Temple Grandin Talks About Autism and Sensory Issues

I finished reading the latest book by Temple Grandin and though of doing a book review on the same. I bought the book from Amazon for $9.23. The paperbound edition is only 123 pages and can be read with ease in a couple of hours. In previous books and lectures Temple has underlined the importance of sensory issues in autism. As I recall she has said that sensory issues greatly handicapped her and that in her opinion it is the most pressing problem for research. However, the title of the book is misleading as Temple addresses a large variety of subject, sensory issues being but one of them. Anybody interested in a more comprehensive understanding on sensory issues should read Olga Bogdashina’s book, “Sensory Perceptual Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome”. Dr. Bogdashina’s book offers a historical background , patients’ testimonies and a review of different treatment modalities. It is my understanding that a new edition to Dr. Bogdashina’s book may be coming out by the end of this year.

Temple’s book is divided into 2 parts. The first half reads like a lecture from Temple. If you have ever attended one of her lectures or read a few of her books, this portion of the book may be repetitive. Temple emphasizes the benefits for early intervention, teaching turn taking and good manners, giving choices to children, and building upon their strengths and interests. The most important pearl of wisdom, in my opinion, was to limit the amount of TV and video games to not more than 1 hour per day. It is important for kids to spend time in the real world. The second half of the book is where Temple answers questions from parents. The answers are what would be expected if you read the first section of the book. Indeed, some of Temple’s stories are repeated in both sections (as well as in previous books), e.g. being scolded by her mother for a temper tantrum for which she lost her rights to watch TV. I would not necessarily agree with some of her advice (e.g., promoting crying as a way of replacing anger when kids tease you) but understand her main points.

The book is printed poorly and there appears to have been very little or no editing. At one point in page 41 Temple makes mention to” the new study from the University of California”. In reality the new study was one introduced in page 20 and then discussed again in a cavalier manner after a 20 page gap. It would have made more sense to keep related sections together. Temple also closes the first section by repeating verbatim the same information about her family history that she provided at the beginning of the book. It seems that the person doing the cut and paste for Temple did not do a good job. In addition, all of the pictures are of extreme poor quality. Figure 2 makes reference to a gray line, that because of the poor contrast, is not present. Overall the pictures look fuzzy and lack detail.

I really do not agree with some of Temple’s scientific points. She over emphasizes structural details of her brain from which she tends to generalize to other autistic individuals. Images are presented but she provides comparisons to a single control. We do not know the basis for selection of the control nor the overall variability of the selected anatomical structures among the neurotypical population. It would have been best to measure changes and compare the same to the variability in the control population. There are also many asseveration that you have to take by faith, for example, “I also think the American Psychiatric Association planned to call most cases of Asperger’s syndrome in which there is no speech delay a social communication disorder, but that is not happening today because, unfortunately there is no funding for it.” In here Temple makes reference to DSM IV criteria, but as such, Asperger’ s were all defined by no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases by age 3 years). Communication abnormalities in Asperger were/are seen primarily in restricted prosody and verbosity. I am not sure where she took the idea that a change in classification was not instituted for lack of funding. I also disagree with Temple’s overall pro-neurodiversity stance claiming no real dividing line between autism and normal or that there can be a “little bit of autism” in a person. Her overall theme that you can go out to the world and conquer the same by playing to your strengths and gifts, although of positive nature, may not apply to a majority of autistic individuals.

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