Temple Grandin is one of the most well-known individuals with autism. She has a doctorate in animal science and is a professor at Colorado State University. Additionally, Dr. Grandin is a bestselling author and respected consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior.
From a radio essay on NPR a few years ago, here are some insights from Dr. Grandin about how autism affects the cognitive process:
Because I have autism, I live by concrete rules instead of abstract beliefs. And because I have autism, I think in pictures and sounds. I don’t have the ability to process abstract thought the way that you do.
Here’s how my brain works. It’s like the search engine Google for images. If you say the word love to me, I’ll surf the Internet inside my brain. Then a series of images pops into my head. What I’ll see, for example, is a picture of a mother horse with a foal, or I think of Herbie the Love Bug, scenes from the movie Love Story, or the Beatles’ song, love, love, All You Need is Love…
…I built a library of experiences that I could refer to when I was in a new situation. That way, when I confronted something unfamiliar, I could draw on the information in my homemade library and come up with an appropriate way to behave in a new and strange situation.
These are fascinating perspectives and I’d encourage you to find the full transcript and audio here. With 1 in 88 children being diagnosed with autism, sooner or later you’ll encounter an individual who has autism and thinks “in pictures and sounds” like Dr. Grandin.
As Autism Awareness Month wraps up, I’d like to offer some additional resources and starting points for understanding and embracing ASD (see previous posts for other suggestions).
One of the most helpful approaches we’ve found, widely embraced by the medical and special needs communities, is “ABA Therapy.” Pioneered by Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas, this is an especially effective treatment for autism. Here’s his site and links to a significant number of studies about ABA Therapy.
There are many organizations offering information and networking for the autism community. We’ve found Autism Society of America (a national organization with state chapters) to be especially helpful. Your awareness of autism may have been increased by the effective advocacy work of Autism Speaks. And my friend Bob West has a wonderful website – dealing with a variety of special needs and offering hope to families, Need Project.
There are many more sources for parents raising a child with autism. I’d welcome your suggestions.
When we heard the news from a child neurologist, my wife and I were shell shocked. While relived that we had a name for the behavioral challenges we had experienced with him, we were also confused and distressed. We didn’t know what it meant when the physician said that Zane is clearly on the autistic spectrum. Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t offer much help. So we spent the first few months wondering what to do next.
We soon found ourselves immersed, however, in learning as much as possible about Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We read a number of books. We found a lot of information online – but how could we know what to believe and trust?
I’ve had countless conversations during the past few years with people who are dealing with a recent diagnosis of ASD for their child or grandchild. In the interest of helping other families I’ve compiled a list of resources. Here are just a few which I have found very helpful.
There is a great book that’ll give you an idea of the types of twists and turns you’ll encounter in the journey ahead. Written with compassion and some rich humor along the way. Get a copy of DANCING WITH MAX: A MOTHER AND SON WHO BROKE FREE by Emily Colson Boehme with her father, Chuck Colson. Emily’s (now) adult autistic son, Max, has been an unexpected a pathway to joy for their family, and this is an inspiring account of their experiences.
I’d also recommend THINKING IN PICTURES (and other titles) by Temple Grandin. She is a professor at Colorado State University, bestselling author, and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. As a person with high-functioning autism, Grandin is noted for her work in autism advocacy.
There’s a wonderfully touching film about Temple Grandin’s life that we loan out to folks – and the overwhelming response is quite positive. This is perhaps one of the best depictions of how individuals with ASD think and relate to the world around them.
Focus on the Family has some helps. Here’s a brief video series (part one and part two) addressing how one family coped with a diagnosis of autism for their young son. Each segment is only a few minutes in length, and you’ll hear some encouraging perspectives.
More resources in the next post. For now, if you are new to the diagnosis of autism, I’ll offer a word of encouragement. Your child is special and deserving of all your love and energy. The road ahead is likely full of disappointments and difficulties. If you’ll hold onto God and His sovereignty, trusting Him each day for the strength and wisdom you’ll need, the steps on the journey will be a little bit easier, and richer.
During National Autism Awareness Month, it is a privilege to have an article about our journey with autism featured in the Washington Post’s blog, Guest Voices. While I recount some of the painful, even disorienting steps we’ve taken along the way, there are some rich moments and lessons:
I’ll admit that while it is with some reluctance that I’ve embraced our status as a special needs family, God has used our precious boy in many profound ways. The lessons have been difficult, but the rewards have been far greater.
I hope you’ll read the full article here.
Also, keep an eye out at for families with special needs…we need some extra grace and patience…as we learn those lessons God has for us. Thanks.
I just spent a delightful weekend away with my family. We were away in the mountains, with no internet, and lots of time together. It was great! We played games, talked, and relaxed as a family. I tried to spend individual time with each of the five who made it (our oldest lives on the East Coast), and was grateful for the meaningful ways we connected. With the warmth of the weekend on my heart and mind, earlier today I was reflecting on some startling stats about kids who don’t have a dad in their lives.
Did you know the United States is the world’s leader in fatherless homes? The impact is breathtaking: 63 percent of youth suicides come from fatherless homes, and 75 percent of all adolescent patients in drug treatment centers come from homes without a dad.
In his book, It’s Better to Build Boys than Mend Men, Truett Cathy offers some other insights about the trouble children from fatherless homes experience. They are:
• 5 times more likely to commit suicide.
• 32 times more likely to run away.
• 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders.
• 14 times more likely to commit rape.
• 9 times more likely to drop out of school.
• 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances.
• 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution.
• 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
Such revelations should drive every wayward father home and cause every dad teetering on divorce to do whatever he can to salvage his marriage.
And if you ARE home, Dad, those statistics should push you to spend time – quality and quantity time – time with your children. You should do that because it is the right thing. Because your child needs you. And because it is wonderfully rewarding!
Have a little boy? Or maybe a teen boy? For a father who really wants to shape his son’s future, let me suggest there is an outstanding set of resources from my friend Robert Lewis. His book, Raising A Modern Day Knight, has been wonderfully helpful to me in bringing up three boys, and I’ve recommended it for years. Additionally, let me suggest a cool – free! – smartphone app to help you be more intentional in training your boy to become a man of integrity with a rock-solid faith. Find a link to some videos, as well – check out these resources and hear an interview with Robert Lewis right here.
I might also add that regardless of your stage of parenting, in my book First Time Dad I tried to capture some of the common challenges – and joys – every father, especially new dads, encounter. Intended to encourage and inspire, the book reflects my experiences as a Dad for the past 23 years. You might consider it as an early Father’s Day present?