The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum Reviews

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

A cutting-edge account of the latest science of autism, from the best-selling author and advocate


When Temple Grandin was born in 1947, autism had only just been named. Today it is more prevalent than ever, with one in 88 children diagnosed on the spectrum. And our thinking about it has undergone a transformation in her lifetime: Autism studies have moved from the realm of psychology to neurology and genetics, and there is far more hope today than ever before thanks to groundbreaking new research into causes and treatments. Now Temple Grandin reports from the forefront of autism science, bringing her singular perspective to a thrilling journey into the heart of the autism revolution.


Weaving her own experience with remarkable new discoveries, Grandin introduces the neuroimaging advances and genetic research that link brain science to behavior, even sharing her own brain scan to show us which anomalies might explain common symptoms. We meet the scientists and self-advocates who are exploring innovative theories of what causes autism and how we can diagnose and best treat it. Grandin also highlights long-ignored sensory problems and the transformative effects we can have by treating autism symptom by symptom, rather than with an umbrella diagnosis. Most exciting, she argues that raising and educating kids on the spectrum isn’t just a matter of focusing on their weaknesses; in the science that reveals their long-overlooked strengths she shows us new ways to foster their unique contributions.

From the “aspies” in Silicon Valley to the five-year-old without language, Grandin understands the true meaning of the word spectrum. The Autistic Brain is essential reading from the most respected and beloved voices in the field.

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3 Comments so far »

  1. Erik Gfesser said,

    Wrote on May 25, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

    58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    “Ignorance has become part of a society’s belief system”, March 11, 2013
    By 
    Erik Gfesser (Lombard, IL United States) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum (Hardcover)
    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What’s this?)

    Very well written text on autism and brain science. The collaboration between Grandin, probably the world’s best known individual with high functioning autism, and Panek, a well regarded science writer, was a smart move for this book. While I have not read a previous work by Grandin, as a parent with a child diagnosed with moderate level autism I have frequently read about her and have seen enough interviews of her that I could hear her voice as I made my way through this text. Out of necessity, I have read a high number of books and research papers associated with autism, and the vast insight that Grandin shares from her own experience is valuable, as is what she shares about brain science and the opportunities she has had throughout the years to participate in ground breaking research that included scans of her own brain.

    These two topics are interwoven throughout the book, and I agree with other reviewers here that this book probably has a wider audience than what the authors may have originally surmised. However, because I have read so much with regard to autism, potential readers of this book should be aware that the criticisms from autistic readers that Grandin mentions in this book about her past assertions with regard to how “thinking in pictures” is a common trait across autistic individuals, might cease but be redirected toward the fact that Grandin heavily concentrates on high functioning autism, not the entire spectrum. The DSM-5 may no longer include different degrees of autism, but even Grandin explains her reservations about DSM diagnoses. Potential readers just need to keep in mind that the vast majority of her focus here is on those with high functioning autism like herself.

    That said, interestingly enough Grandin is probably among the most optimistic writers with regard to the potential of those with autism. In one of the best brief written summaries of the history of the DSM, for example, she writes the following words of encouragement for those with autism in their lives: “Unlike a diagnosis for step throat, the diagnostic criterion for autism has changed with each new edition of the DSM. I warn parents, teachers, and therapists to avoid getting locked into the labels. They are not precise. I beg you, do not allow a child or an adult to become defined by a DSM label.” For those of us that have had to battle ICD codes while seeking treatment for our children, we realize that this categorization is probably not going to go away any time soon, but it is about time that someone of Grandin’s stature is questioning their long-term validity.

    As a parent, I especially appreciated chapter 1 (“The Meanings of Autism”), in which Grandin discusses the history of the autism diagnosis and reflects on the original diagnosis that she was given, “brain damage”, chapter 4 (“Hiding and Seeking”), in which sensory disorders, an oft neglected area in research, are discussed in relationship to autism, and how Grandin came to realize that there exists great variety, chapter 5 (“Failing on the Spectrum”), in which she furthers her earlier thoughts on the DSM, and chapter 7 (“Rethinking in Pictures”), in which Grandin writes that “of course autistic brains don’t all see the world the same way – despite what I once thought” after realizing that those with autism exhibit multiple rather than one type of visualization.

