7/10/2013 6:00:00 AM Library book explores autism research
BLYTHE - Last week, in Permanent Present Tense, we introduced you to Henry Molaison who underwent brain surgery in an attempt to cure, or greatly reduce, his petit and grand mal seizures. The surgery went haywire, leaving Henry with the inability to remember anything in the present.
This week's book, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, updates the reader on new research into mental disorders, assigning new names to new sub-sets that are now carved out of a former generic whole. Autism and Asperger syndrome are now officially recognized sub-sets, gaining acceptance as separate entities in the 1970s and '80s. Autistic minds are not broken; they just didn't grow properly.
Temple Grandin was diagnosed autistic when she was in grade school. She excelled in some venues but totally bombed out in others. She is a visual thinker, seeing in her mind pictures much as an artist would envision his rendition of a painting.
But she uses object visual thinking that enables her to visualize what would happen if an accident took place. An example: she can see accidents before they happen. When reading the description of the Japanese tsunami catastrophe of 2011 she could see the water flowing into the plant, flooding not only the main generator but the backup generator as well.
She could "see" the emergency generator, which was located in the basement, disappearing into the sea, a flaw that no engineer had caught. Temple uses this unique ability to visualize accidents waiting to happen when going over blueprints of buildings under construction or placement of air bags in a car.
Grandin describes how the brain can be trained to perceive images where before there was no sight. She shares pictures of her brain against a "normal" brain, and explains the significance of the deviations. And with her busy schedule of lectures and classroom teaching demonstrates that it is possible to have a career and support yourself even if you have a mental handicap.
Grandin tells us, "If even the experts just can't stop thinking about what is wrong instead of what could be better, how can we expect the families who are dealing with autism on a daily basis to think any differently? Neuroanatomy isn't destiny, neither is genetics. They don't define who you will be. But they do define who you might be. They do define who you can be."
Any person who works with children should read this book. It is filled with information and insights that would make you a better teacher, parent or mentor, and make it easier for the child to grow up and function as a responsible adult. At the end of the book there is a test you can take to find out how you rank mentally.
The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum can be found on the non-fiction new book shelf at the Palo Verde Valley Library under 616.85 GRAND.
The Palo Verde Valley Library is at the corner of Chanslorway and Broadway in Blythe. Look for the big pine tree on the northwest corner.
The library opens each day except Sunday at 10 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m., except on Saturday when it closes at 4 p.m. The library is closed on Sunday. There is a parking lot behind the library for your safety as you exit and enter your car.