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June 13, 2013

Autism and Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

I am currently taking an additional qualifications course in special education.  As I'm progressing with this course, I'm reading about a lot of different learning disabilities and exceptionalities.  For me, the chapter on Autism Spectrum Disorder is one of the most interesting chapters so far. I didn't know much about Autism until a friend of mine's son was diagnosed, a few years ago. Also, when I discovered that a student of mine had Aspergers Syndrome last year, I developed a strong interest in the autistic mind.

I'm reading about some new ideas on how to reach every student in my classes and I'm loving it!  I'm also reading about some things that I'm already doing, which is wonderful too, because it proves that I'm doing SOMETHING right! ;)

So what are some tips that I read about in this chapter?

  • Use your intuition.  What works in one situation may not work in another.  
  • Provide a "safe person" or "safe area" for when a student is overwhelmed.  For one student I worked with as an EA, it was a chair similar to this, in a quiet corner of the classroom.

  • Prepare for changes in routine.  A quiet reminder that we are moving on to a different activity in 5 minutes can make a huge difference for a student's anxiety!
  • Seating plans are an easy way to pay attention to where a student sits and it may prevent some behaviours.
  • Design the environment to decrease the likelihood that precipitating events will happen.  For a student who is sensitive to fluorescent light, it makes sense to turn the lights off and open the curtains to let in as much natural light as possible.

My professor shared this TED video about Temple Grandin with me today.  Temple is a very successful woman with Autism.  A movie was made about her (I just HAVE to find it and watch it now!).  In this video, she explains that her mind thinks in pictures.  For example, if you and I were thinking about a church steeple, we would most likely come up with a mental image of a general church steeple that we have seen at some point in our life.  She sees it “just like Google pictures”, as a series of many different kinds of church steeples. She demonstrates that rather effectively through a slideshow of photos which she clicks through quickly.

The overall message of this TED talk is that the world needs all kinds of different thinkers.  As educators, it's important to find a way to reach and motivate every single mind in our class, even if it is a little tricky sometimes.  

Autism fascinates and amazes me.  It pains me and angers me tremendously when I see colleagues and/or parents who don’t embrace, or nurture the autistic mind in their classroom or at home.  Every person thinks differently.  Why is that a bad thing?

What do you think of this video?  Have you seen the movie based on her life?  What are some tips that have worked for you with your autistic students?


  1. I had not seen this TED video before today. Loved it! I've had several autistic kiddos come through my classroom over the years and each of them brought something so special to my class. I strongly agree that the world does indeed need all kinds of minds. Thanks for sharing and good luck with your continued studies!

    1. You are so right! Autistic kids bring something incredible to a class! :) Glad you enjoyed the video! And thanks for the encouragement...I'll be done my course by the end of the week, then I'm starting another one. :/



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