Temple Grandin "The World Needs All Kinds of Minds"

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 16.03.2012

>>Male Presenter: And, welcome. I'm Aditia and I'm here on behalf of the Personal Growth
Washington Group. And also in partnership with Optimize Your Life. That's OYL. You can
find them at go/oyl.
And we're proud to bring to you today Dr. Temple Grandin. Who I believe most of you
probably are already familiar with. So she's Professor of Animal Studies at Colorado State
University. And a world renowned expert in animal welfare. Particularly in the agriculture
industry. And on autism advocacy.
So we're really happy to have her today. And thanks for joining us. And with that I'll
present Dr. Grandin.
>>Temple Grandin: Well, it's really good to be here today. And let's just start talking
a little bit about what autism is. Autism is a developmental disorder. And it varies
from very severe when there's no speech to very, very mild, where it just merges into
a personality variant. And when you get into the very mild you will have Steve Jobs, and
you will have Einstein. He had no speech 'til he was three. Nikola Tesla who invented the
electric power plant. So at one end of the spectrum it's probably just a personality
Other end of the spectrum, a very, very severe handicap. And if you were to get rid of all
of the genetics that makes autism, well, probably anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the people
that work here. You're not gonna get any new employees. It's gonna be just that simple.
And there's many other people in Silicon Valley that I know are on the spectrum. Big names
but I won't mention them by name 'cause they're still living. And all of the information I've
gotten on Steve Jobs has come from publicly available sources like the book, Business
Week Magazine, and other sources. He was a kid that had a lot of problems in school.
He was teased. And he had to switch to another school. He was very lucky to go into the Cupertino
Valley High School, where there was lots of other tech people. And people doing interesting
things in their garage. And he got into a computer club. You know, we're gonna look
at how do we get some of these kids that are kinda floundering around, into really good
Well, it's through shared interests. The way Steve Jobs got into the industry was getting
into a computer club. Other people with similar, like interests. And the genetics of autism
is real complicated. It's a whole lot of little tiny small gene variations. And as you have,
people get married and have kids and the more it concentrates, the more likely you are to
get autism. In its mild form, it can give you an advantage. In it's very severe form,
a lot of problems. And one of the big problems that educators have is a lot of special educators,
they're well trained to work with the more severe kids. But they don't know what to do
with the smart math geek kids. Lucky ones, they'll get off into advanced placement. The
unlucky ones, they'll make 'em drill 'em over and over and over again, over and over again
on the same stuff. And they're going to get really bored and they're gonna hate school.
And that's not gonna be a good thing. Around here, I know that a lot of the companies around
here reach out to the high schools. But then I go out to the Midwest and I see smart kids
that ought to be working here. And they're going absolutely no where. They're getting
addicted to video games. And they're ending up on Social Security in the basement playing
video games. And if they were getting programming jobs. Designing video games that'd be one
thing. But that's where a lot of them are just simply aren't going there.
Now I want you to think about different ways of thinking. You know, most of, a lot of people
here, you're mathematical thinkers. And I am an extreme visual thinker. And I wanna
talk about how different kinds of minds can work together on projects. 'Cause there are
different ways of thinking. I've done a lot of work with animals. And being an extreme
visual thinker helped me. Because to understand animal, you gotta totally get away from verbal
language. It's a world of pictures. A world of sound. A world of little detailed sensory
sensations. It's not abstract.
Now when Van Gogh painted "Starry Night", I don't think he realized that he was painting
mathematics into "Starry Night." You see, underneath language, there's all the fun stuff.
Mathematics, art, things like that. And some statisticians got a hold of this and found
mathematics in it. There's also a type of Alzheimer's where as the person's frontal
cortex and language parts of the brain get wrecked, visual thinking comes out. And this
painting was done by somebody with Alzheimer's. And then eventually the whole brain is trashed.
And then you've got thinking in details. You see, the kind of thinking that I have is bottom
up. I form concepts by putting specific pictures into file folders in my brain. Everything
is learned by specific example. Rather than having a big overriding theory. So this is
kind of a classic gestalt test. And the person on the spectrum, they can identify the little
letters a lot faster than the big letters.
Now there's some fascinating research that shows that the normal brain drops out details.
Well, you know in programming, details are really important. Things are not gonna work.
So if you take somebody on the autism spectrum and you put them in a scanner. And you have
them read out of a book, the scanner gets all turned on in the part of the brain where
the words are processed. Take the Asperger, which is this milder autism. And put 'em in
there. You get the syntax, the whole, and the detail of the words. But then you take
the normal person. Guess what happens. You lose all the detail of the words. Now one
of the big problems we have today in trying to work on policy and a lot of things, is
you've got policy makers now that have totally gotten separated from the ground. From the
real things out there on the ground. Out there in a physical world. The physical world is
where I work.
I don't understand what you do in programming. But I understand things like, you've got a
big valve and there's a solenoid to turn that valve. Is that valve gonna work or is it stuck
because it's been sitting there for five years and has never been turned? That's the kinda
stuff I understand. And I was asked in previous section if there's any things that I'm concerned
about. Where we could have major screw ups.
Lemme tell you right now. The power grid security. That's one of 'em. And the other big one is
somebody wants to make an all electronic car with electronic brakes. I'm not very big on
that. I think there's certain things that I want made the old fashioned way. Brakes
that work no matter what. Steering where I can still steer and I can turn the whole thing
off if I absolutely have to. I'm sure everybody heard about how they, the Israeli intelligence
agency hacked into the Iran nuclear centrifuges and made 'em run really fast so they destroyed
themselves. And that was run off a standard industrial controller.
Well, how can I avoid to have that not happen to a power plant? And spin a power plant too
fast and break it? Well, how about an old fashioned '50s style control. Goes too fast,
it shuts down. It gets too hot, it shuts down. In other words, some controls where a computer
has absolutely nothing to do with it. To make sure that something bad doesn't happen. And
the thing is, I don't understand that computer stuff. But I understand a lot of the old physical
And we're gonna get into some other examples of that.
