Wednesday, May 18, 2005

50 Book Challenge #27: Thinking in Pictures

I read one book about autism for the challenge already, but Thinking in Pictures is a look at autism from the inside. Temple Grandin, the author, is a high-functioning autistic woman best known for her work in designing slaughterhouses. She lays out the way in which she and other autistics perceive the world in clear terms and in doing so forces the reader to analyze his own thought processes. Her visualization-based thinking, she believes, gives her special insight into the non-linguistic brains of the animals she works with. She also discusses her identification with Mr. Spock on Star Trek and her limited emotional life.

The best parts of the book are those which explain how radically different an autistic perception of the world can be. What looks like inexplicable or illogical behavior becomes a reasonable response to a life trapped in a body that provides sensory input in unusual and sometimes untrustworthy ways. The least interesting parts were Grandin's discussions of her own spirituality, but I confess to personal bias on this point.

If her latest book, Animals in Translation, had not been checked out, I would have read that instead. However, this book is worth checking out if you're interested in different modes of thinking and perception or in understanding autistic behavior.
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