Do You Recognize the Gifts of Children With Aspergers?
I was so excited to come across an awesome video by Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin has her PhD in Animal Science, and is the author of multiple books on autism. She is a professor at Colorado State University, and has become an advocate and spokesperson for persons with Autism and Aspergers.
Dr. Grandin argues for neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is an idea which asserts that atypical (neurodivergent) neurological development is a normal human difference that is to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. Differences may arise in ways of processing information, including language, sound, images, light, texture, taste, or movement. (borrowed from this Wikipedia definition)
I want to summarize some of the points of this talk that she gave recently. I find it fascinating and encouraging, because it de-mystifies the condition, and highlights some of the unique and positive characteristics of the the Autism Aspergers continuum.
First, Dr. Grandin talked about the fact that some children with Aspergers have a visual mind. To understand this visual intelligence, she stated that we have to understand that these children actually think in pictures. (She explains this in detail in her book, Thinking in Pictures). When the word “steeple” is used, for example, Dr. Grandin recalls specific images from different points in her life. So for every word, her mind “downloads” a sequence of images, almost like a videotape. The visual thinker has a perspective that many average people don’t.
Another type of ‘mind’ or gifted thinking that Dr. Grandin described is the pattern thinker. The pattern mind is gifted at seeing patterns in data. As a result, they tend to excel in math and music, but can often struggle with reading, for example.
The verbal thinker, or verbal mind, is highly attuned to language and words. In fact, Dr. Linda Holliday Wiley, author of Pretending to Be Normal, writes about how she loved her books, and how she was fascinated with the different words contained in those books. Unfortunately, although some of these children with Aspergers have high word recognition, they may struggle with comprehension of more abstract comprehension. But this varies by child.
Verbal minds, patterned thinking minds, visual minds. These are just three of the types of minds found in the Autism Aspergers spectrum. I am posting Dr. Grandin’s talk here so that you can view and listen to her entire talk.
Perhaps her best point is that we as parents, teachers, and therapists, must recognize the beauty and diversity of the child with Aspergers. In this way we may be able to recognize and cultivate the next generation of Einsteins, Mozarts, and other gifted world citizens.