Now right here, when I first started my work with cattle, I noticed that sometimes the
cattle would go up the chute. And sometimes they wouldn't. Well, why wouldn't they go
into this veterinary facility? Because the flag was there waving. Sometimes the most
obvious is the least obvious. They wanna rip up the whole facility rather than simply move
the flag. It's so obvious.
Alright. Let's think about some more things. The Japanese nuclear power plant accident.
I read everything I could find about that. And I'm going "How could they have done this?"
How could they have let four reactors burn up? Because they live by the sea. And they
put the emergency generators that run the really important cooling pump that keeps the
plant from blowing up, in the basement. So when the seawall was breached, the basement
filled up full of water. Guess what happens. Electric power boards, diesels. They do not
work under water. And that's why four nuclear power plants melted down.
Well, I'm now beginning to find out that the problem is, they really didn't see it. I can't
design a nuclear power plant. But I can visualize all kinds of physical things that could go
wrong. Like generators getting flooded. I wouldn't make that mistake.
Let's look at another mistake, that the visual thinker can discover. Airbags killin' babies
and children. OK. So you follow the spec. It's gotta hold an adult man with no seatbelt.
Well, then it kills babies. And I wouldn't have made that mistake either. But I'm really
beginning to think that there's different kinds of minds. And the problem is, they just
didn't see it.
OK, and my cattle work. Look at how that animal like walked right onto that sunbeam. It seems
so obvious when you look at that picture. But it wasn't obvious. And when I first started
working on this, I talked about these things. And this was back in the early '70s. people
thought I was crazy. To even think about what a cattle was looking at. So I'd get down the
chutes and I'd see, what are the animals seeing? Down in the chutes? Look at the shadows. I
always get asked, do the cattle know they're gonna get slaughtered? That's a question I
had to answer very early in my career.
And not gonna show any slaughter pictures. Don't worry. I, and, I found they behaved
the same way at the Swift Plant as they behaved at a veterinary chute out on a ranch or a
feed yard. No. They are afraid of things like, it's too dark. There's a reflection on a piece
of metal. There's a puddle. They can see people walkin' by. And if you get rid of these distractions,
then they walk right up the chute. No. They were afraid of visual things that they saw.
Well, let's look at things like which way is the animal pointing its ears? That seems
pretty obvious. But sometimes things that are obvious aren't all that obvious.
OK. What exactly is photo realistic visual thinking? It's pictures in your head like
movies. Just a picture a young autistic man sent to me to show how he has movies in his
head. And those are 16 millimeter movie reels. Those are really, really dated. And one thing
I liked in the HBO movie is they showed all my projects accurately. I actually did build
that optical illusion room. Well, I wouldn't have gotten interested in things like that
if I hadn't had a science teacher expose me to those things.
Now let's think about different kinds of thinking. And when I wrote my book my early book, "Thinking
In Pictures", I realized my thinking was different when I asked people about church steeples.
Think about a church steeple. How does it come into your mind? I was shocked to find
out that most people get this vague generalized one. I always see specific ones. My concept
of what a church steeple is, is a whole bunch of different pictures of specific ones.
How did I figure out that a dog was not a cat. Well, kind of I just sorted them by size.
But then when our next door neighbors got a dachshund, I had to figure, why wasn't a
dachshund a cat? Well, I looked at her nose. And the nose was the visual feature that every
dog had that was different from the cats. No cat had a dog's nose. So then I can even
put the little dachshund in the dog file folder.
Well, it kinda just flashed up in my mind that churches do. Sort of like Google for
images. And they just come up in my mind. These still pictures. You see, nothing is
abstract for me. Everything is specific. Would you like a snowstorm? Would you like a rainstorm?
Would you like a wedding procession? I can give you that. I can pull it up out of memory
and put that in the picture.
Now being this kind of visual thinker helped me in my livestock stuff, 'cause I could actually
test run equipment. And now I'm thinking about right now, I'm seeing, I'm kind of imagining
this picture. This poor Japanese guy. He's up on some catwalk and he's looking down at
the drowned generators and he's going, I don't know what the F--- word is in Japanese. But
he's going "We're in so much trouble right now. It's not funny."
Now you might wonder why is this curved? Cattle have a knack for behavior to go back to where
they come from, that's why it's curved. Half the cattle in this country are handled in
the equipment I designed. I think that's doing pretty good for somebody they thought was
mentally retarded. Because when I got into my 20s, I had gigantic motivation to prove
to people I wasn't stupid. Now let's say you take some of these kids, kinda geeky. You
know they're on the mild end of the autism spectrum. And they've gotten labeled with
autism. Often times parents and teachers don't make 'em do enough stuff.
I'm seeing kids that are smart graduate from college and they don't know how to order food
at a restaurant. They don't know how to shop. They don't know how to do laundry. They don't
know how to shake hands. They don't know how to say please and thank you. They've got to
be taught these basic skills. Because you don't pick up the social things naturally.
You gotta be taught. Now in the '50s, all kids were taught. Really rigidly taught social
rules. So there's a lot of older people with Asperger's coming out of the woodwork now.
Because their son or their granddaughter or their grandson was diagnosed with Asperger's.
And now granddad or dad realizes he has it. I had a NASA space scientist come up to me,
it was about six weeks ago, and he had a grandson that was diagnosed with autism. And he said
"You know what? I've got it, too. And half the people in NASA have it." So I'm getting
concerned that some of our smartest people aren't going down the right track. Because
it takes a totally different kind of education to train the smart person on the spectrum
compared to somebody that's got very severe handicaps. And they're not gonna be working
at Google. You see it's a very very big spectrum. It's a continuous trait.
There's the dip vat they designed, they did for the movie. Which I originally designed
for John Wayne's feed yard. The John Wayne, the cowboy. And there's one of my drawings.
Now when you're a weird nerd, the only way I could sell myself was showing off my work.
