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Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism

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Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is a gifted animal scientist who has designed one third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States. She also lectures widely on autism because she is autistic, a woman who thinks, feels, and experiences the world in ways that are incomprehensible to the rest of us. In this unprecedented book, Grandin writes from the dual perspectives of a scientist and an autistic person. She tells us how she managed to breach the boundaries of autism to function in the outside world. What emerges is the document of an extraordinary human being, one who gracefully bridges the gulf between her condition and our own while shedding light on our common identity.

"There are innumerable astounding facets to this remarkable book...Displaying uncanny powers of observation...[Temple Grandin] charts the differences between her life and the lives of those who think in words."--Philadelphia Inquirer

240 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1995

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About the author

Oliver Sacks

102 books8,213 followers
Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE, was a British neurologist residing in the United States, who has written popular books about his patients, the most famous of which is Awakenings, which was adapted into a film of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.

Sacks was the youngest of four children born to a prosperous North London Jewish couple: Sam, a physician, and Elsie, a surgeon. When he was six years old, he and his brother were evacuated from London to escape The Blitz, retreating to a boarding school in the Midlands, where he remained until 1943. During his youth, he was a keen amateur chemist, as recalled in his memoir Uncle Tungsten. He also learned to share his parents' enthusiasm for medicine and entered The Queen's College, Oxford University in 1951, from which he received a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in physiology and biology in 1954. At the same institution, he went on to earn in 1958, a Master of Arts (MA) and an MB ChB in chemistry, thereby qualifying to practice medicine.

After converting his British qualifications to American recognition (i.e., an MD as opposed to MB ChB), Sacks moved to New York, where he has lived since 1965, and taken twice weekly therapy sessions since 1966.

Sacks began consulting at chronic care facility Beth Abraham Hospital (now Beth Abraham Health Service) in 1966. At Beth Abraham, Sacks worked with a group of survivors of the 1920s sleeping sickness, encephalitis lethargica, who had been unable to move on their own for decades. These patients and his treatment of them were the basis of Sacks' book Awakenings.

His work at Beth Abraham helped provide the foundation on which the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF), where Sacks is currently an honorary medical advisor, is built. In 2000, IMNF honored Sacks, its founder, with its first Music Has Power Award. The IMNF again bestowed a Music Has Power Award on Sacks in 2006 to commemorate "his 40 years at Beth Abraham and honor his outstanding contributions in support of music therapy and the effect of music on the human brain and mind".

Sacks was formerly employed as a clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and at the New York University School of Medicine, serving the latter school for 42 years. On 1 July 2007, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons appointed Sacks to a position as professor of clinical neurology and clinical psychiatry, at the same time opening to him a new position as "artist", which the university hoped will help interconnect disciplines such as medicine, law, and economics. Sacks was a consultant neurologist to the Little Sisters of the Poor, and maintained a practice in New York City.

Since 1996, Sacks was a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters (Literature). In 1999, Sacks became a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences. Also in 1999, he became an Honorary Fellow at The Queen's College, Oxford. In 2002, he became Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Class IV—Humanities and Arts, Section 4—Literature).[38] and he was awarded the 2001 Lewis Thomas Prize by Rockefeller University. Sacks was awarded honorary doctorates from the College of Staten Island (1991), Tufts University (1991), New York Medical College (1991), Georgetown University (1992), Medical College of Pennsylvania (1992), Bard College (1992), Queen's University (Ontario) (2001), Gallaudet University (2005), University of Oxford (2005), Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (2006). He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours. Asteroid 84928 Oliversacks, discovered in 2003 and 2 miles (3.2 km) in diameter, has been named in his honor.

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5 stars
5,698 (38%)
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130 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,182 reviews
Profile Image for Debbie.
685 reviews425 followers
December 6, 2022
Why I chose to read this book:
1. because I have heard of Temple Grandin from watching the self-titled movie starring Claire Danes, was aware of her conferences that she held in my hometown (unfortunately, I was unable to attend), and especially since I've taught a handful of ASD children over the years, I wanted to learn more about her life, so I borrowed this book from my daughter that she used for a university course; and,
2. March 2022 is "Memoirs & Biographies Month" for me.

