Challenging the Autistic Mind

In this Ted talk, Temple Grandin discusses the anomaly that is her thinking process. Grandin explains that she “thinks in pictures.” From a very young age this was how she went about life and she assumed her peers thought the same. She eventually came to see that this was not how everyone else thought, but that it was not a problem it was a strength. 

One concept that she could not grasp in school was algebra but she wasn’t allowed to skip to geometry and trig. She claims this is a flaw in the educational system. She speaks about how there are many different kind of thinking processes and minds. Those who are photo realistic visual thinkers like her may be poor at algebra but they strive at categorizing images. Some people have pattern thinking minds which means they excel at math and music but might struggle with reading. And then there are verbal minds who do not excel at drawing but know every fact given to them. Grandin makes the point that the world needs every different kind of minds to work together. She makes it very clear that these minds need to be developed and starting at a young age children need to be exposed to all different subjects to see what they can personally excel at. Those who are detail oriented, which is very common in those with autism, should be studying to become engineers where they can focus on every mechanism and detail of constructing a bridge.

Grandin then begins to speak of a science teacher she once had that left an impact on her. He challenged her and showed her interesting things that really sparked her imagination and individual thinking process. Grandin makes it a point to say that teachers and our community today need to think about these different kind of minds and we need to foster to them, we need them to develop and these kids need to see what they are capable of. Their potential is mind-blowing and they are needed in our future undoubtedly. She explains that the “autistic mind tends to be fixated” but we need to use that fixation and adapt it. If a child loves legos, guide them to start building different kind of structures. Use the fixation to motivate the child. They love race cars? Use it in math; the race car drives 18 laps that are 400 feet each, how many miles is that? As a teacher, you need to adapt your lessons to them and cater to their specific learning styles.

This Ted Talk really engrained the point in my mind that I need to cater to all of my future student’s specific needs and learning styles/ thinking processes. It is imperative to adapt your lessons for all students and for different types of disabilities. A child with autism might think differently than a child with down syndrome, therefore I need to teach it differently so they both understand in their own way. Teaching styles are evolving and that goes hand in hand with technology. A teacher must develop Technological Pedagogical Knowledge, also referred to as TPK. “TPK is an understanding of how teaching and learning can change when particular technologies are used in particular ways.” TPK is the process of altering your teaching, lessons, and use of technology for each student and the way they learn. As Grandin stated, there are all different kinds of minds. At an elementary level you can implement as iPad into your classroom, but each student should not use it in the same way because they do not all learn in the same manner. For the photo realistic visual thinkers, use an app that works on identifying shapes and classifying them. For the pattern mind, try simple versions of Sudoku so they can work on visually mapping out patterns of numbers, and for verbal minds maybe use a narrated app that can read text and facts on the math that was and is used to construct monuments like the pyramids or the London bridge. What is important is to then at the end of the lesson, tie together how these three different activities and learning processes can work in synchrony. That they all have their strengths and weaknesses but together they are unstoppable.


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