    Although I enjoy the conversational style of this book, I also especially appreciated the way she shares her thought process in chapter 5. Following her thoughts on what she refers to as two phases of autism the diagnosis (1943 to 1980, and 1980 to 2013), she discusses how it is time for another shift. “Thanks to advances in neuroscience and genetics, we can begin Phase Three in the history of autism, an era that returns to the Phase One search for a cause, but this time with three big differences.” She later furthers this thought by writing: “Phase Two thinking says, ‘Let’s group people together by diagnosis.’ Phase Three thinking says, ‘Forget about the diagnosis. Forget about labels. Focus on the symptom.’ Focus on the cause.”

    “Instead of – or at least in addition to – assigning human subjects to studies through a common autism diagnosis, we should be assigning them by main symptom. I sometimes see researchers pooh-poohing self-reports. But as I learned from examples like Carly Fleischmann’s description of feeling overstimulated in the coffee shop, I think what researchers should be doing is looking at the self-reports very carefully as well as eliciting them in new ways. They they should be putting the subjects into studies based on those self-reports.” Bravo! In my opinion, this is the climax of the book. Concentration on the individual. Looking at every case of autism as an individual will lead to the broadest spectrum possible, a holistic analyses that includes the brain science that the authors discuss, and continues to encompass the…

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  2. Kayla Rigney "To save one life is to save the... said,

    Wrote on May 25, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

    24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Belongs In EVERY Library of Learning Difference, March 6, 2013
    This review is from: The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum (Hardcover)
    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What’s this?)

    *The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across The Spectrum* is hands down *brilliant.* Every parent and teacher of an autistic child should get a copy of this book and read it with highlighter in hand. In fact, Grandin has written a book that will help teenage autistic children understand their differences and *abilities.* And therein lies its brilliance.

    The chapter called “Lighting Up the Autistic Brain” asks the question what does an autistic brain look like — and is it different from a brain that has suffered trauma/injury? Grandin takes us to Schneider’s Pittsburgh lab, where HDFT technology is literally lighting up those differences. For those of us with brain injuries, HDFT can illuminate which fibers are damaged and how many. But, as Schneider tells us, the autistic brain is *not* damaged. He says: ” we’re looking at anomalous growth, be it genetic, be it developmental, etc.,within that process.” In other words, the autistic brain is not the product of trauma. It is not damaged. It’s *different.* I’m still pondering the profundity of this concept and how the book leads us to examine the autistic differences of being.

    *The Autistic Brain* is part memoir and part scientific exploration of the multiple differences of the autistic brain. Don’t be but off by the science part of it. Temple Grandin writes in a way that is uncomplicated and direct. She makes sense of a very complex subject. (Her explanation of the “kinds” of autism is one of the best I’ve ever read.) Because she lives the differences inherent in autism, we come to see those differences and respect them. Grandin calls these different ways of thought Picture Thinking, Word/Fact Thinking, and Pattern Thinking. In the margin of my copy, I wrote: The theory of multiple intelligences for people with autism. Right on!” (In the back of the book, Grandin even lists possible careers for these different ways of thinking.) Temple’s understanding of the autistic brain is hard-won, and now she’s passing on her knowledge to parents and teachers and the rest of the world.

    Speaking as a woman with a brain difference, I cannot recommend *The Autistic Brain* highly enough. It’s a book that you will return to for years to come.

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  3. G. Kellner said,

    Wrote on May 25, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

    24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    God bless Temple Grandin, March 5, 2013
    By 
    G. Kellner (Westfield, MA USA) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum (Hardcover)
    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What’s this?)

    I love Temple Grandin . She gives me hope for the future for my autistic children and for everybody else’s autistic children. This book discusses new research in neuroimaging–comparing brain scans of autistic people (including hers) and nuerotypical people. There is also new information in different types of intelligence (pattern thinkers and two types of visual thinkers) that correspond to different neurological pathways in the brain. I find all of this fascinating. What I particularly like is that everytime I had a question about something, inevitably she answered it in the next paragraph or so.

    She also is very clear on focusing on strengths–obviously there are deficits in the autistic brain, but why not focus on what they CAN do well? She also includes some resources in the back for exploring different jobs and on-line learning and apps and such. And she herself is such an inspiration. I met her at a conference once. She is so intelligent, although also straightforward and to-the-point (although she can be funny) and is so successful -hey, maybe my kids can also be successful!

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