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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dr. Temple Grandin Talk

I was lucky enough to have a chance to see Dr. Temple Grandin speak in person at our church recently. Dr. Grandin is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She was also diagnosed with autism as a small child. Her parents were encouraged to institutionalize her, but chose a different route. She is well known not only for her professional accomplishments, which are many, but for her work advocating for people with her diagnosis. Her many books have given insight into how her own mind, and those of others with autism, work.

I was very interested to hear what she had to say. I have some very right-brained kids, not quite autistic, but one at least might get an ADHD diagnosis if he had to sit still in school. From "Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World" I understand that ADHD is "on the spectrum" of right-brained to autistic. My experience has been that a good chunk of the population, certainly of the people I know and love, are more right-brained than left-brained, so this is a topic I migh explore some more.

It was eerie how much I recognised as she described herself, not only in my kids, but in me! There was so much she touched on, and the subject isn't one in which I'm well versed, so I'm sure I missed a lot. I want to read her books now, so I can learn more about this from her perpective.

I am jotting down my notes here, mostly so that I have them somewhere where I can't loose them, but also to share them with you. I'd be very interested in what your experiences are and how closely her experience and beliefs match your experience.

I recognised her experience, yet I'm not sure I completely agree with all of her conclusions. She very much credits her "50's upbringing" and mainstreaming in school with her ability to function so well. After the talk I asked her if she had any experience with homeschooled austistic kids. It seemed that she didn't, but supported the idea for high school aged kids. (She hated high school). She then went on to say she would be concerned about elementary aged kids being homeschooled. When I asked why she said (all together now) "socialization". (Head shaking. Sigh. Is there anywhere homeschoolers don't get this?) She was busy with book signing, so that was the end our of brief exchange, but I would have liked to talk with her more about this.

Notes: (remember that I'm RBed too, have awful handwriting, poor short term memory, and am stuck inside w/ 3 active boys due to a blizzard and so have distracted attention. If my notes don't make sense to you, it's me, not her!)

She defines herself as a "completely visual thinker"
Early intervention is important
Keep child engaged
kids often have sensory issues (some can't see and hear at the same time)
attention shifting problems
recommends developing areas of strength (don't dwell on weaknesses)
OK to skip subjects (like algebra) that they just don't get - move on!

Listed 3 kinds of thinkers (all can be on the spectrum)
1-Visual (thinks in pictures, good at/enjoys drawing)
2- Musical/mathematical (pattern oriented)
3 - Verbal (often likes history, poor at drawing)

Tips for supporting kids on the spectrum

Teach in many places, give lots of data/experiences so they can categorize
Teach flexible thinking
find friends via shared interests
"fill their internet"
use manipulatives for math
recognise that their fear is often on overdrive, they are anxious and vigilant
50's upbringing helped her learn social skills - taking turns, use manners, please others, do as asked, consistant expectations (between home and school), bad behavior not tolerated
use fixations to movitvate
address sensory issues

Prepare for employment - find work, mentors, show kids variety of occupations and activities, build portfolio, read various trade journals, sell skills (not personality)

She emphasized that it's important to learn to do and complete an assignment in order to be employable.

She had so much more, a list of famous people who would have been diagnosed in modern times, a long discussion of meds, comparisons of scans of her brain vs. a "normal" brain, funny asides, her insight on animals and her professional work, comments about the HBO special being made about her life....

If any of you have heard her speak, read her books, or have any insight into this, I'd love to hear from you!

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