on the spectrum

I go through these phases where I fall upon something that fascinates me and I gobble up every available morsel of information about it.

Currently, my obsession is autism.

It started when I watched HBO’s Temple Grandin, the biopic about a woman growing up autistic in the 50s and 60s. (expertly portrayed by Claire Danes)

That led me to read one of Temple Grandin’s books, The Way I See It, as well as check out from the library ALL of the other books she has written, including a memoir by her mother

Temple Grandin is the first person to accurately describe what it feels like to have autism.  I found the information fascinating, not only as an insight into autism but human behavior in general. I really do believe that MANY people exhibit symptoms on the autism spectrum.

I find her wildly inspirational and super interesting. She is a highly regarded expert on Autism, has her doctorate in Animal Sciences and was instrumental in designing humane livestock facilities in the 80s. Phenomenal.

She spoke at TED in June 2010. Check it out.


I also recently saw Autism:The Musical, which I highly recommend. (you can stream it on Netflix for free)

AUTISM: THE MUSICAL counters today's bleak statistics with one woman's optimistic pledge to lead a group of autistic children in defying diagnosed expectations by writing, rehearsing and performing their own full-length musical.

I spent a good amount of time in awe of the parents.

Autism usually doesn’t present when the child is born. When it does appear (2,3 or 4 yrs usually) I would think it is almost like a death, depending on the severity, of course. The autism spectrum is quite large. In most severe cases, you have a normal, happy, healthy child and then one day, she stops looking you in the eye and starts to behave erratically. I can’t imagine the heartbreak.These parents grieve the life they thought their child would have and the life they thought they, as parents, would have.

However, as with anything, you have to keep going. It takes energy, commitment, love and positivity. You see that in this film.


Taylor | August 15, 2010 at 9:04 PM

You have to read Animals Make us Human. It is so interesting and it is all about animals and the way we treat them. Absolutely fascinating! I have several Autistic clients who have had the "squeeze machine" and reaped it's benefits:) She works at Colorado State and you can sit in on her lectures...very cool!!!!!

Emily | August 15, 2010 at 9:11 PM

That book is on my nightstand next to read! I knew she worked at CSU. Believe me, I've thought about going up to see her speak. would love it. SO cool that some of your clients have used the squeeze machine. It's all SO fascinating....

Claire | August 16, 2010 at 10:11 PM

Add to your list the documentary called "Refrigerator Mothers". Decades ago they blamed the cause of autism on moms being cold and uncaring, causing their children to withdraw. Fortunately times have changed and much support is available.

Emily | August 17, 2010 at 10:11 AM

CTM- Thanks! It's in my queue now. How heartbreaking for those mothers to think they caused the autism. However, they shouldn't be frigid mamas in the first place! Now, if they're cranky, swearing, sighing, eye rolling mamas, then that's fine. (Heh heh)

Sheri Nugent | August 18, 2010 at 4:20 AM

I LOVE Temple Grandin! As Taylor will tell you, when I went through my phase of reading about autism (like you, I get on a subject and submerge myself in it for awhile) -I told Taylor I thought I was a high-functioning autistic. She rolled her eyes and said, "You're not autistic, Annie." Fine. But so interesting that any of us COULD be on the spectrum. I KNOW that many of the engineers I work with must be.

Temple is a prolific writer - thank goodness. So hopefully more insights to come from her. If I was in Colorado I'd organize an outing for us to hear her lecture.