1. I enjoyed reading Grandin's opinions and anecdotal comments about her life as an autistic person and how she learns best. I only wish that the entire book was written with this in mind;
2. this book is a great reference for those who have ASD, for parents of children on the Spectrum, for educators to get a deeper understanding of autism through a variety of suggestions to improve learning (many of her suggestions would work for normal children as well), and for those working in the field of animal husbandry. As a teacher and owner of beef cattle, these sections greatly appealed to me;
3. even though she makes several scientific references, the text is easy to follow (at least for someone like me!); however, it may be more suited for readers who have some background knowledge of various diagnostic and behavioral tests;
4. I highly agree with her dismay regarding the lack of social skills being taught to today's youngsters;
5. at the time of this book's update, Grandin was very upset that culture was being eliminated in the former Yugoslavia by another culture. Reading this really struck a chord for me in regards to Putin's attempt to annihilate Ukraine; and,
6. this book includes 14 pages of black-and-white photos and diagrams related to Grandin.

1. based on the sub-title My Life With Autism, I was expecting a memoir. Instead, the majority of this book reads like a professional scientific text;
2. although Grandin references dozens of other works, occasionally she makes "factual" statements with no references to back them up,
3. the text is sometimes repetitive; and,
4. some of her observations re: various attributes and issues that sound privy to those on the Spectrum can also affect many normal people the same way. I often questioned myself that if this was the case, perhaps I'm on the Spectrum as well?

Overall Thoughts:
If I read this book with the specific intent of learning more about autism and animal science, I would easily give it 4 stars; however, since I was expecting a memoir, I still found it a "good read" but was disappointed with the minimal content about Grandin's "life with autism". Best for me to watch the movie again!
Profile Image for Megan.
393 reviews7 followers
September 17, 2010
Oh, I love Temple Grandin. I didn't expect that I was going to. See, there's this boy - I'll call him Blake - who comes into the library with his mom every Wednesday. He gets some movies, and his mom gets the baby sign language DVDs, and he always gets a couple of science books. He waits patiently at the desk, and he's this picture of quivery anticipation when I walk up to help him, because he knows what he has to do. And he grins and he waves, awkwardly, a sort of half-wave, practiced over and over, and he says "Hi!" and I say "Hi!" and he says "Hi!" and I say "Hi!" and his mom says, with an identical grin, "One time, Blake." After I hand him his library card back, he turns to his mom, tells her that he said hi, and gives her a giant hug, and doesn't let go until it's time to leave.

I love Blake. I look forward to helping him and his mom check out their books. And I really appreciate what Temple Grandin has written. It's not like other books about autism, written from an outsider's perspective - a doctor or a parent or a teacher. Temple writes herself. She's successful, intelligent, communicative. She is very methodical in her writing, explaining everything absolutely perfectly, ensuring you get an accurate mental picture of the way she thinks.

I can empathize with her in a lot of respects. She explains how individuals who are autistic can be sensitive to sounds. I'm not autistic, but the way my hearing aids process sounds makes me equally sensitive. The expressive way she details the sounds made me realize it's exactly the same way I feel, and I don't blame an autistic kid one bit for reacting with tantrums. It hurts when sounds physically assault you, and it's annoying when you have no way of tuning out a particular sound to focus on another.

There are other bits I sympathize with in Temple's narrative: her adherence to a (relatively) strict schedule and her inability to make small talk (oh lord, give me something to talk about besides the weather and clothes, please, or let me go back to my book). What's really nice about it, though, is I think everybody is able to sympathize with Temple at some point. If you think visually, if you make metaphors out of your life, if you empathize with animals, if you were ever a woman in a man's career field, if you feel awkward at parties, if you can't handle algebra, you'll sympathize with Temple. Even if you have experience with none of those things, Temple's writing is vivid in its descriptions. You'll feel like you know her.

The book I read contained updates at the end of each chapter. At times the updated sections weren't clearly separated from the body of the "old" text and I wasn't sure if I was reading a current narrative or a slightly outdated one. That combined with the sometimes-repetitiveness of Temple's narrative led to a few moments when I wasn't sure where I was at in the book. I did appreciate the updates, though. They made the text more modern and touched upon some new topics in autism research.

