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review 2017-04-28 23:59
Drawing Autism, an art book compiled by Jill Mullin | #AutismAwarenessMonth
Drawing Autism - Jill Mullin,Temple Grandin

Over the last decade autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has become an international topic of conversation, knowing no racial, ethnic, or social barriers. Behavior analyst and educator Jill Mullin has assembled a staggering array of work from established artists like Gregory Blackstock and Jessica Park to the unknown but no less talented. Their creations, coupled with artist interviews, comprise a fascinating and compelling book that serves to educate and inspire anyone who knows someone diagnosed with ASD. Mullin's introduction and the foreword by best-selling author Temple Grandin provide an overview of autism and advocate for nurturing the talents, artistic and otherwise, of autistic individuals.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Now in its second edition, Drawing Autism is a collection of artwork compiled by NYC-based behavioral analyst Jill Mullin. Mullin explains in her introductory essay how one year her work had her cross paths with an autistic artist living in a group home who showed extraordinary joy and talent through his artwork. Her acquaintance with this artist inspired her to seek out other talented artists with autism across the world. Mullin lays out her end goal with this project:

 

"Commonly in the media, individuals with autism have been shown to have great talents in certain areas such as science and math. The intention of this book is to display another area where individuals with autism can have great abilities."

 

Within this opening essay, Mullin also reveals that this project ended up being so successful that it helped greatly propel the featured artists into global notoriety, many of them being asked to do art showings all over the world. Mullin's essay is preceded by a foreword written by none other than Temple Grandin, one of today's most famous faces when it comes to autism awareness! Also included in the art collection are a few of Grandin's diagrams of her inventions (designs for more humane deaths for cattle in meat processing facilities).

 

Mullin wrote up a list of interview questions that she submitted to each artist she asked to be featured in this collection. From those questions, she pulls some of the most interesting or revealing answers, placing them alongside the artwork, giving the viewer / reader an eye-opening look into the world of an autistic mind. The collection as a whole is broken up into themed sections that illustrate common characteristics of the autism spectrum as a whole. For example, "Getting From Here To There" collects art pieces that focus on fascination with various modes of transportation; "Interaction, Individual and Societal" gives artists a space to express how they perceive themselves from a societal point of view. Many pieces in this section illustrate feelings of isolation, not being fully understood or accepted, frustration with miscommunications, etc; "Art For Art's Sake" is a place for the artists to just create for the sake of joy and fun. There's no particular deep meaning to the works in this section necessarily, just pieces that have made the artists happy or at peace in their souls. 

 

 

Personally, "Art For Art's Sake" and "Bird's Eye View" (pieces focusing on nature themes) were my favorite sections. I especially loved the works of Shawn Belanger -- his autism leaves him predominately non-verbal -- whose work is featured on several pages of Drawing Autism. The colors and movement of his pieces shouted a joy of life to me!

 

 

 

 

My very favorite piece though, I think I'd give that to "The Death of Love #373" by Charles D. Topping. I could not stop looking at it!

 

 

Some of the images, several actually, have definite grit and darkness to them. Some perusers of this book might be shocked at certain pieces if the paintings are only taken on their own. I would urge that you read the accompanying interview answers explaining many of the pieces. There you will see that while perhaps initially a shock to the eye, there is a purpose and / or a story of hurt behind the inspiration that you should hear. 

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review 2016-05-20 14:04
Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior - Temple Grandin,Catherine Johnson
Overall, this was an interesting and insightful read.

My big problem with the book was that it was less scientific than I was expecting. While Grandin does reference various studies, a lot of her ideas are based on anecdotal evidence about animals and people she knows or has heard of. While this makes reading the book interesting, it doesn't really give any hard conclusions (although that could just be me taking a very neurotical stance on the whole subject and just looking at the big picture). Much of what Grandin shares are her own personal thoughts and opinions as well as connections she has made based on her own experiences. While she has had a lot of experience in this field, I still would have liked to see some hard evidence to back up her claims, just to add a little more authority to the work.

The writing was well-done and overall very easy to follow. Grandin discusses many animals including dolphins, dogs, cattle, horses, and parrots. I think the strongest part of the book was the beginning in which Grandin explains how she thinks animals perceive the world, which she based on her own experiences on the autism spectrum and her ability to put herself in situations in order to understand what an animal sees and feels.