And I remember going to an ag engineering meeting. And nobody wanted to talk to me 'cause
I was just like a crazy geeky weird lady. And I pulled out one of these drawings and
they were like "Oh, you did that? Oh, you did that?" You know, then I started to get
some respect. And that's how I sold projects. By showing my work. And this is another one
of my drawings. They actually put these drawings in the movie and that really turned me on.
Now I teach a class where I have students actually lay out cattle facilities. Where
they have to do an exercise in visual thinking. And one of the things you gotta learn is how
to relate the line on a drawing to the actual thing. The line on a drawing and then you've
got the thing. And that's something that took me a while to learn that. [inaudible] a great
big drawing of a whole entire Swift Plant. And I walked around that plant for two days
until every line on that drawing, I could relate to a real thing. Like this little tiny
square. It's a concrete column. This big round thing, that's the water tower. This big oval
thing is a big vat they salt cure the hides in. You know where everything, I could, 'cause
a drawing was kind of abstract. And I had to relate that to things that are real. So
I do the same thing with my students. But then I've noticed that a really weird thing
happens. I watched the industry. And I've done work for every major meat company. My
equipment's in every one of the major meat companies. And watching the industry going
from hand drawing, going into the mid '90s. Switching over to computers. And some weird
things started to happen. I started getting extremely weird mistakes on drawings. They
did not know where the center of a circle was.
They would have 25 foot long gates. I mean there's no way that's gonna work. The gates
would swing wrong. 'Cause they never actually used the compass. So I started tracking down
these drawings. And in every single case, they came from a young kid. Never built anything
with his hands. Never had done any drawing by hand. I had these drawings from every single
major meat company. Every single time, they came out of some young kid and the problem
is, to see things right, you gotta touch. There's a very interesting chapter that Oliver
Sachs wrote. About a man who got cataracts taken off as an adult.
And he looked at his dog and he didn't know what it was until he felt it. He had to feel
it in order to understand the image. Now I've talked to a number of the animation companies.
I've been out, I went out to Pixar. I went out to Disney Imaginary. Very very interesting
places. Boy let me tell you. Fun office at Pixar. I mean, they'll buy 'em tool sheds
at Home Depot and making them into offices. Really cool stuff there. But the other thing
that was interesting is this whole business that you have to touch in order to draw. Like
Buzz Lightyear starts out as pencil sketches on the wall. And then they also have a 3D
printer. So they can draw a 3D drawing and they can print out a little statue of the
character. And I noticed something really interesting about those little statues. Where
do you think they had the statues located? They were right there next to their computers.
So they could hold them and touch them. Get that touch feedback. So they wouldn't start
making weird mistakes on drawings.
What does a baby do? It touches everything. That's how it learns how to see. You know
now in the future, we can get things to where you get the real touch feedback then maybe
you don't have to be dealing with the real things. But I get concerned here. As I walk
through here. Everything is getting far away from the real things. OK. We're gonna connect
a computer up to a power plant. Give me an old '50s style governor hooked up to the main
disconnect switch. Because that baby spins too fast, I want it shut down. And I want
it with something where there's no way to hack it. 'Cause it ain't gonna have a computer
in it. Just gonna be that simple.
I think there's some very important life-critical things. And very expensive things that would
break. Things that maybe that a computer should have nothing to do with it. Now, it has to
do with a lot of other things, but not that stuff.
OK. When I was a little kid, I was good at drawing. This is a drawing that a nine year
old did in perspective. A big fan of building up the kid's area of strength. Because on
the autism spectrum, also with ADHD and dyslexia, you get a lot of crossover between these different
labels. Don't get hung up on your labels as to whether your kid's PDD, autism, maybe social
communication disorder. That's a new thing they're gonna put in the DMS5. Build up strengths.
You've got uneven skills. Build up the area of strength. Can't emphasize that enough.
Also diagnosis is not precise. It's a behavioral profile. It's not precise like a diagnosis
of tuberculosis is precise.
You got doctors sitting around in conference rooms, fighting each other on what the DMS5,
the next diagnostic guideline, should have. Nobody sits around a conference room and tries
to remake the diagnosis for meningitis or some disease like that. It's precise. Now
I used to joke around that I had a huge internet trunk line that went deep into my visual cortex.
Yes I do. Big huge graphics card there. Well, when I got these scans, it was like wow. This
would explain object realistic visual thinking that I had. Because to think about anything,
I gotta have a real picture in my mind. Now if somebody says to me, "OK, well think about
yummy food I just ate over there in the cafeteria." I see it. And it's going "Oh, wow, gourmet
this and that, this is really good."
Now another kind of mind is your minds. The mathematics mind. The pattern thinking mind.
The engineering mind. That does very well on things like traditional visual spatial
type tasks. Where you have to rotate patterns in space. I'm not good at that.
That praying mantis is made out of a single sheet of folded paper. No taping, no cutting.
What you see in the background is the folding pattern. That's certainly not my mind. That's
for sure.
Now this is an important slide. These are the kind of different kinds of minds. Now,
you know, so called normal people tend to be more even in the skills. But you get people
labeled with various labels, you tend to have uneven skills. And you can have extreme photo
realistic visual thinker like me. Can't do algebra. Can't do foreign language. Just impossible.
Then you get the pattern thinker. This is the music and math mind. That engineering
mind. Often times loves foreign languages. Because they can pick up the patterns in the
languages. I can't do that. And a common thing you can have happen, is you can have a little
fourth grader that's brilliant in math. And may need to be advanced ahead in math. But
he's going to need special ed in reading and writing composition. You don't wanna make
that kid just do baby math. You know, then you need to have some students from the seventh
grade come down and teach the kid how to do the more advanced kinds of math. Then you
have verbal thinkers. I think our society right now is getting taken over with too much
verbal thinking. One of the big problems I think we have now with a lot of policy makers
is everything's getting abstract. You've got students graduating in political science.
