Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Conference Report, Part 2: Temple Grandin

Before the Autism Society of Wisconsin conference slips entirely out of sight in the rear-view mirror, I want to report (as promised) on the second keynote, Temple Grandin. [Note - I'll be calling her by her first name, as I did with Paula Kluth and Eric Courchesne, though in each case the more formal choice would be the title "Dr."]

Temple Grandin's book Thinking in Pictures was the first book I read after Joy's autism diagnosis that presented a perspective from within the autism spectrum. Her account sparked some of my first searching questions about the nature of autism (such as, does everyone with autism think in pictures?) I was so pleased to get a chance to shake her hand at this conference, and get her autograph on a copy of The Way I See It, which I thought I might read on the Kansas car ride, but it keeps slipping down the stack as I take one other books with deadlines like library due dates...

The talk was called An Inside View of Autism and ranged across a variety of topics. As I look at my notes, they're rather a collection of insights rather than an arc of a lecture-long argument -- but it was engaging all the way through. Temple is an accomplished lecturer, an achievement that is reportedly the work of many years. A friend of mine who was also at the conference had heard her speak over a decade ago and compared the two: at the earlier talk, she had relied on self-talk techniques such as "OK, I need to tell a joke here so you won't all get bored." Over the years, she has taught herself to weave the jokes in seamlessly and to move about the stage as a comfortable speaker often does.

Here are some nuggets from the presentation:

Remember how I mentioned in my GFCF post that Temple Grandin was a proponent of "the diet"? Well, she is, but in a more nuanced way than the folks who claim a 90% success rate. Her take: "Out of ten kids with autism, it might work for one or two." But for the people for whom it works, like herself, the improvement is a powerful change for the better. (She also mentioned Omega 3s, and cutting sugar and carbs as well as going GFCF).

My skeptical heart rejoiced to hear her lay into the "rubbish on the Internet"! She directed people to PubMed, the database search tool from the National Library of Medicine that searches published articles in biomedical sciences. (Librarian-ish note -- unless you're affiliated with a university, you'll mostly be able to get just citations and summaries of the articles. But still.)

She had high praise for the Temple Grandin HBO movie with Claire Danes. She said that the movie succeeds in portraying how her visual thinking works. As for the acting, "Claire Danes became me in a way that was really weird!" (I gotta see this movie. I usually don't miss having HBO at home, but this is one exception!)

Temple had an interesting take on behavior and manners. She has a hearty appreciation for how manners were taught when she grew up in the 1950s. It makes sense to me that a well-defined system of rules would be appealing to a mind of a certain structure! However, I've recently seen this used negatively in comments relating to a bloggy dust-up about how people see "us" (kids on the spectrum and their parents), as in: if Temple Grandin thinks that kids with autism should be taught 1950s manners, then it must be the parents' fault that they're acting out in public. Which doesn't sit well with me, having just been party to a clean-up of fist-flung jello. It's not that easy. And I'm not sure that Temple was saying that it was.

One final quote-nugget, which Temple offered in response to a question regarding trying to get appropriate services from a school district in a difficult situation. "Your project is for your son to be successful." The corollary was that being right in fighting with the school was less important than being a clever negotiator, swallowing pride when prudent to get to a place that would better support the child's success.

Our project is for our child to be successful.



Niksmom said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm envious you got to hear her and shake her hand. :-)

The last nugget? Worth its weight in gold. I had an attorney for the state DOE say something similar at a seminar about IEP's. She said to focus on getting your child the supports and servies they need, regardless of the approach it takes to get there. It's not important to be right but to be effective.

Elizabeth Channel said...

Love the last nugget too, and since I saw Temple last Friday, it was so fascinating to read what she talked about at your conference. She made similar comments about GF/CF at the conference I attended, but also talked about the new DSM and its impact on Asperger's.

I haven't seen the HBO movie yet either but I am looking forward to doing so.

DQ said...

I really, really, really love 'your project is for your son to be successful'. And I mean REALLY. Thank you so much. I was about to include a link to a speech by Temple Grandin then realised it was on your site that I first found it! I am hoping to watch the HBO movie soon. I understand it is very good.

K- floortime lite mama said...

full of gems !