Saturday, December 4, 2010

Emergence - Book Review

Emergence - Labelled Autistic: A True Story
By Temple Grandin
Arena Press 1986
Reissued by Warner Books, 1996 & 2005
Temple Grandin's Official Website

Everyone knows what Autism is, right?

Autism is that dreaded Neurological condition that we hope our kids don't get. And if they do - well you know your family is in for a constant struggle for the next 20 years.

One of the first things you learn if your child should ever be diagnosed as Austistic is that the child will regress from whatever they had learned at 18 months, and that they will never improve. Well, the good news is that the "experts" have now been proven well and truely WRONG.

In 1950 Temple Grandin was diagnosed as Autistic. She was almost 4 years old and had not spoken at all. Her mother was told to put Temple in an institution. She was told that Temple would never amount to anything so why waste money and time on her.

Like all autistic children, Temple had a fear of being touched and hugged by her parents and her family. She refused to be touched, because her nerves were so sensitive. At the same time, Temple wanted to be touched. She needed to be touched. But the touches that humans gave her were not the right kinds of touch.

So Temple invented and built a machine that would give her the touch that her body craved. She called it a Squeeze machine. It worked along similar lines to cattle chutes where cows are held by a chute for vaccinations and dipping.

Temple craved steady pressure all along her body - something that human arms and legs cannot give. She had to start over several times, in designing and making this machine, because the college where she was studying, assumed the squeeze machine was a bad thing. The faculty's thinking implied that the machine was giving her orgasms. Masturbation in the 1960s and 1970s was considered a very bad thing to do. Temple eventually graduated from college with a degree in Psychology, and a Masters in Animal Science in the 1960s. She later went on to do a PhD in Animal Science in the 1980s. 

Temple is now a Livestock expert. She designs cattle chutes for cattle in feedlots, abbatoirs (slaughterhouses) and on the ranches and farms. Why does she do this? Because she empathises with cows as they are slaughtered. Stressed and bruised meat is NOT good for human consumption. So the aim is to keep the cow happy (de-stressed) right up to the moment of death.

Last year (2009) a  TV movie was made about Temple's life. Called simply Temple Grandin, it starred Claire Danes as Temple. This movie won 7 Emmy awards in August 2010.
Best Made-for-Television Movie,
Best Director, Mick Jackson
Best Lead Actress, Claire Danes
Best Supporting Actress, Julia Ormond
Best Supporting Actor, David Strathairn
Best Music Composition, 
Best Camera Editing

This is Claire Danes (left) and Temple Grandin (right) at the Emmy Awards in August 2010.

If you really want to have some idea of what it is like to be Autistic, then I suggest you watch this movie. It is a stunning movie. It is funny in places, and it is sad too. But above all, it brings hope to all autistic children and their familes that autism can be conquered - even if it cannot be cured.

Temple has written several books. I hope to read the next volume in her life story soon. It's called Thinking in Pictures.

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