You've found Special Needs Project -- a unique disability bookstore. We carry books, videos, DVDs and related items about mental and physical disabilities...for parents, professionals, educators, family members and persons with a disability. We have the largest collection of books about autism spectrum disorders (nearly 800 titles) we know of.
In 1869, John Muir wrote, "When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe." That's surely true of human growth and existence. At Special Needs Project we do our best to be a comprehensive resource for the entire community concerned with disability and child development. If there are books or other materials you think we should offer--we hope you will share them with us.
Temple Grandin on how the autistic 'think different'
Karen Weintraub, Special for USA TODAY9:31 p.m. EDT May 1, 2013
Autistic author Temple Grandin looks at how 'The Autistic Brain' sees world differently.
In a high-tech MRI scan, the wiring that makes Temple Grandin's brain unique shows up in vibrant colors.
Grandin, a well-known author who has autism, has four times the typical number of connections in a brain area that controls the visual system. That may explain why she goes through life Thinking in Pictures, as her 1996 book described.
She also has far fewer brain connections than most people in an area that links what we hear with what we say – perhaps typical for people on the autism spectrum who often struggle to communicate.
In a new book, The Autistic Brain, out this week, Grandin explains what she's learned in recent years about her brain and the brains of others with autism.
"I wanted to talk about the different kinds of minds," she says.
She offers an in-depth description of the High Definition Fiber Tracking that allowed her to see where the connectivity of her brain differs from most people's.
These insights into how her brain works weren't surprises, she says – "they validated things a good teacher would pick up in the classroom."
But if discovered in a small child, they might be very important for targeting therapy to that child's specific needs, said Walter Schneider, the University of Pittsburgh psychologist who ran the scans of Grandin's brain.
Grandin, 65, a longtime professor of animal science at Colorado State University, is considered an important voice on autism because of her ability to describe her experience to a mainstream audience. She officially lives in Fort Collins, but says she "basically lives on the road" because of her two careers. She has written six previous books on autism and is the subject of a 2010 TV movie (called Temple Grandin) starring Claire Danes.
"I think she deserves a tremendous amount of credit for focusing on science as a way to understand autism and improve the lives of individuals with autism," says Joy Hirsch, a Yale University neuroscientist whose work Grandin cites.
Grandin's early books also helped bring awareness to the needs of autistic adults at a time when many people considered autism a childhood condition.
"Today, we are seeing a new generation of autistic activists, who can take awareness as a given (because of Grandin) and focus instead on the social, political and economic barriers to our full integration and acceptance by society," said Ari Ne'eman, president and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, which represents autistic adults.
In the new book, Grandin also highlights the need for more job training for teenagers on the autism spectrum.
Grandin says she sees students who "graduate from college and they've never had a job. They haven't learned the discipline of work." Or the fact that some parts of it are going to be boring.
She suggests that at around age 12, children on the spectrum should be given jobs suited to their interests and skills, such as dog-walking, fixing computers or working as a tour guide in a museum.
"I'm seeing too many kids getting so addicted to video games that they're not doing anything else," she says. "You can't make a living playing video games."
More emphasis also needs to be placed on what people with autism do well, she says.
"My thinking is associative," adds Grandin, who says she can envision objects from many angles, like a 3-D computer program.
This visual thinking is a huge strength when designing humane animal-slaughtering facilities – her career since long before she was known as an autism celebrity. Grandin says she has always been able to "see" how cattle chutes should be designed to keep the animals from getting too scared.
She used to think everyone with autism saw in pictures the way she does. But in talking to others on the spectrum who had read Thinking in Pictures, she discovered that some think differently: mainly in mathematical patterns, or in words.
All people have multiple intelligence – strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others. But people on the autism spectrum tend to have extremes, Grandin says. They're particularly skilled at one way of seeing the world and truly terrible at others. Her weakness, Grandin admits, was algebra.
Even though the communication or social skills of someone with autism may be below average, having a person on a team who can think like she does could be a huge asset, Grandin observes.
She would never have designed the ill-fated Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan with backup generators in a basement. By flying over it in her mind, she says, she would have immediately seen that it was vulnerable to flooding seawater. A tsunami after a major earthquake disabled power and cooling of three of the plant's reactors, causing a nuclear accident in March 2011.
"There are certain kinds of things I'm really good at," she says, "and we need the different kinds of minds to work together."
In her personal life, Grandin says she takes pleasure in movies, particularly Star Trek, and in lunches with her students and dean. What makes her happiest, she says in her characteristic slightly stiff tone, is knowing that she's helping someone else.
"I get happy if I have a mom write to me and say my kid went to college because of your book ... (or) the movie really inspired me to work hard in school," she says. "That really turns me on."