I will definitely be looking for more of Temple's books. And continue saying "Hi!" to Blake.
Profile Image for Gary.
931 reviews196 followers
December 8, 2017
An interesting autobiography of an autistic women who has achieved much in her career as a brilliant scientist in animal husbandry, who has designed machinery to make the slaughter of cattle, less terrifying and painful to the animals.
She provides insights into autism, but tends to generalize, describing some of her own experiences and conditions, as being general to all autistic, where they are not always so-not all of her generalizations are correct , and the limitation in relationships she ascribes are not true for all who have these disorders.
Nonetheless there is valuable information here about autism, as well as milder related disorders such as Aspergers syndrome, and the difficulties these lead to in social lives and careers.
She also highlights those who have suffered from such abilities or parts thereof, but have still achieved much, including Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Vincent Van Gogh.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,677 reviews119 followers
June 7, 2020
"I will never forget that when the going got really tough [career-wise], Norb [Goscowitz, an industry administrator] told me 'No matter what, you must always persevere.'" -- Grandin, page 109

Temple Grandin's book works best when adhering to either the memoir format or just providing some general but occasionally detailed information on all sorts of aspects on autism. Her life is certainly an inspirational story, especially for those who are high-functioning or savants -- it is still only within recent memory that those 'on the spectrum' were wrongly diagnosed with brain damage or other such issues and regularly institutionalized in sanitariums / asylums / state hospitals, sadly thought to be lacking in necessary internal components or beyond the capacity to lead independent lives. She was able to breach the preconceived boundaries at the time and earn a PhD, becoming a scientist, a livestock expert-consultant and a published author. The sections of the book recounting her work with animals were not quite as compelling (and sometimes felt a bit repetitive), but the biographical aspect and the plain-spoken background information on autism were first-rate.
Profile Image for Marcy.
583 reviews36 followers
December 4, 2013
Temple Grandin made it very clear how autism affected her as a child and as an adult. She was lucky to have her mom's, her aunt's, and teachers' help to help Temple through the hard times. Being a visual learner, Temple has a memory which retains visual pictures in her head like a CD. She has a video library in her head with all of her memories. She uses these videos to create livestock design projects and humane facilities for cattle.

Temple has always identified with animals, in their thinking and their behavior. As a child, she was like an animal that had no instincts to guide her; She learned by trial and error. All her life, she has been an observer, always on the outside. Temple did not know how to calm herself when she was young. She hated being hugged; It was too overwhelming. Temple, craving pressure to calm her down, designed a device, much like a cattle squeeze chute that she saw at her aunt's ranch in Arizona. She would lie in the squeeze chute and start to play with the pressure that would give her the most comfort. For the first time, Temple became relaxed, calm, and serene. This was Temple's first connection between cows and herself. (Cows relax in these squeeze chutes before they receive vaccinations).

Temple described fully how the fear impulses that autistic people feel are much like the same fear impulses that cattle and animals feels. Animals flee when they see predators. Cattle and sheep have supersensitive hearing. High-pitched sounds are disturbing to them. The same kinds of sounds that upset cattle are the same kinds of sounds that are unbearable to many autistic children with overly sensitive hearing.

With a cow's view and her connection to animals, Temple has helped improve the treatment of animals before slaughter. But even more than this being her legacy of which she is most proud, Temple helps teachers understand the importance of understanding autistic children:

"Teachers need to help autistic children develop their talents. I think there is too much emphasis on deficits and not enough emphasis on developing abilities. For example, ability in art often shows up at an early age." Autistic people's fixations can be their way to achieve some social life and friends. A fascination with computers and programming can provide social contacts with other computer people. Problems that autistic people have with eye contact and awkward gestures are not visible on the Internet. The computer world is a way for autistic people to not have to spend so much time concentrating on trying to talk normally.

I had no idea that Einstein had, and Bill Gates has, a form of autism. There are so many variations of autism. Temple was helped by people, and later on with medication. She lectures and writes books. I was very moved by Temple's life, her perspectives, her unique brilliance, and her willingness to share her life with others.

