Saturday, October 23, 2010

Autism Asperger Super conference; Dr Temple Grandin Session

Guess who I am getting a book signed by ?

No prizes for the right guess !

Cause we all know the amazing Dr Grandin!!!!

DH and I are just back from the Autism Asperger Super conference
It was really awesome to attend the conference with my DH and with 3 of my online Friends – T and J and M. Somehow it felt like I was back in school

The conference was FANTASTIC – Wayne Gilpin who was the MC and is the CEO of "Future Horizons" really put together a blockbuster conference .

He himself is the father of a young man on the spectrum

For me the highlight of the conference was Dr Temple Grandin

She was AMAZING . She , her books, her movies have taught us so much .

Dr Tony Attwood said she is an American National Treasure . And I agree

It was a happy coincidence for DH and me that some of the first books we read upon diagnosis were books by Temple Grandin and Tito Mukhopadhyaya – this certainly had a huge impact on the way we thought of Autism – 

Because we thought of things from R's perspective .

We tried to see and experience the world from his perspective instead of from a deficit-fixing perspective

We saw his abilities and his value not just deficits

Here is my summary – please do note that obviously I listened through my own lens and also paid attention to things that were of interest to me

So this is not a full representation of all that was there though I am hoping that DH and T, M and J will comment and add anything that I am missing

I am going to start with Dr Grandin though she was the third speaker

Auties have many gifts to offer the world

There are many genes that are responsible for Autism .. you know what would happen if we eliminated all the genes of Autism – you would have eliminated your next generation of engineers, professors etc

"You know what the Aspies are doing .. they are running silicon valley" she joked

She said that the Spectrum was huge and at one end of the Spectrum was the "normal spectrum "

Autistic identity

Dr Grandin said she would never want to be normal as she was very proud of her rational way of looking at things.

However Autism was not the central theme that organized her life . 

She thought of her identity in terms of her whole life !

"I see myself as a college professor "

Good Manners and Rules

Limit setting was so important .

She credited her 1950's upbringing of good manners and CLEAR rules to her success in life

Of course one must understand the reason for bad behavior and some bad behavior which is the result of extreme sensory sensitivity must be accommodated

It was very very very important do SOMETHING

"The worst you can do is let the autistic child play video games all day . Video games for no more than one hour a day "

Understanding the Sensory System is critical.

As is, making sure any hidden medical problems are solved .

Touch desensitization is possible and important for the whole family.

She said sensory readiness therapy is critical and is akin to taking the cellphone outside to " get a better signal "

Job skills

She said right from when the child is in middle school parents need to be focused on projects that could potentially make money - outside the house .

Always focus on what the child is good at and what the learning style of the child is – is the child a visual thinker , a music-math thinker or a verbal thinker ?

"The kid is good at computers – get him to fix the neighbor's computer. And then put the money he makes in an account and teach him to manage money "

She said she was a very poor student but learned a lot in school .

She said the current school system which demands that a child must pass for instance algebra before they can go on to Geometry is flawed 

An Autie may need to know geometry before they can understand Algebra 

Why cannot the school system allow for people to pass certain kind of math ? and not all kinds?

She said she could never have done algebra

Its very important to ensure that the Autistic person's abilities are being harnessed properly-

"I see too many autistic people with my intelligence level bagging groceries and cleaning toilets"

Its very important to be good at something that others are interested in

"I always sold my work, not myself "

Its also important for parents to be entrepreneurs – and be creative in thinking of how to get the child an "in"

"I always got thru the back door .. never through the front door .. I never passed an interview in my life "


She had a lot to say on medication –I don't know much about medication so please pardon any errors

She was positive about SSRI like Prozac and Zoloft and said she knows many people on the Spectrum who would not be able to do what they do without Prozac .

And said the atypicals like Abilify , Seroquel, Rispedal, Geodon may have severe side effects

She said that some of these second generation anti psychotics will fog up the brain and ensure the child is in a fog and can never program a computer –

While these medications are very valuable for some , she felt these medicines are being overprescribed. And when there are problems doses are being "upped " instead of decreased

She talked about the importance of physical exercise and Omega 3's and Sensory things like Weighted Vests etc .

She also touched upon the value of vitamins and supplements including probiotics.

