Temple Grandin, autism advocate, author and professor of animal science at Colorado State University, answered questions Monday in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" forum. Here are the most inspiring answers she provided.
gorkt: What is the most important advice you can give to a parent who is raising a child with autism?
Prof_Temple_Grandin: If you have a 2 or 3 year old who is not talking, you must start an early intervention program. The worst thing you can do with an autistic 3 year old is to do nothing. These young children need 20 or 30 hours a week of one to one teaching with an adult. A good teacher can engage the child. There are many different teaching protocols, and many of them are effective. The most important factor is encouraging the child to engage socially with the teacher. In places where there are no services, it’s helpful to find grandparents to work with the children. Some of the activities the grandmother could do include playing games that involve taking turns, teaching words, and singing nursery rhymes. They are often effective teachers. My book, 'The Way I See It' may be helpful.
Fodash: In addition, what advice can you give for high functioning autistic teens or young adults who may face (or are facing) social ostracizing, bullying, isolation, or loneliness and depression?
Prof_Temple_Grandin: In elementary school, I got recognition from teachers and peers for my artistic skills. As an adult, many people thought I was weird, but when I showed them my design work, they were very impressed. People are impressed by abilities. Today, my most meaningful interactions are with peers who share interests in animal behavior and welfare, and designing equipment. Having a career I love has made life worthwhile.
357eve: Professor Grandin, What skills and supports helped you growing up with autism? What were some of the most valuable strategies to deal with the educational and social systems? My son is brilliant yet struggles, ... Thank you
Prof_Temple_Grandin: Develop your son’s strengths. My ability in art was always encouraged, and I was encouraged to draw many different things because you have to learn to do work that other people want. I had a wonderful science teacher in high school who gave me interesting projects to do, and he motivated me to study. In elementary school, I had some wonderful teachers and Mother did not over protect me. You need to stretch kids slightly outside their comfort zones, but never have surprises. There is a tendency for some parents to overprotect their child and do all the talking for him. It is important to pause, and give the child an opportunity to talk and express his/her thoughts. I was bullied and teased in high school. My refuges from bullying were specialized interest groups, such as horse riding, electronics, and model rocket group. It’s important for your son to get involved with special interest groups where he can participate with his peers. My book, “The Autistic Brain,” has information on career opportunities for people on the milder end of the autism spectrum. People on the autism spectrum tend to have uneven skills. They will be good in one subject and possibly struggle in another subject. I am a visual thinker who had problems with algebra. Another child may be very good at mathematics, and may struggle with reading. My book has more information about the different types of thinking.
rollinarmadillo: Professor Grandin, How accurately did the HBO movie portray the way you see the world? I was particularly interested in the way it depicted the mental mapping of the animal's movements. Was this a device they chose to use or something you advised them about the way you see things? Thanks for taking the time to speak to us!
Prof_Temple_Grandin: Many people ask about the HBO movie, and it accurately shows how my visual thinking works. The scene that showed all the shoes appearing in rapid succession is exactly how I think. The images that appear around animal movement are from my actual drawings and diagrams that appear in my early publications. The scene where I get down on my hands and knees in the chute is something that I actually did, so I could see what the cattle were seeing.
Read the full "Ask Me Anything" here.