Profile Image for Fab2k.
401 reviews
October 10, 2008
I give this book one star. I know most people will probably disagree strongly with me, but I found this to be a difficult and tedious read. While I admire Temple for her talent, ingenuity, courage and determination in pursuing her education and career goals, I find her writing to be all over the place, rambling, difficult to follow and limited- in that she makes sweeping generalizations about autistic people, based on her own personal experience of course. What she fails to realize is that not all autistic people are like her! Not all autistic people are visual learners, they all *don't* 'think in pictures'...This is of course, one of the ironies with autistics: their own theory of mind issues come in to play in their writing about autism. If you want to read a good book written by someone with autism/aspergers, read Born on A Blue Day, by Daniel Tammet, or Asperger Syndrome, the Universe and Everything, by a delightful boy named Kenneth Hall. There are many others too.
12 reviews1 follower
February 17, 2010
Saw her on C-Span in an hour and a half long sit down w/Steve. It's still up. Moved me to tears, am dyslexic, and loved her characterization of our difficulties. She's a treasure. Too many of my friends have born children who are somewhere on the spectrum. I've been promoting her, and gifting her books to them, in hopes that they'll hear her central message, which is:
people on the spectrum only ever get better.
Profile Image for George Ilsley.
Author 13 books208 followers
May 19, 2022
One of the best introductions to the topic of autism, written by an intelligent insightful insider. In her professional career Grandin has a special empathy for animals and is able to perceive the world from the viewpoint of other creatures—including other humans.

The concept 'thinking in pictures' has become almost a meme in today's society. That's how avant garde Grandin was. And whenever I see cats in costume falling over, I think of Grandin developing her hug box, which she found calming. Oh, Temple Grandin, science is on your side. (As her educated self already knows).

Here’s something Grandin revealed in a speech at the local SPCA: when she was younger she found the difference between dogs and cats confusing—she could only tell them apart by size (dogs big; cats small; small dogs were baffling … what on earth is that?)
Profile Image for Howard.
1,069 reviews63 followers
December 18, 2019
5 STARS for Thinking In Pictures: My Life With Autism (audiobook)by Temple Grandin read by Deborah Marlowe. Temple Grandin is really an amazing person. It’s fascinating to hear how her mind works. It’s inspiring to hear how she has influenced an industry. It’s fascinating to understand how she visualizes everything. I have a bit of that but she is really on another level. I was fortunate enough to get to see her presentation at a local bookstore many years ago. I’m fascinated by how different people think. There is much more diversity of thought than we realize.
Profile Image for Nikki.
76 reviews2 followers
May 9, 2012
I was expecting more of a memoir, but this really ended up being Ms. Grandin's opinion on different aspects of autism with her own experiences only sprinkled in. It was difficult to get through the more technical aspects of the book and it was frustrating how often information was repeated. There were points that were interesting and I do feel like I have a better handle on autism in general, but that just wasn't what I was expecting when I decided to read this book.

If you are curious about autism and want to know Ms. Grandin's specific stance on issues related to autism then you should read this book. If you are looking for more of a memoir, this isn't what you want.
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
801 reviews2,502 followers
July 2, 2011
Temple Grandin's book "Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports from My Life with Autism" is certainly a unique book. Grandin writes in simple, understandable prose about how she and others with autism cope with life. She describes the difficulties she has had with social encounters, and how she has learned how to relate to others on an intellectual, rather emotional level. Grandin has a Ph.D. in animal science. She has made a career of designing equipment for handling livestock.

Grandin describes how she thinks "in pictures" rather than "in words", and how that casts a strong influence on how she deals with life. She thinks that this type of thinking is probably analogous to how animals think. She describes how she gets into the minds of cattle, and finds ways to help them humanely and with respect. Grandin also has a strong philosophical bent; she describes how she thinks about the killing of animals for the meat industry.