As well as special diets

The Autistic brain is different from Neurotypcials)

One fascinating example was as follows

Dr Grandin said her brain worked like "google Images "

So when she was asked to picture a church steeple – her memory conjured up all the church steeples she had ever seen in her life

Whereas neurotypicals, when asked the same question , thought of a generic image of a church steeple

A brain scan showed that, indeed ,her actual brain and wiring was different – so that it was like her brain had a" high speed internet highway" inside her head that captured all images that she ever saw and she was able to retrieve them all at will

( This is indeed true of R as well – when we went back to India this time – he rearranged my parents set up on the staircase to how it had been in the past .

The thing is, the last time he had visited that house, was when he was 2 !!!)

  • All autistic thinking uses specific examples to create concepts
  • It is bottom up thinking
  • ALL concepts are learned from specific examples
Teaching Auties

Its very important to teach by playing games to categorize things into – big-small, different shapes etc and then use the same objects and categorize them in a different scheme—This teaches flexibility of thinking . For example a small white bottle bottle can be "small" in a size scheme . And it can be white in a color scheme of categorizing

( though all autie brains are not identical to each other either)

Its very important to teach rules clearly including turn taking and waiting for your turn

Teach with real objects – example fractions can be taught through slicing a pizza . Adding and subtracting can be taught thru candy

Its critical to kep expanding their experiences – the whole idea – to take the high speed internet example from earlier – is to create many many "web pages

Autistic learning does start with memorization but as more and more information is memorized – it will be organized into more and more categories which will help thinking become more flexible

"The thing with Autistic people" said Dr Grandin, "is that they are always learning for their entire life"


I will soon be posting on the notes from the other three  fantastic speakers and hope they will be of use to you  


Li said...

This is great stuff, K! Thanks so much for posting. It's giving me lots to think about in terms of working with my son.

Þorgerður said...

i would love to see temple Grandin speak :)

essbesee said...

what an amazing woman - how cool you were able to meet her and hear her speak. i am not autistic, but i will give a huge shout out for prozac in my life. it has helped me immensely and it helps me function. i also agree every single person is on the spectrum in one way or another. i find autism really fascinating. the human brain is amazing. thanks for sharing!

robin said...

When reading your post, I can feel your excitement about meeting her and about what she said in her speech. That's totally cool!! Love the pic! Even though I don't know much about her specifically, I can totally imagine her character on the hbo movie saying that she never passed an interview in her life. Glad you guys enjoyed it!!

Kim said...

Wow! Sounds like a great conference! I loved reading this, would love to hear her speak as well. Thanks for posting your notes and thoughts! Looking forward to reading more.

Lyndsey said...

Thanks for all the info! I sooo wish I could have gone with you guys! It sounds like you had a great and informative time!

kathleen said...

Glad you had a lovely time :)

Anonymous said...

An excellent report, K! For others who do not have a chance to meet her in person (oo-la-la!) there is a TEDtalk by Dr. Grandin.

And (shameless plug) I tell about a video of her - full explanation of many of your notes - in this post on my blog:

I am looking forward to reading about the other speakers. Well, I look forward to all your posts, K. Barbara

Rachel said...

So glad you were able to meet someone you have so much respect for! How exciting to be in such a supportive environment of learning!

Lisa said...

K, Every time I come here I learn more and more.
I jsut find it fascinating and I am so happy to hear you actually go to meet someone who is able to offer so much insight.
Just incredible!

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic. I would love to hear her in person, but your notes are the next best thing. Thank you for sharing all of this with us.

Mr. Daddy said...

K, you always get me thinking while reading your posts...

Glad you had such a good time. and learned so much.

You always have such an eloquent way of putting things.

Anonymous said...

This was wonderful. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

So many wonderful thoughts here it's hard to know which to comment on.

How nice to have had the opportunity to meet Temple Grandin. And for Temple Grandin to have met you. You are both amazing women.

Kathy said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to outline what she said for those of us who have not had the opportunity to hear her speak.

Answers said...

Thanks for sharing!

Mia @ Finding Balance said...

What an amazing experience. So glad you got the opportunity.

danette said...

I love Temple Grandin, how cool that you met her! :) I stumbled onto her website with an excerpt from "Thinking in Pictures" early in my autism research and have found her perspective to be extremely helpful.

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