Day 48- All Kinds of Minds

Temple Grandin is an American doctor of animal science, a consultant on animal behaviour, an author and a professor at Colorado State University. She is also a prominent Autistic who campaigns tirelessly for the recognition of different types of minds and the optimum treatment of children displaying signs of the condition.  
The Autism spectrum is wide, ranging from individuals who are mute to those with symptoms but no diagnosis of either Aspergers or Autism. Pharmaceutical companies throughout the world race to medicalise it and find a ‘cure’, while on the other side, many individuals believe autism should be accepted as a difference rather than treated as a disorder. In this talk, Grandin outlines the different ways of thinking in the autistic mind.   So when did a nerdy kid turn into somebody with Aspergers? Many of the great minds of the past, Einstein included, would be likely to have been diagnosed with Aspergers today. Grandin herself never realised her mode of thinking was different until she interviewed people for a film and realised that she thought through images. Ask her about a church steeple and she’ll mentally flick back through pictures in her head, like a Google image search. On the other hand, many normal brains ignore the details.  
This ability to think visually is the main characteristic of the first mind group she discusses. There is some MRI research showing kids on the Autism spectrum think with their primary visual cortex. With the right encouragement, including a specific focus on their interests ( Grandin gives the example of using a passion for racing cars to modify maths homework; “How many cars…?”) they can grow up to work in areas such as graphic design and photography. They just may not be very good at algebra.  
The second type of mind is the ‘pattern thinker.’ These people often have good music and maths brains and make great engineers. They may have problems with reading and be dyslexic. The third mind, those ‘verbal thinkers’ who remember facts and figures make great journalists and stage actors.  
It’s obvious the world can benefit from all these brain types, right? The differences between kids on the autism spectrum and ‘normal’ thinkers include their fixation on subjects, a lack of ability to categorise problems and issues and sensitivities to various sensations. One wonders what super drug will fix these discrepancies. The answer comes back to the need for proper mentoring and early intervention to improve social skills and participation. We need to nurture all minds to ensure the continued development of the world. In the words of Grandin;
‘If by some magic autism had been eradicated from the face of the earth then man would still be socialising by the fire in front of a cave.’            

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