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so that their families have peace of mind about the future

Building advocacy networks for people

so that they are empowered to realise their aspirations and contribute to their community

Building advocacy networks for people

so that they form intentional friendships that broaden and enrich their lives

Building advocacy networks for people

so that they develop stronger links in the wider community

Building advocacy networks for people

so that they are as fulfilled and happy as they can be

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Dr Temple Grandin on Specialised Brains

Autism spectrum conditions (ASC), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are all general terms referring to a group of complex differences in brain development. The neural pathways in autistic brains are unlike those in neurotypical brains: connections between some parts of the brain may be missing, while other parts may have much stronger links. This means people on the autistic spectrum process information differently. As a result, they think differently.

Dr Temple Grandin, the pioneering animal scientist who was diagnosed with autism as a child, has written several ground-breaking books about living with autism. Her work demonstrates that autistic brains are "different, not less".

This is a crucial distinction to make. Many people who are caring for an autistic relative are painfully aware of the difficulties that can hamper their loved one's communication and socialisation. Indeed, many professionals still approach autism from a deficit perspective, stressing the challenges rather than the gifts which accompany them.

It's enormously encouraging therefore to see the growing tide of published material written by people on the autistic spectrum, reflecting on their experiences. Material like this is invaluable for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of autism from the inside.

Here are four of our favourite Temple Grandin quotes:

"The world needs different kinds of minds to work together."

"There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do."

"It is never too late to expand the mind of a person on the autistic spectrum."

"See the person, not the label."

The term "specialised brains" appears in Dr Grandin's book Thinking in Pictures. Having talked with hundreds of families and individuals on the autistic spectrum (including Asperger's Syndrome), she has concluded that the people with these "specialised brains" come in three overlapping categories: visual thinkers like her, music and maths thinkers who think in patterns, and verbal logic thinkers who think in word details.

In this book she talks about a father who described his autistic son's thinking as follows: "Ted's thought processes aren't logical, they're associational."

"This explains Ted's statement: 'I'm not afraid of planes. That's why they fly so high.' In his mind, planes fly high because he is not afraid of them; he combines two pieces of information, that planes fly high and that he is not afraid of heights. There is no logical connection between the two ideas, but Ted has created an association between them – and Ted's brain works by association, not logic."

ACSYL's directors first learned about Dr Grandin when they heard one of her TED talks online. (TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design). More recently, they met an autistic person at a meeting of the Herefordshire Autism Partnership who recommended several books on autism, including a couple by Dr Grandin.

If you'd like to see her in action, a quick Google search will take you to her TED talks. We think you'll be inspired.