Dr Temple Grandin found the perfect words to describe herself and the fourteen contributors of her new book who are all wrote about their lives with autism or Asperger’s. These words are the title of her April 2012 book, Different . . . Not Less: Inspiring Stories of Achievement and Successful Employment from Adults with Autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD. In the foreword, Dr Tony Attwood writes, “This is an inspiring book. The stories of achievement will be encouraging for parents of a young child with an autism spectrum disorder… inspirational for adolescents and young adults who are feeling despondent that autism could deprive them of a successful career or relationship.” Different … Not Less should be read by teachers and actually by everyone because a co-worker, your family doctor, or a friend who you adore and have overlooked her oddities could very well be like the contributors of Dr Temple Grandin’s book high functioning men and women with autism or Asperger’s.
About the Temple Grandin
Are some asking themselves who is Temple Grandin? She was the subject of an award-winning HBO biopic movie starring Claire Danes entitled Temple Grandin. I will never forget watching the award-winning ceremonies and seeing Temple, dressed in her traditional cowboy clothes, stand up in the crowd to acknowledge the applause. Temple was nonverbal until the age of four. Today in her 60’s, she’s a bestselling author, sold-out presenter, and a professor at Colorado State University and yes, she has autism. Temple wrote in this book’s epilogue, “Autism is a significant part of who I am, but I consider myself a designer, college professor, and scientist first… if I could snap my fingers and be cured of autism, would I do it? My answer is “no.” I like myself and my logical way of thinking…”
Her mother, caregivers, and teachers helped her zero in on her strengths to become one of the world’s leading experts in livestock facility design. Dr Grandin was selected as one of the Time Magazine’s Top Most Influential People! She is an inspiration and a role model to all who have autism or Asperger’s. Temple Grandin, PhD, is a popular international lecturer on autism and the author of Emergence: Labeled Autistic, Thinking in Pictures, Animals in Translation, Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, and The Way I See It. See my review of her book, The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s and read more about Temple Grandin PhD here.
What Different . . . Not Less Says about Autism and Asperger’s
The publisher tells us Different … Not Less is the brainchild of Dr Temple Grandin and that she put her heart and soul in it. Temple wants to see people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome succeed in life and she hopes her book will help them do so. Temple knows many have unique abilities and interests that can develop into careers and to the betterment of society. By sorting through many life stories submitted for this book, she presents fourteen personal success stories that can inspire others to follow in their footsteps. If you have autism or Asperger’s and had no mentors or parental guidance you now have fourteen, fifteen counting Dr Temple Grandin!
Each contributor has a chapter and their story is told in their own words. Temple chose individuals from a wide variety of skill sets, from different countries, ranging in age from their 30’s to 60’s but the topics address are similar: early years, school years, parental support, bullying, college, family relationships, employment, diagnosis, mentors, etc.
At the end of over 400 pages what am I left with? Lucky is the aspie or autistic child with supportive parents. Those whose parents encouraged them in the things they loved the most. Those whose parents fostered and rewarded their special interests. The contributors had always felt they were different and so had their parents however most only had a diagnosis very late in their adult life. Anita Lesko, contributor and author of her own book, Asperger’s Syndrome: When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade, sums it up so well, “Sometimes I felt like a pin ball machine—no matter which way I went, something was blocking me.” However if these unique individuals were supported by their parents it made life much easier.
- My mom knew I was different, but she believed I was different in the best of ways. She thought I was a near-genius. Page 22
- My parents provided what we would today refer to as an intensive, home-based early-intervention program that emphasized movement, sensory integration, music, narration, and imitation. Page 48
- Eventually, my family realized that puppets were a great way to interact with me, and they proved a useful way of helping me understand the social domain—a kind of early social-story model. Page 216
The retired teacher in me saw with flashing lights the extremely bad memories most with autism or Asperger’s have of their school years and the bullying they were subjected to. This should put school administrators and educators on high alert to assure our classrooms and school systems are autism and Asperger’s friendly environments!
- My troubles began when I started school, and I received unkind treatment by both teachers and classmates.
- School was hell for me, from preschool onward… (In high school) The “cream of the crap” girls chased me into the bathroom on the second floor of the school, took off my clothes, and threw them out the window. Page 148
- In elementary school, I was a social and academic catastrophe. I did not know how to interact with my classmates in a way they could understand or expect, which resulted in a lot of bullying and teasing. Page 52
- That first day (of school) was like a nightmare, and it pretty much didn’t change for the next 13 years. School was, simply put, a torture chamber. The external stimuli were overwhelming. Page 191
Which is better, “To know about a diagnosis of autism or Asperger’s or not to know”
- One contributor wrote that her diagnosis at the age of 54 gave her a new perspective and she was able to forgive all the repeated mess-ups in her life and move on.
- One woman said knowing was liberating.
- Robert Cooper explained that when he was told of his Asperger’s it was the end of one life and the beginning of a brand new day.
- On the other hand, another now realizes her previously unexplained hardships, medical issues, and struggles are not something she can “get over.” Learning of her diagnosis in adult life felt like a mountain and learning to accept she has a pervasive disorder that has no cure is very difficult.
- Karla Fisher revealed that without the label, she was left wondering why it was that all the people around her seemed to be able to do more than her… she was made to feel like an idiot because she had no awareness of her limitations.
- When Anita Lesko learned of her Asperger’s diagnosis she felt relieved to finally understand why she had certain problems. What shocked her most was discovering that some young people upon knowing they have autism or Asperger’s literally shut down on life. Their “victim mentality”, feeling sorry for themselves, prevents them from preparing for the future when their parents will not be around to support them. Ms. Lesko writes, “They need to get over the fact that they have Asperger’s. It’s not a disease—it’s just a way of life. We need to get these people up and functioning.”
Different … Not Less has a wealth of advice on many topics to help the lives of families or individuals with autism or Asperger’s. Some tips that stand out are to work with the strengths of the individual. Make use of their autistic characteristics. Many have areas of interest that can be channelled into life long careers. Help them choose a study and work environment that fits their needs and allows them to thrive and be productive. Find mentors who they can connect with and who will support them into adult life. Autistic people are hyper-focused individuals, and that is a strong, positive attribute for the work force. Get a good education by focusing on the gifts you were born with to enable you to take care of yourself.
I think having a diagnosis early in life would allow these individuals to get on with their life. Perhaps knowing early in life what the cards they have been dealt with are, they could maximise on their strengths, find support, make informed choices and decisions, and work on or at least understand their weaknesses. I ask myself if this was the case would there be fewer broken relationships, failed marriages, and unemployment and lost jobs in the lives of individuals with autism or Asperger’s? If they had an early diagnosis, would these individuals with high functioning autism or Asperger’s, who are different but surely not less, more easily find their niche and reveal their extraordinary potential?
Buy the Book Future Horizons
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