Another issue I had with the book was there were a lot of generalizations not just about animals (pit bulls are aggressive), but also about people on the autism spectrum. It is well known that Grandin thinks in pictures and in the book she makes the assumption that all people with autism think in pictures. However, there have been people on the autism spectrum who have specifically stated that they do no think in pictures and that this assumption can easily become a harmful stereotype that hinders the education of people on the spectrum. It may be that the majority of people with autism do think in pictures, but by including everyone in the generalization, it excludes the people who do not fit into that category.

Overall, this was an interesting read, but I would have liked to have seen more scientific data. I think Grandin took a very good perspective on animals and presents her thoughts in a way that is persuasive without feeling too forceful. Her basic premise is that animals are definitely much smarter than people believe and that animals deserve respect and kindness from humans. She questions the overall hierarchy humans have created in relation to animals and I think she backs this idea up with enough stories that should make the reader question the social status of humans in the world.
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text 2016-04-28 12:11
Steve Silberman Endorsement – The Eagle Tree

 

“The Eagle Tree is a gorgeously written novel that features one of the most accurate, finely drawn and memorable autistic protagonists in literature. The hero of the book is like a 14-year-old Walt Whitman with autism, seeking communion with the ancient magnificent beings that tower over the landscape around Olympia, Washington. Ned Hayes plays with the conventions of the unreliable narrator so that you end up feeling like March is a very reliable narrator of glorious and terrifying aspects of the world that neurotypicals can’t see. Credible, authentic, powerful. A must-read.”

 

Steve Silberman, New York Times bestselling author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.

Source: theeagletree.com
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review 2015-09-14 13:01
The Autistic Brain, Temple Grandin
The Autistic Brain - Temple Grandin

This book is written as two parts. The first is an overview of the current state of research into the causes of autism, in turn divided into subsections on brain structure and genetics. The second is a personal and impassioned but not terribly coherent plea for Aspies to be defined as much for their strengths as their weaknesses, indeed for Aspie traits to be seen just as traits without any attendant value judgements about them at all.

Part 1 is excellent, giving a very comprehensive picture of what is and is not known about variations in brain structure between neurotypical and autistic brains whilst providing necessary caveats about the limitations of the imaging equipment used (especially fMRI which I advise all readers to be extremely sceptical about when used in psychological experiments). The follow-up on genetics is just as good, revealing that there are hundreds of genetic variations implicated in autism and that many of them are associated with the brain in some way.

There is a also a short discussion of environmental factors (drugs, pesticides etc.). It's short mainly because there's been very little research on the subject.

If I am to be critical of part 1 at all it is that some of the technicalities of both brain anatomy and genetic theory aren't explained in sufficient detail for non-biologists. (My lack of grasp of genetics is an increasing frustration to me; if you know of a good introductory text on the subject please tell me about it!)

Part 2 is not so fabulous and causes a star to be docked. The material is much more personal and is not organised in a very clear fashion. Grandin admits that this has never been her strong suit but her journalist co-author was evidently unable to completely sort out the problem.

There seem to be two main points. The first is advocating research that is based on single symptoms. Instead of taking autistic people and comparing them to neurotypical people, take people with a specific symptom, e.g. extreme hearing sensitivities and compare them with people who don't. One does not necessarily have to be autistic to have such a sensitivity and if you're autistic you won't necessarily have it either. This makes a great deal of sense to me from a scientific stand-point and I hope researchers adopt the approach.

The second main point is to try to see past labels to people and recognise their strengths as well as their weaknesses and that traits are actually neutral and are only strengths or weaknesses in their contexts. Well, I can get behind that but along the way we are treated to some bizarrely self-contradictory opinions.

On the one hand we are told that Grandin was hopeless at geometry and that her teacher should have given up on the subject and taught something else she could do instead e.g. geometry. On the other, we are later subjected to a rant in which Aspies with various difficulties that Grandin doesn't have should essentially "get over it." I find this to be on exactly the same level as telling a depressed person to "pull yourself together" and pretty offensive.

Taking this along with her completely false (and now dropped) assumption that because she is Aspie and she thinks in pictures primarily, all Aspies must think in pictures, what I see is a woman who is very poor at figuring out the level of variation there is in human modes of thought. Assuming everybody sees the world the way you do is, however a very Aspie trait!

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text 2015-09-14 02:47
Reading progress update: I've read 256 out of 256 pages.
The Autistic Brain - Temple Grandin

Well, that was over quickly!

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