The book is a bit repetitive and not well organized; that is the only reason why I have not given it 5 stars. The only part of the book that was a bit boring to me was a chapter in the middle, about various medications used for autism. Toward the end of the book, she discussing a wide range of interesting scientific topics--like Maxwell's demon, and the relation between quantum mechanics and neurons--and various famous individuals who may have had some mild autistic traits (Einstein, Sagan, Feynman to name a few).
Profile Image for Lisa.
276 reviews7 followers
September 10, 2008
The tragedy of this book is that even as Temple Grandin's crusade to help slaughter farm animals humanely led to many changes, I tend to doubt these changes are still in effect. Particularly management imparting a sense of care and concern for the animals. I live near a plant she designed. This plant, until a year ago, was staffed by many illegal immigrants. Many of the current staff are Monolinguals (non-English). And some from cultures that do not revere (and in fact mutilate)female human beings, let alone respect animals. Feel-good people reading this may be offended, but it is the truth and these are people I deal with every day. I could, because I do business with this plant, probably take a tour if I wanted to. But I'm too gutless (no pun intended). Temple Grandin's description of kosher slaughter is extremely disturbing, and I'm giving four stars for the last two chapters alone. The rest of the book was, sadly, in need of guidance or editing. There was, as mentioned in other reviews, endless repetition. She did good work. I wonder if anyone ever bothers to check that it's being continued.
Profile Image for Stephen.
8 reviews1 follower
August 15, 2012
I have to admit, I didn't read this book because I particularly wanted to. As a parent of an autistic child, many well-meaning people will ask, "Do you know about Temple Grandin?" I initially picked up the book just so I could say that I was familiar with her, and had read some of her work. I didn't expect to actually enjoy the book as much as I did. Dr. Grandin writes in a very straight forward, no nonsense fashion that I really found easy to follow. She does a fantastic job of explaining how her thought processes work, and how it may be similar to other people on the autistic spectrum. Since autism is such a wide spectrum disorder, much of what she writes about simply doesn't match my daughter at all, however some of the behaviors and idiosyncrasies that Dr. Grandin describes match pretty closely, and gave me a little insight as to how my daughter may be feeling during times of stress. I think this is a very good source for someone seeking insight and understanding of those on the autistic spectrum.
Profile Image for Alex.
149 reviews14 followers
May 18, 2016
This is a good, not great, book. So why 4-stars and not 3? The subject matter. I have never seen someone better walk through Autism and the way autistic people think and relate it so clearly to the way "normal" folks think.

If you're interested in how people think (which I am) or you simply know someone with Autism, then this book is a must-read. Temple Grandin lays out her book in a series of essays that hit topics like: the different kinds of ways people think, and in-depth look at Visual Thought, sensory issues that people with autism go through, how autistic people perceive emotions, the kind of jobs an autistic person is good at, the kind of relationships they can have, and so much more.

Peppered throughout is Temple Grandin's love of cows and other animals (but mostly cows). She's made her career helping ranchers, butchers, and milkers keep their animals calm and cooperative. It's interesting stuff, for sure.

So what drops this book down to "good" and not "great"? The writing style is somewhat awkward. Grandin does a good job explaining things, but she does it by taking this story and that story and this other story and just kind of telling them one after another. This, in all honesty, is a fantastic picture of what she's trying to explain to the non-autistic reader: people with autism think and process differently. This is how she processes this kind of information. But because of it, the book can feel disconnected at times and even within a single paragraph she jumps around in a way that left me wanting more from an earlier thread.

There is also no specific end to the book. It's just kind of over after the last essay which was somewhat awkward.

Still, the information here is invaluable. While I didn't take too many notes, I'm also not a father of an autistic child and am not very close with anyone who has autism. Were those things to change, I would pick this book back up and scour it inch-by-inch. But until that day, I'll simply think on the many insights Grandin has offered here in this book and hope it helps me become more gracious to those who think and perceive the world differently than me.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,844 reviews420 followers
November 24, 2019
It's not poetry but very readable, a simple yet thorough description of autism, life experiences and educated guesses about how the wiring of the brain has a cause and effect on its operations which can be reasonably catalogued and documented. The suggestions to reach the brain despite the wiring distortions for sensory perceptions were eye opening and educating. Very interesting.
Profile Image for Deanna Autumn.
116 reviews21 followers
July 11, 2021
Memorable quote:

"The mountains are pretty, but they don't give me a special feeling, the feeling you seem to enjoy..." -Temple Grandin
Profile Image for Dawn.
356 reviews8 followers
December 2, 2008
This is a fascinating book written by a woman with high-functioning autism. Temple Grandin describes her life struggles and triumphs. Her unique way of thinking allows her to really identify with animals and to be able to look at situations from their point of view. This talent has allowed her to design very humane slaughterhouses for cattle. She has revolutionized the cattle industry in the US with her designs, which are also being widely copied. Grandin has an analytical mind and earnest feelings. She examines herself, autism, and her world. I learned a lot from this book. I kept thinking about my friends who have children with autism, Asbergers, and other such conditions. I really liked the way this book unlocked some of their world. Grandin's example encourages us to value people in all their complexity and variety and to seek to understand them better. She said: "I don't want my thoughts to die with me. I want to have done something ... I want to know that my life has meaning ... I'm talking about things at the very core of my existence." What an amazing woman!
279 reviews
August 19, 2016
I hope you all aren't disappointed but I am so in awe of Temple Grandin after reading this book that I can't find the words to express it. What an awesome woman she is, we can all learn a great deal from her. On to the next book!
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,451 reviews1 follower
January 24, 2018
This is clearly the best in the catalog of Temple Grandin who is a star performer on the circuit of parent conferences on Autism. It provides an inspirational tale of the struggles of an intelligent woman and a very courageous mother. Only buy this book if you attend a conference and can get it autographed.
Profile Image for Paul Sánchez Keighley.
148 reviews89 followers
September 21, 2021
I get the feeling that most people are pointed to Temple Grandin's books because they are related or close to somebody on the spectrum. Nothing wrong with that, she is a positively inspirational person, but it is also in part a shame because I think this book should be recommended to a much wider variety of people. Those interested in the human mind, animal rights, religion and even industrial design will all get a kick out of this book.

Grandin was one of the first autistic people to write a first-person account of what it is like to inhabit an autistic mind, and now that I understand the way her mind works (pretty much what is says on the cover: she thinks in pictures) I can appreciate what a monumental task that must have been for her.

But, as I mentioned earlier, the book is about a lot more than her "life with autism". She has an extraordinary affinity with animals (whom she finds easier to read or understand than people) and has channelled that acute sense of empathy into her career, designing more humane infrastructures for industrial slaughterhouses. There is a delicious contradiction in this that she is glad to unpack. True to stereotype, she is often blunt in her statements, but the picture she paints is one of moral clarity in harmony with logical conviction. I don't want to spoil it because her reflections on these subjects were, to me, some of the most interesting parts of the book.

The book is, understandably, not linear. Because her thinking is associative, the book is also structured associatively. Each chapter contains a mishmash of memories, research and reflections centred around a unifying theme. As a result, it is sometimes repetitive; anecdotes that have already been told keep resurfacing with undeserved momentum in later sections. There are also points where I can almost see the hands of the editor desperately pulling the brakes on her train of thought, as it risks careening completely off-topic.

