Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

Grandin begins this talk with the discussion of autism and describing each end of the spectrum, as well as discussing individuals in history who would be labeled on the spectrum. She then goes into a discussion of thinking in a different way – just as individuals with autism think in different ways on their unique minds. Just as individuals think in different ways, Temple thought of things in objects or pictures, comparing it to “google for pictures.” Visual thinking has lead to a lot of Grandin’s accomplishments and designing different types of animal facilities.

She talks about how in third or fourth grade, we can find out what kind of thinker a child is. A child with autism has a special kind of mind – they are each unique. There are three types of thinkers: pattern or abstract thinkers, photo-realistic visual thinkers, and verbal or mind thinkers. Each of these types of thinking is unique to all individuals and they each have their own strengths. For example, visual thinking is sensory based, and that individual thinks in sounds and smells. Since this is what Temple is, it has helper her with her career with animals since a visual thinker puts sensory based info into categories.

Grandin then discusses her own experiences in school and having a teacher who made her think and want to learn. This really speaks to me since I am primarily interested in working with students with autism, especially at the elementary level. It is important to show kids interesting videos, articles, and resources to engage them and keep them learning in school. There are geeky, nerdy kids in the world who need things to look at and make them think constantly. There is some talk about how people with autism have extra writing in their brain that makes them curious and continue to evolve their thoughts. In regards to these comments, the article Technology Integration Frameworks for the K-12 Curriculum really aligns with this. By continuously utilizing technology in the classroom, we can engage students and show them interesting things that they may not find out themselves without the support of an instructor. It is good to be curious and wanting to know more, and by utilizing the constantly changing resources we have, there is so much potential for what we can teach to students today, that wouldn’t be possible without the advances in technology.

What really hits home in this discussion is that we NEED all these different types of minds, especially for different jobs. Temple struggled with this in learning how to do something else, other than drawing horses early on in her education. Without the support from her science teacher when she was finally engaged, she wouldn’t have accomplished all that she has. With a constantly growing and changing world, we need to adapt the curriculum to allow students to be successful and working hard in school to go on and have productive work life. This resource on teacherspayteachers is a good place to start in regards to working towards the needs of a student in the Universal Design of Learning.

Kids with autism have minds that are fixed. We as educators need to work towards those fixations in students to motivate that student. This may mean drawing out dogs in a math problem if students are particularly interested in animals. This aligns directly with the Universal Design for learning which is really a tool to create equal opportunity for all student to learn. As educators, we can be mentors for students that have unique minds to be successful. Work towards those strengths and unique abilities in each student to improve them for a job and prepare them for what the future with hold. Especially in regards to autism, we need to prepare these students to be innovative thinkers who always have a task to complete. On Temple Grandin’s website, this page really spoke to me. It discusses different ways to implement environment enriching activities to students with autism to help reduce different symptoms. By catering to the needs of unique individuals, we will not only make them successful in the classroom but in social and contextual settings as well. This is just one example of how to engage students with autism.


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