I finally got a chance to watch Temple Grandin’s TED talk from 2010. I first heard about Temple Grandin a few years ago when I watched the HBO movie about her life. I found it interesting and insightful and I’ve wanted to learn more about her. I haven’t had a chance to read any of her books yet although they are on my reading list. She has a lot of interesting things to say about children on the spectrum as they get older and enter the workforce. Here are some of my takeaways:
She talks about specialist minds - brains that are really good at one thing, but bad at others. She mentions 3 different types of thinkers - photorealistic visual thinkers, pattern thinkers and the verbal mind. She noted that the different kinds of minds need to work together. I think this is so vital as children on the spectrum get older and are starting to enter the workforce. We need to play to their strengths and help them focus their unique talents.
She really emphasized the importance of reaching students, finding a hook for those types of brains, showing them interesting things because they will be able to do great things, but they need to have a spark, either through a subject or a teacher who inspires them. Some kids may have a fixation, use that to help them find that spark for learning. In order for children on the spectrum to find success as they get older, they need to be interested in learning.
She discussed the trade off between thinking and social. This is where a lot of kids on the spectrum struggle and need support. She highlighted the importance of social training and job skills training (need to show up on time, have good table manners, etc). She also mentioned practicing social interactions over shared interests. Finding a place where people like the same kind of things you like is a perfect arena for practicing conversation skills and perhaps even finding someone to hang out with at other places. Being able to interact socially with others is another key part of kids on the spectrum joining the work force.
Kids need structure and scaffolding to play, interact and make connections with others. These skills are key to helping children on the spectrum transition smoothly to adulthood and finding a fulfilling career.