As a final disclaimer, don't go into this expecting anything up-to-date or authoritative on the subject of autism. It's great as a self-portrait and, for the reader, as an exercise in empathy, but the science is dated. What little we know about the spectrum has only really been defined over the last 30 years or so, and that even this is being constantly being scratched and redraughted. The book is from the nineties and this edition contains several post-scriptums added in the early noughties, but even the latter have at this point often been debunked or put into question.
Profile Image for Mark miller.
26 reviews10 followers
August 14, 2012
The book is about Temple Grandin and living with autism. She is really a remarkable and amazing person. She was able to receive a Ph.D in Animal Science and currently an associate professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University. She frequently lectures about autism. Many people don't understand autism, so in effect they are afraid of it. People and scientists work on finding a cure for the "disease", which in my opinion it is not a disease but a natural progression of evolution.Many individuals with high-functioning autism or Asperger's feel that autism is a normal part of human diversity. There is study of genetics that most people are unfamiliar with; epigenetics. Thus epigenetic can be used to describe anything other than DNA sequence that influences the development of an organism. It occurs much faster than the usual DNA sequence changes which evolve over long periods of time. Most epigenetic changes only occur within the course of one individual organism's lifetime and does not necessarily pass on to the next generation, like jumping genes. I believe autism is a result of Darwinian evolution. Humans have the highest variability in genes to adapt to so many different and changing contexts of environment. Out of all the animals in the world humans have the greatest number of instincts, yes instincts. One of the most profound mysteries of autism has been the remarkable ability of most autistic people to excel at visual spatial skills while performing poorly at verbal and social skills. She thinks in pictures! Francis Galton, in Inquiries into Human Faculty and Development, wrote that while some see vivid mental pictures, for others" the idea is not felt to be mental pictures, but rather symbols of facts. In people with low pictorial imagery, they would remember their breakfast table but they could not see it. The autistic mind is really more like a computer than anything else. An autistic child will often use a word in an inappropriate manner. For example, an autistic child might use the word "dog" when wanting to go outside. The word "dog" is associated with going outside. There are so many unique and interesting personal stories in this book it is difficult to describe. If you are interested in human development and yourself I highly recommend this book for you.
158 reviews
September 9, 2016
This is a hard book for me to rate. There were parts I really liked and some that I had to skim through. Overall, I am incredibly impressed by Temple Grandin and I enjoyed learning more about autism through the eyes of someone who lives with it. I enjoyed discussing it with my book group, though our discussions veered off to real life experiences quite often. I would have liked to have learned a bit more about her family, but I guess since personal relationships are often difficult for people with autism, it should make sense that the book didn't focus on her family life. I was impressed by those who served as mentors to Temple and patiently helped her reach her potential. God bless them! We could use many more people in this world that take interest in helping others along the way. Especially those who think and act differently than we do. I am glad that Temple has said: “If I could snap my fingers and be nonautistic, I would not. Autism is part of what I am.” If the book is just too much... at least watch the movie Temple Grandin!
Profile Image for Hannah.
631 reviews48 followers
December 6, 2020
This was partially a memoir and partially a science and experience-based examination and comparison of people with autism and animals. I would recommend it more to people who enjoy science nonfiction or books that study autism than I would to people who read memoirs regularly. That being said, I found Grandin's book very fascinating and her insights well worth reading. I listened to the audiobook with updates from 10 years after the original publication, but even that is dated information of studies on the autism spectrum. This was a good beginning, and I'll definitely be reading more books about the autism spectrum and where we are with those studies now.
Profile Image for Bethany.
775 reviews12 followers
December 27, 2010
Highly recommend! One of the top reads of 2010. My son was diagnosed with autism earlier this year and I felt like this was a great way to get some insight to the way that he thinks. In a world where it seems that everyone is looking for the magic "cure" for autism, I was glad to read that Temple wouldn't change a thing. Autism is a part of my son's entire being and personality. Gave me a lot of hope that he will lead a successful and happy life as an adult doing something that he loves. "Different, not less"
887 reviews5 followers
April 13, 2010
Since I have two grandsons who are autistic, I was interested in learning more. Temple Grandin seemed very honest, educated and sincere in her appraisal of autisim. Because I basically "think in only words," I had difficulty seeing how Temple and other autistics think. However, the book was extremely enligthening. I hope to be able to use some of things I learned in working with and understanding my grandsons.
Profile Image for Greta Cribbs.
Author 7 books34 followers
June 16, 2018
Where to start with this book?

First of all, I read this just after having finished Ms. Grandin's first book, Emergence. I loved that book for its unique insight into the world of autism, a world that, despite all the research and the push for awareness that has happened in the years since the book was written, is still highly misunderstood. I suppose the only people who are interested in knowing about it are the people who are personally affected by it, so the rest of the world carries on in blissful ignorance.

If you read Emergence, and then move on the Thinking in Pictures, the first thing you will notice is a level of detail that was not present in that first book. Emergence was simply a glimpse of the world through the eyes of a woman with autism. There's some science, yes, but for all intents and purposes, the book is basically a memoir. Thinking in pictures is partially a memoir, but it's also a whole lot more. There is a level of detail that shows just how much research the author did before sitting down to write it. Rather than simply an account of her own experience with autism, the book is a fountain of information for anyone, whether they be on the spectrum, raising children on the spectrum, or teaching children on the spectrum, to use and gain insight into what works and what does not work when it comes to helping people with autism achieve their full potential.

Temple Grandin recognizes the limitations of autism, and is well aware that those on the lower functioning end of the spectrum may never even become fully verbal. However, she has made it her life's work (or part of her life's work) to show the world that individuals with high-functioning autism are capable of much more than people think, and she has made great effort to inform people of the importance of good educational programs and the need to push these young people to do their best so that they, like Ms. Grandin herself, can grow up and make their mark in the world. I share her dream and hope that by reviewing this book I have contributed in some small way to her mission.