They go to Washington DC. They've never worked with anything practical on the ground. Well,
they don't think about "Well, if I do this policy how is it gonna affect something on
the ground, out there in the real world?"
Well, just to show there are different ways to do mathematics. And there are some people
who would say that algebra is a prerequisite for geometry. And I think that's just rubbish.
Because geometry was invented first. So how could it be the prerequisite for Algebra?
And education has an awful lot of big top down thinking. You know they get on these
fads. Well, actually what works the best is having a variety of schools. So that different
thinkers can get into educational programs that are gonna work for them. We need to be
having a lot more emphasis on what's a kid gonna do when he grows up?
You know, there's a shortage of things like diesel mechanics. Machinists. Some of the
very high skilled physical trades. There's a real shortage. We need these people. Well,
you certainly need 'em to make the power supplies for your Data Center. There's some heavy duty
hardware there. You're not gonna sit and make it on a computer, that's for sure.
This picture shows how this, how the autistic mind is sorting pictures into categories.
You see to understand a concept, I have to put specific examples into boxes in my mind.
A dog will do that, for example. When I'm on the leash, I protect my owner. When I'm
off the leash, I can go play. You see, that's a different picture. If you think about it
that way. It's different. A horse will do that. Man on the horse, man on the ground.
A horse views that as two totally different things. If he was treated badly by a rider.
He may have bucked you off when you tried to ride him. But he'll be really good about
doing shoeing and veterinary work. Because somebody on the ground never did anything
bad to him. Now I find that when people are doing troubleshooting. When they're trying
to figure out what's wrong with a piece of equipment. People have a hard time differentiating
between, is it a people training issue or is it a equipment design problem. And is it
a big equipment design problem, or is it just a glitch. You know like stuck trolleys in
a meat packing plant. That'd be just a glitch. You know, just to sort of categorize these
things out. I find a lot of people have a hard time doing this. It's very very easy
for me.
Alright. Let's look at something like British Petroleum. Well, they had lots of safety rules.
You go visit one of their rigs. You better have a lid on your coffee cup. You don't have
a lid on your coffee cup and you spill coffee, you might fall on the stairs and you might
hurt yourself. But they forgot about the stuff that's really important. How about Process
Safety? They were doin' all kinds of bad stuff. Rushing. Cuttin' corners. Not doin' things
right. Yeah. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. They forgot about the real important stuff.
Now the thing is, both animals and people with autism are bottom up thinkers. All the
different kind of autistic minds tend to be a bottom up thinker. Now the thing about bottom
up thinking is to be really good, you got to fill up the database with lots of information.
Like I read and I read and I read and I read. So when I go out and I do troubleshooting,
I go "Oh, well this problem at this plant, that was sort of like the Jones plant over
there. And we did such and such. We added a light to the entrance of the restrainer
and they'd walk right in." So you gotta fill up the database. I say to parents, get these
kids out and show them all kinds of stuff because they got a really good Google installed
in their head. But you gotta fill 'em up with web pages. You gotta put web pages in them.
Bottom up thinking forms concepts by categorizing specific examples. A very important concept,
educatin' these kids. Top down thinkers get the concept first. But soon they're getting
so far away from the real world that the practical things that they've, they just don't sorta
get it. Bottom up thinking makes it easier to put information into different categories.
Actually there's neuroscience research that shows that the brain makes categories. But
these mechanisms often times they kinda cover it up with a more top down thinking. We need
to be working on how the different minds can work together.
You know, a lot of the things we need, so many safety things, is a visual thinker to
design the safety system at the nuclear power plant. How could you put those generators
in the basement? Yeah, you had a backup and a backup. But they were all in the basement.
So they all drowned. There was no backup to the sea wall. And the thing that's really
bad is up on the hill next to the plant there was a granite slab put in the ground. And
it was put there a hundred years ago and it said "Don't Forget. Tsunamis come up to here."
And the people in the town knew about that. Not good.
So we need different kinds of thinkers to work together. I mean lets go back to Steve
Jobs. He wasn't a programmer. He was an artist. He was all about the user interface. Engineers
have to make the inside work. You see? This is where different minds work together.
One of the things I loved about Google when it first came out was I didn't have to learn
anything. It was so simple. You know, the last technophobes like me can learn how to
use it. That's what I like.
When different kinds of minds work together we can do really great things. I'm getting
very concerned that too many smart students are going nowhere. So one geek gets to go
to heaven. He gets to come here. Another geek, especially out in the Midwest is going nowhere.
Some of them get so depressed, they've committed suicide. It's just terrible. Other, they adjust
to playing video games and are on Social Security. See 'cause the problem that we have in the
schools is that this label, whether it's autism or Asperger's syndrome goes all the way from
Steve Jobs or Einstein down to somebody that's definitely not gonna be working here. It's
such a big spectrum. And it's like two big kind of pieces of it. It takes one kind of
education on the higher end. And other kind of services on the lower end, and a lot of
the special educators are much better at working with the more severe kids. But I'm seeing
smart kids getting into a bunch of classes with the lower functioning kids and they're
going absolutely nowhere. You get into school where they've taken out all the hands-on classes.
They've taken out science labs. And they've taken out art, and they've taken out music.
And they've taken out woodshop and auto shop and all those kinds of things. Those are the
classes that get a lot of those people's kids going. That's what kept me going. If I hadn't
had art, I would have gone absolutely nowhere.
Another thing is, we don't have enough science teachers. I'm very, very concerned about how
the public's getting further away from science.
I went into a bookstore in Seattle airport. And I was shocked to find out there was no
science section. They had a very big section on history and biography. But not on science.
Now that wasn't the case 10 years ago. I think this is very, very worrying. And I know that
a lot of the companies here, Boeing and Google have reached out to the schools here. We need
to be thinking about ways to get much more out there. I think what you're doing with
SketchUp's really great. In fact I have a slide where I show SketchUp and I talk about
things that Wolfram Mathematica, you know, mathematics site, and things like that. Well,
my science teacher saved me. Because he got me interested in studying. 'Cause now I had
a goal. Because I wanted to be a scientist.
