," Grandin told the audience.