On a personal level, this book was simply a delight to read. Reading the final chapter, in which she waxes philosophical and discusses her beliefs about God and where we go when we die, felt like reading the ramblings of my own mind. She and I share a belief that science and faith do not have to conflict. We even share the experience of finding evidence for the existence of a creator in the second rule of thermodynamics. I had that particular epiphany back in college, and experienced the pleasure of having loads of people look at me like I was nuts every time I talked about it, so imagine my happy shock when I read this book and discovered that someone else thinks about God in much the same way I do.

I am very much looking forward to reading more of Temple Grandin's books and seeing what other insights she has into not just autism but the world in general.
Profile Image for Emma Yergin.
31 reviews
July 1, 2022
A lot of facts and research and studies and not a lot of reflection or memoir type content, but I guess I should have expected that. Still an interesting read but not for everyone
Profile Image for Suzy.
72 reviews
December 19, 2008
One of the theories about people on the autism spectrum is that they lack "theory of mind." Wikipedia defines that as: "the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own." But the more I read about autism and spend time with children on the spectrum, the more I become convinced that we could as easily say that the world lacks the ability to understand THEIR minds (and the minds of animals, which Grandin has an uncanny ability to understand). This book is the work of an extraordinary mind and heart and soul. Grandin, a renowned animal scientist who has autism, is gifted at describing the workings of her own mind and clearly understands how her thinking differs from (and sometimes is superior to) a "typical" mind. I have never read another book like this one; the point of view is truly new to me, and wonderful. She makes clear the difficulties of her life, while celebrating the joys of her visual mind. Reading lots of books on autism spectrum disorder, while at the same reading Buddhist teachings, I've often been struck by their parallels, particularly in living in the present and in a world without words. I've wondered as I've watched a child on the spectrum smile to him or herself if it was possible that s/he was in some way meditating. I was therefore delighted to read about Grandin experiencing what she refers to as a "Zen meditational state" and (in a mirror image of my wondering) speculating that "Maybe the monks who chant and meditate are kind of autistic." While other people have a hard time reconciling her understanding and love of animals with her work--she has designed one-third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States and focuses on humane slaughtering--she sees no such moral dichotomy. She has little fear of death and wants to prevent suffering, but it goes beyond that for her. She sees us as partners in the cycle of life--in return for a decent life safe from predators, with adequate food and shelter and the ability to breed, the animal is willing to be domesticated as a food source. She considers the death of an animal "sacred," and wants the slaughter ritual, common in many cultures, to be brought into our system to help prevent abuse and to restore the dignity of animals. "The ritual could be something very simple, such as a moment of silence. In addition to developing better designs and making equipment to insure the humane treatment of all animals, that would be my contribution. No words. Just one pure moment of silence. I can picture it perfectly." I know people with loved ones on the spectrum would devour this book, but I think really it is for anyone interested in a glimpse of another way of thinking and being--another beautiful way. Maybe we can all develop a theory of many minds.
Profile Image for Camille.
206 reviews
January 12, 2017
{Sept. 2016 book group selection} I was not familiar with Temple Grandin before reading this book, nor had I ever thought I’d read something explaining the process of designing livestock-handling facilities(!), but I found this book both fascinating and eye-opening. I already knew that people who are autistic think differently than those who aren’t, but it was really interesting to read about Temple’s thought processes and the way she is able to picture things in her head and combine parts and pieces of other pictures to create something new, and even play the designs in her head like a video to catch potential flaws or problems. What a gift! I’m so impressed she was able to navigate her world well enough to finish school and find jobs that allowed her to utilize her unique talents and abilities, and I was touched by the people who helped and mentored her along the way during a time when autism was not nearly as well understood as it is now. I can’t imagine dealing with the sensory-overload issues that are part of many autistics’ lives and I will be more patient and understanding in the future with those on the spectrum that I teach or come in contact with in other ways. I also really enjoyed the section that talked about the link between genius and autism, and how if we eliminated all of the genes that make people autistic or manic-depressive or schizophrenic, our world would be full of a lot of boring people and the amount of creativity around us would drop dramatically. Everyone has talents…we need to come up with better ways of assisting children in recognizing their gifts and then helping them achieve their potential. I like this quote attributed (or misattributed) to Einstein: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (And just in case you ever want to use that quote for something but can only remember that it has something to do with a fish climbing a tree, you can find it by googling “fish tree Einstein”, which we did during our book group discussion. Haha)
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