And I'm concerned that our educational system's failing to stimulate some of these different
minds. The visual thinker. The pattern thinker. Now, there are some educators, even 10 years
ago or so, they're worried that we're overlooking a lot of the visual spatial thinking. 'Cause
there's sort of a politically correct thing now, that everybody's mind's the same. Well,
you get in the middle of sort of humanity, that's more so. But I don't agree with Malcolm
Gladwell when he says that it's practice and access to services. Innate ability does matter.
I had access to the exact same computer terminal that Bill Gates had access to in 1968 the
IBM Teletype. And I wanted to learn how to program that. I couldn't do it. I just couldn't
do it.
You know and I had free instruction. I had free access to the machine. It just wasn't
my kind of mind. I think it's a shame schools have taken out so many hands on classes. I
think it's just terrible. These are the things that saved me. Because when I did the specialized
activities, these were refuges away from teasing. Steve Jobs was tortured by teasing. And he
ended up having to go to another school. And that saved him. You know and these kids get
so depressed and so out of it because they're just teased. I talked to a lady that was my
age that worked for one of the big government science labs. And she says "When I'm in with
the engineers, that's like being in with the grownups. When I got stuck over in human resources,
that was like being with the children. All they did was squabble and things like that."
I'm very concerned that there's a lot of quirky students, gifted students going nowhere. Because
they don't have a science teacher to help channel. And I think that we need these kids
to figure out the energy crisis. The key to, 'cause what do they do with these kids in
China and India? They become engineers and computer scientists. I talked to a mom from
India. She came up to me in a meeting maybe seven or eight years ago. She goes, "Asperger
kids. Naughty. Smart. Send them off to computer school. Engineering school." But if they don't
get exposed to these things, they're not gonna get interested.
And I'm getting very concerned about all the video game addictions. If these things were
turning into programming games, fine. Turning into paid employment, fine. But most of the
time it's not. There are some exceptions where they do go into the video game field and get
gainful employment. I think big corporations need to invest in the future. I mean, our
university system is just funding cut, cut, cut, cut. That's eating our seed corn. It's
eating our country's seed corn. I'm very worried about that.
I just wanna talk about a few things in the work place. Where you might have somebody
that's got a little autism. Maybe a little Asperger's. Or maybe when they change the
guidelines, social communication disorder. And they're making this new guideline probably
so they can get out of having to pay for funding. They're doing it for that reason.
See the thing is, you disconnect a few social circuits, then you get more circuits for art
or for math and that kind of fun stuff. But you could also get in a lot of things, ADHD,
dyslexia, sensory issues. Can't stand loud noise. Can't stand fluorescent light 'cause
I can see 'em flicker. The whole office is flickering on and off like a discotheque.
I've gone into a lot of computer offices. I didn't see that so much here, but, boy,
you go in the animation companies, oh, they're in a dark hole there 'cause they got all the
fluorescent lights off 'cause they can't stand the flicker.
You know loud sounds hurting the ears. Well, there's a number of people who need a quiet
place to work. Another problem is attention shifting slowness. You know, they don't multitask
well. Now most of the jobs here don't require you to multitask. You just sit there and you
do your job. Attention shifting problems. And some people when they go to read, they
can see the print jiggle on the page. Because of the problem back here in the visual cortex.
With the circuits that merge shape, color, motion, and texture. And to assemble that
graphic file. Something's wrong with that 'cause it didn't grow right. Print jiggles.
Let me tell you some simple ways to fix that. 'Cause I'm finding one out of 50 in my design
class. And these kids cannot draw. I ask them to just like draw that, they can't do it.
And I said, "Print jiggle on the page? Do fluorescent lights flicker? Do you hate driving
at night? Do you hate escalators? Well, why don't you try changing the background color
of the computer. I mean light blue, light lavender. Try printing your stuff on some
light gray paper or tan paper. That sometimes helps." And sometimes colored lenses help.
Pale lavender. Pale pink. But you gotta pick out the color that works for you. Nobody knows
why that works. But it's such a simple thing. You'd be kinda stupid not to try that.
And then there are some of my books. And one of the books I've got there is "Developing
Talents" and it's about jobs for people on the spectrum. Jobs for visual thinkers. Jobs
for the engineering kinds of minds. And jobs for word thinkers. Because I'm getting really
concerned that there's an awful lot of talent that's going to waste. Because there's all
kinds of old Aspies now and they're comin' out of the woodwork. And the reason why they
got diagnosed at the age of 50 was because they had social problems with their marriages.
But they managed to get good jobs. A lot of 'em in technical fields. Lot of 'em not in
technical fields. Not everybody on the spectrum is a technical person. Maybe a half of them
are technical people. And you got a bunch that are artists. I think we're gonna end
with that. And we've got about 20 minutes to just do some really, really interesting
questions. And discussion. Because that's what I really like to do.
OK. We've got a mic here. So we gotta use the mic so that the
>>Male: Testing. Yeah.
>>Temple Grandin: OK. Hopefully that's working. And if nobody has a question I'll pick somebody.
OK. How about right here?
>>Male #1: Is this working? OK. This is actually a comment. It was an interesting point that
you made about the, these computer generated designs coming from young people that wouldn't
actually work. And gates that wouldn't close and things like that.
>>Temple Grandin: All that stuff doesn't, and the thing is these mistakes, the old timers
didn't mistakes. Not these kinds of mistakes.
>>Male #1: Well, exactly. No. I was, the reason I mention it is because I was talking to a
woman who works for the California Department of Transportation. About maybe 10, 15 years
ago. And she said even back then, she was seeing designs of highways, of roads. That
would literally be dangerous for people to drive on.
>>Temple Grandin: Well, you have downtown Denver, and you get in the right hand lane,
you're just forced off. Ugh.
