Somewhatbent's Reviews > Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin
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Dec 21, 2011

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I have a number of conflicts with this book – which should in no way diminish the remarkable body of observations made by Dr Grandlin. It is generally accepted as cold hard fact that animals don’t think like humans. Until such time as there is scientifically verifiable information and understanding, we, as scientists, don’t know how humans *or* animals think. With ongoing study using functional MRI (fMRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning we are learning more about the workings of the brain in many species.[return][return]It is somewhat clearer and better understood that perceptual and cognitive processing in persons with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and the general population can be quite different. There has been advancement in this field in the few years since the first edition of Animals in Translation was published and is not unreasonable to expect far greater understanding of the variety and depth of ASDs in the next few years.[return][return]As a behaviorist Dr Grandlin effectively uses her perceptual abilities which are rather outside the conventional ‘boxes’. That she has developed some methods of livestock management that might not have otherwise been implemented. There is no question that she observes things that can be applied to some animals very effectively, as the numerous anecdotal examples in the book illustrate. What is not clearly addressed is that techniques that are effective on large livestock do not apply to domestic pets, foul or other species. There are some presumptive statements regarding canine behavior a species which she admits having minimal experience with and the behavior she asserts is inconsistent with the experiences of dog handlers and trainers in a wide variety of disciplines; (Search & Rescue, Police and Security, Service Dogs of varying specialty).[return][return]What I hope many people bring away from this book is not the controversy of animal behavior, slaughterhouse and feedlot practices and whether or not a person eats meat, but that there are as many variations of perception and cognition as there are species. ASDs come in an enormously wide variety from people you would never recognize as having one to the stereotypical internally focused, non-verbal, rocking child. There can be huge value in thinking outside the norms, as Dr Grandlin and Bill Gates (with his publically acknowledged Asperger’s Syndrome).[return][return]Recognizing this and allowing for adaptations when some students are simply incapable of learning in ‘conventional’ ways will allow all of society to benefit from the advances these people can make, because it’s simply not comprehensible to them that something *can’t* be done just because it never was before. The potentials for humanity and the species we share the Earth with are indeed boundless, if only given the opportunity to function in a way that optimizes and celebrates them, rather than marginalizing and stereotyping.
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