Jafar's Reviews > Emergence: Labeled Autistic

Emergence by Temple Grandin
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Mar 27, 08

One of the chapters of Oliver Sacks’s An Anthropologist on Mars was about Temple Grandin – an autistic animal scientist. As a matter of fact, that book was named after her. During a conversation with Sacks, Grandin mentions that she feels like she’s an anthropologist on Mars: with her brain not having the innate ability of understanding other people’s emotions and motives and the intricacies of social interactions, she constantly feels like she’s in an alien territory.

This book is Grandin’s autobiography and her account of her struggle with autism and how she managed to overcome her handicap and become “normal.” I read the book not so much because I was intrigued by her life story, but mostly to see how an autistic person writes. You can definitely tell that something’s different about her from her writing.

Ok, so she’s odd, and so is her writing. She sees an animal chute (used to hold farm cattle during castration and vaccination and branding) in her aunt’s farm and she loves it because it satisfies her need for tactile sensation. (She cannot stand human touch, like many other autistics.) Fixation is another autistic trait – and she becomes fixated on animal chutes and squeeze machines. Eventually, she gets into the business of designing animal chutes and becomes quite successful.

In the end, the book tells an endearing story. She was very lucky to have a very loving and understanding mother. In a lot of places, autistics just get branded as retards and are condemned to rot away. I remember when my severely autistic nephew was a little kid, we all thought that he was just being cute when he’d just sit and rock back and forth and hum for a long time. We didn’t know that repetitive motion was a telling sign of a brain disorder.

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message 1: by Rustam (last edited Mar 28, 2008 12:06AM) (new)

Rustam Forget the writing. What's really interesting about her is the way she looks at the world. I read her other book, Animals in Translation , and was blown away by how intuitively she was able to meet the needs of animals. In this book, her theory was that autistic people see and experience the world in much the same way that animals do.

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