>>Male #1: Well in one case, she was saying, the way they would do the crowns and the angles,
the slopes, as they would design the curve around some obstacle. So there's no car on
the road today that will stay on that road because they, they had no concrete. The computer
said it was right, so it had to be right.
>>Temple Grandin: Well, that doesn't mean it's gonna be right. I had a drawing sent
to me that was a ramp for a meat plant. And for cattle you wanna do a three and a half
inch step and then an 18 inch run. And so the [inaudible] going in didn't want to form
as much concrete. So they went with a six inch riser. And I was afraid the cattle would
trip. And I said "Put it back to a three and a half by 18 inch step." So they did that,
and I get the drawings back, and the steps went like this, and then just straight. They
forgot that when you go with less rise, you have to have more steps.
I am not kidding. I am not kidding. Major meat company. Major name I'm not gonna say
it. That you see in the grocery store. I'm going, you've got to be kidding. It's happening
and every single time I trace these drawings, I'll call 'em up and I get the kid on the
phone and I talk to them and I go "Did you ever build anything? Did you ever hand draft
first?" No. I mean I do this discretely. But every single time this is what I have found.
>>Male #1: The other thing is that since I did some work in early childhood education
and developmental psychology. One of the things, and in anthropology, one of the things that
seems to me really clear that corroborates a little of what you've been saying is that
we've evolved over tens of millions of years for the brain to understand how the world
works as little children. And as infants. Through that physical touch and interaction.
And without that there is this disconnect. [inaudible]
>>Temple Grandin: well, and I think kids need, I just saw something in a paper the other
day about giving kids blocks and having 'em build things out of blocks. You know, I think
that's actually a good thing. Because in order to see and, the brain is works, you gotta
touch. To really understand. And I think it's interesting and when you talk with animation
companies. They handle their little figurines that that 3D printer puts out. They don't
put it up on some high shelf there. They were all clustered right around the keyboard. Right
next to the monitor. They're holding 'em.
Now what do you do.
>>Male #1: [inaudible]
>>Temple Grandin: OK.
>>Male #2: I had a question about animal dissections in schools. 'Cause you're talking about hands
on learning. And stimulating those visual thinkers. But you get a lot of pushback from
parents. They're all like "Oh, I don't want my kids cutting open an animal." And kids
that are like "No, I don't like that, that's wrong. That's wrong to cut open a pig for
this." That kind of thing. And teachers that are kinda sharing that same idea. And I know
that you're in a field where, and you know, it's livestock handling. It's that we raise
animals and then we, for use. And not that they are things, but that we have to respect
these animals. The question is, my biology teacher, she was the only one who continued
doing dissections in school. Everyone else looked at her and she was kind of shunned.
Because she thought it was so important.
>>Temple Grandin: And how did you feel about doing it?
>>Male #2: I thought it was incredibly useful. It wasn't the same as the computer images
that show you how to do dissections.
>>Temple Grandin: Not the same. And let's look at another thing. One of the most attractions
that most people go to. Like in the city of Denver, more people go to the zoo than go
to the stadiums. You know, video isn't the same thing. They wanna see a real lion.
>>Male #2: Mm-hm.
>>Temple Grandin: A real tiger. It, they wanna see the real thing. And I think we can get
so far removed from the real world that it can be very bad. Because, when I look at some
of the stuff going on in Washington. I go down to Washington DC it's like going to the
Twilight Zone. Everything is just turned into posturing. Who's gonna win. I'm a child of
the '50s. Man, we built the interstate highway system. In the '60s, my generation we went
to the moon. Man, we did stuff. The problem is we've got people in NASA and here that
are still doing stuff but I get kinda worried here as I walk through here. And you might
forget especially at something like a power plant, what the computer is connected to.
Because I understand that big gate valve that won't turn. You don't put diesel generators
where they're gonna get wet. That kinda stuff, I understand. And I, you don't wanna get so
far away from that that you forget about that stuff. And you may need some people like me
that get some people out of heavy industry, that worked in the maintenance department.
Heavy industry. And they'll go "Oh man, you need to do that. When that computer goes crazy
that's gonna destroy the turbine."
>>Male #3: I've seen that many people that work in software industry where indeed we
work with the computer in some kind of virtual world. They have side hobbies, where they
actually work with real things.
>>Temple Grandin: I think that's wonderful. I think that's good that you're doing that.
>>Male #3: For instance, I like motorcycles.
>>Temple Grandin: Good. OK. Good.
>>Male #3: Keeps my motorcycles [inaudible]
>>Temple Grandin: I'm glad that you're doing things with motorcycles.
>>Male #3: May other people do gardening and all kinds of stuff.
>>Temple Grandin: That's good, I think that's really good. I think that's good because it
kinda, you know I think some of the local food movement is an urge to get back and connect
with the nature. And the real world. And urge to get back to those things.
>>Male #3: My point is that people get some balance in their life
>>Temple Grandin: Good.
>>Male #3: between these virtual versus the real world.
>>Temple Grandin: Well I think that's really good that you're, 'cause working on your motorcycle
that's a mechanical device. But I'm getting worried. And today when you, oh man, the politicians
they just fight. They've forgotten about doing things. How do we solve problems? When I was
a child, I mean, man, we did stuff. There's also some research, that's so big and expensive
only government can do it. GPS. Well, the defense department put up those satellites.
The internet, that was DARPA. Advanced brain scanning, that's DARPA. I got scanned on that
scanner. That was the scan that was shown on 60 Minutes. That's not at your hospital
yet. The Boeing jet originally was a military tanker. There's some very very big research.
I get worried about, the funding cutbacks. You know, there's things, you guys are doing
really great things but when you get into things that are totally new, it's like what
private company would have developed GPS satellites? They, private companies can develop a little
gadget that picks up the signal. And when the military degraded the signals. Private
industry figured out how to re-degrade the signals. And make 'em real accurate. But private
industry would have never spent the kind of money that put that up there.
You know, there's, this country's gotta get back to doin' stuff. You know I look at, we
canceled our shuttle program. The Chinese are starting there. So that's turning on all
the little kids over in China, just like we were turned on back in the '60s. I worshiped
the astronauts when I was a kid.
>>Male #4: Yeah, its' hard to imagine that we probably won't be back on the moon in our
lifetimes. But anyway.
Why don't people react differently, especially at an emotional level, to animals.
>>Temple Grandin: What do you mean, react differently?
>>Male #4: Mmm. So some people as they grow up become more emotionally dependent on animals.
And some never want to be around animals, or fear them.
>>Temple Grandin: Well, in the autism group there are some kids on the spectrum where
they just totally best buddies with a dog. They really understand a dog. And there's
others that don't like 'em because they have a sensory problem. Like the dog might bark
and hurt their ears. Or the cat might meow and that hurts their ears. And so it's really
variable. But I kind of don't, I, some people really like animals. I find lots of times
that people are highly verbal, they don't get animals. 'Cause I've seen a lot of very,
very good animal trainers. The dyslexic or ADHD. But I had a student who's fabulous with
animals. She was an extreme auditory thinker. She had very, very bad problems with her visual
processing. The problem that I just talked about. And she'd listen to the animal. Like
how it breathed. And with tremendous auditory detail.
The mic over there.
>>Female #1: I think one of the things that I'm hearing, at least, you saying, is that
we need to get our children outside. And get the children outside. Experiencing, playing
on a playground. Or playing, being out in nature.
>>Temple Grandin: You know the lawyers are trying to stop all that.
>>Female #1: [laughs] Because I'm too, when I started it was called programming not system
engineering. But I was, again, one of those people that everything I did I knew it was
gonna have a bug in it. But if I went out and planted vegetables I knew they were gonna
grow. And what they were gonna be. It was sorta that same sorta thing.
>>Temple Grandin: Well there's a wonderful book called "Last Child in the Woods" by,
I think it's Richard Louv.
>>Female #1: Yeah.
>>Temple Grandin: And we've got people are getting totally removed from the natural world.
Just wanna mention before I forget, there's an autism meeting where I'm strictly talking
about autism. I'll be discussing a lot of medication issues. Way too many kids given
way too many medications. It's over on Bellevue at the Meydenbauer Convention Center. I'll
be there at 8:30 tomorrow.
>>Female #1: And one other comment. We have a son who's dyslexic who's turned out to be
an engineer. But you know, when he went through high school. You had to constantly be at their
teachers. Because he was always on a knife's edge. Because you know, was he gonna do really
well? Or was he gonna fail? And it wasn't, so much depended on how the teacher perceived
his problem.
>>Temple Grandin: Well, mentors. You see, this is where. I know several kids, talked
to quite a few situations where you had a parent or grandparent or maybe a next door
neighbor get the kid interested in something like programming. Even teach him something
really old fashioned. Like DOS. 'Cause that's the only thing that momma knew. But what that
did is it got the spark turned on. 'Cause I'm finding with most kids. Yeah, there's
some that go find the books and do it all themselves. But most of them, there's gotta
be some instruction. Otherwise he's just gonna play video games. They start, well, let me
show you how you can make a game. Someone's gotta start showing 'em some things.
>>Female #1: This son though wanted to write graphics programs. When he was three and four
years old.
>>Temple Grandin: Alright, well then someone needs to show him how to write graphics programs.
>>Male #5: I hope you'll forgive me asking a personal question. I think probably many
of the people if not most of the people in this room first learned about you from Oliver
>>Temple Grandin: Yes. That's right.
>>Male #5: And subsequently we've heard you on the radio and on television. And I have
to say, you seem much more socially adept than the way Oliver Sachs described you.
>>Temple Grandin: Yeah, well that was quite a long time ago. That was over 15 years ago.
The thing is, the person on the spectrum keeps learning. You keep learning. Like Clair Danes
did a really good job of being me in the '60s and the '70s. Oh and the movie is available,
Amazon's got it. Keyword Temple Grandin.
But they, you keep learning. You see an autistic person keeps learning. You have to learn how
to be in the plot. I also take antidepressant medication which got rid of horrendous anxiety
attacks and panic attacks I used to have. I take a very low dose. And I've got information
on medication in "Thinking in Pictures" and the other book over there "The Way I See It"
which I think they're gonna run out of. It's available over at Bellevue. And it's available
in book stores.
OK. We're gonna pick somebody. 'Cause we still got some time left here.
>>Female #2: I just wanted to say there are people out there that are working with this
younger population.
>>Temple Grandin: Good.
>>Female #2: I'm not a techy person. I'm his partner. And I have a degree in counseling
and psychology. But I work from a little bit different slant. And it's because I have some
ADD and I have other things going on with me. I'm a technical kind of person. Mechanical
technical kind of person. So in my age group I didn't fit into those programs 'cause I
was a female. And so.
>>Temple Grandin: Well, I fought that. I was a lady going into a man's business. And I
really did put bull testicles all over my vehicle.
That actually happened.
>>Female #2: But I went into this field because I have a son who has got dyslexia and ADD.
And I wanted to help these kids. So I'm developing a nature therapy program. Or I have developed
it. So that these kids get a chance to get out and experience nature. And experience
the physical part of that world we're talking about . So.
>>Temple Grandin: Well, I think that was important. Let's see, there was a question right over
>>Female #3: First, I had a comment. My mother very much enjoyed your movie, and she felt
it really helped her understand my daughter. Who is on the spectrum. So that was very nice.
She's like "Oh, I understand the sound thing bothering her now."
What I wanted to say though is, we both came from agricultural and construction backgrounds.
So we had kind of a real world start. But now he does computers. And we're struggling
on getting our own kids as much of the outdoor and the physical.
>>Temple Grandin: Well, the real world thing with coming in this morning you didn't know
what a concrete pump was.
Yeah, that's, you see construction stuff. I don't know much of computer stuff. But I
worked for years on with construction stuff. So I go by a construction site I'm all lookin'
at the stuff.
>>Female #3: So far we haven't found much better than sending them up to their grandparents
to play with the excavator.
>>Temple Grandin: The other thing I think we need to be doing is when kids get into
middle school, they gotta learn work skills. They got to learn how to do assigned tasks.
Like when I was a young kid, all I would do is do horse head pictures over and over again.
And I had to be encouraged to maybe do the whole horse. Draw a picture of something else.
You gotta broaden out the skills. Another bad thing today, even for normal kids, is
kids are not doing playgroups. Three or four kids get together, make up their own game.
You gotta negotiate. You gotta teach these kids turn taking. They're not learning those
things. I think kids when they're 13 or 14, they need to do some jobs. Because we're coming
out with another book "Different Not Less" about old Aspies, 50 and up, that made it.
They got a diagnosis because their marital relationships were bad. But they managed to
hold jobs for their whole life. Every single one of them had middle school and high school
jobs. We're not teaching job skills. I think it's just terrible. They've taken a paper
route. They can walk dogs for somebody. Because that's something they're gonna have to do
it every day. I had to learn how to use my art skills to make cattle handling facilities
that people wanted.
OK there was a question right back there.
>>Female #4: Thanks for all your influence too. My question is, if autism and all those
spectrum disorders are genetically linked, do you think there's something environmentally
or culturally, nutritionally affecting the numbers? As well as people being aware of
what they went through?
>>Temple Grandin: Well, I think with the milder Asperger end, I think a lot of it is just
increased detection. And I think the other thing is, in the '50s they pounded those social
rules and so they coped better. I think there is some severe autism that's increased. Especially
this regressive autism. Where the child loses language at around 18 months to age two. You
know the plasticizers. There's a strong genetic, strong genetic basis. It's complicated genetics.
It's little tiny code variations within genes. A whole lot of little code variations. It's
not simple genetics like Down's. Or whether you have blue eyes or blond hair. It's not
that simple kind of genetics.
>>Female #4: Do you think pesticides or other plastics are [inaudible]?
>>Temple Grandin: Well, I think the biggest thing is plasticizers. Androgen disrupters.
Like those plastic water bottles. I don't think it's the greatest idea if you're pregnant
to drink out of those or have your kid nurse out of 'em.
You know I'm usually not alarmist about that sort of stuff. But that's one thing that,
I'm worried about. That and pesticides. Some of the stuff I've read.
I drink out of 'em. I'm 64 years old. I don't have to worry about it. I'll drink out of
it, if it's been in the car for two weeks and it tastes like plastic but I'm just not
worried about it.
>>Male #6: Uh, hello. I was wondering what your thoughts are. I guess I kinda consider
myself on Asperger's spectrum. It's kinda the whole, but it's been my whole life, I'm
high functioning, I graduated from MIT, I work here at Google.
>>Temple Grandin: And what do you do? What's your, what kind of, do you do programming?
>>Male #6: Software engineer. So you know, surprise surprise. [laughs] But you know the
whole question may be about six to seven years of my life, ago, I heard about the term Asperger's.
Read about it at lunch. Said "OK, sure that's me." But then there's a question of how much
do I share that with other people. And I'm kinda curious about your thoughts about this.
Because I can just, I'm well on the range where I can just, I've done my entire life.
>>Temple Grandin: I don't. I don't. I even now if I meet someone on a plane I don't disclose.
>>Male #6: Yeah.
>>Temple Grandin: I think I, there's unfortunately still discrimination out there. I've, I get
worried about some of these smart kids getting held back by labels. And you know, if somebody,
I have dads come up to me and they'll say "Well, should I get a formal diagnosis?" I'll
just say "Read the books. Keep it off those electronic records. I don't want some Google
app getting into that. Really don't." And I would certainly recommend reading some of
the books. The stuff I've found most helpful was the personal reports from people. And
some of the brain research stuff. I, but it's, I, you know, it can really wreck your insurance.
It wrecked my health insurance.
>>Male #6: Really.
>>Temple Grandin: I was turned down by AARP, American Association of Retired People, for
a broken nose.
>>Male #6: Hm.
>>Temple Grandin: You know that's BS. And that was just used as an excuse. And it's
>>Male #6: That was
>>Temple Grandin: I've, I've, but the thing is, in the tech industry, you gotta lot of
Asperger genetics because if you totally got rid of all those genetics, you're not gonna
have any mathematicians. So I mean, you have a lot of social yackety yacks that aren't
gonna get very much done.
Because, the thing is, if you don't have people in the world interested in things, you know,
the social people are more interested in just chit-chattin' and socializing. Which I'm not.
And one of my big concerns today is I'm seeing too many smart kids just going nowhere. They're
getting addicted to drugs. They're getting addicted to video games. They haven't been
taught any job skills. Just goin' nowhere. And the problem is, it is such a big spectrum.
And the kinda teaching and stuff that a mild person needs is very different than the more
severe ones. But it's all got the same name. And when they come out with the new DMS5,
they're gonna take the Asperger's out and just call everything 'autism spectrum'. Well,
that really makes it clear as mud.
Scientifically that's correct. Because it's a true continuous trait. But I'm seeing that
people get locked into the labels. My kid. PDD. Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Autism?
You know what, it doesn't matter.
>>Male #6: Yeah. That was about my experience. That it wasn't worth getting any type of formal
diagnosis. And people are saying "Why don't you call a girlfriend."
>>Temple Grandin: I would wish people
>>Male #6: Basically my gist was, why do I, near as I can tell there's no advantage to
me getting any formal diagnosis by a doctor.
>>Temple Grandin: No. It's a disadvantage. It can really wreck your insurance. And what
I tell most people your age that are employed in a good job like this, keep it off those
electronic medical records. But I would read, I'd read a bunch of the books. Maybe even
go to some of the meetings. Now why with a little kid would you get diagnosed? To get
services. You see if you wanna get services for a really young child. You got to have
the diagnosis.