Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder leading to various negative consequences such as language problems, perceptual and motor skills defects, and socialization issues. ASD leads to a variety of impairments and capabilities. The main indication of the disorder is keeping a distance from others throughout all life stages. Children with autism tend not to establish contact with surrounding people and may seem not to show affection or emotions. However, it may not be particularly true that children with autism are emotionally flat, and instead, it is believed that these kids lack social skills and understanding. Therefore, they are unable to show typical responses to social circumstances. Besides, children with autism may have higher capabilities in object perception as their ventral occipitotemporal regions are more developed. They may have difficulties with the determination of other’s feelings due to decreased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex. Children with autism spectrum disorder show various abnormal responses to the environment, including inconsistent reaction to sounds, sometimes being irritated by soft sounds, and ignoring loud noises.
Autism is a complex disorder, which is not thoroughly studied, and its precise causes have not been discovered yet. Autism spectrum disorder has a list of various clinical manifestations. For example, it may cause absence or limitation of speech, as children with autism tend to rarely speak and use concise sentences, except for cases of strong need. Another disorder expression is self-stimulation, which typically involves repetitive actions and movements such as head banging or spinning. Autism spectrum disorder also may lead to being ‘obsessed with the maintenance of sameness. Children with autism often form significant attachments to objects and may feel uncomfortable or even disturbed if they are removed. In addition, consistency of the environment has great importance as even minor adjustments may cause anxiety or worry.
Temple Grandin and Autism Spectrum Disorder
Mary Temple Grandin is a famous American animal-related scientist and activist who has autism spectrum disorder. Grandin was born in 1947 into a very wealthy family in Boston, Massachusetts, yet her disorder was not properly diagnosed until her forties. She made a significant contribution to public acknowledgment of autism spectrum disorder as she was one of the first adults to declare having the disorder openly.
Mary Temple Grandin fits several DSM-5 criteria for autism spectrum disorder. First of all, Grandin did not speak until she was three years old and had further speech difficulties. She also mentions she “thinks in pictures” rather than verbal language (Grandin, 2019). The mentioned criterion adheres to deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction (Hooley et al., 2020). Grandin is hugely sound sensitive and admits being irritated by certain textures or touching objects, which corresponds to hyperactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment (Hooley et al., 2020). Even though Grandin corresponded to most symptoms, the probability of ASD was ignored throughout her childhood.
ASD may also be indicated by insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines (Hooley et al., 2020). Such feelings occurred when she had anxiety attacks and a feeling like “a constant feeling of stage fright all the time” caused by the changes related to puberty (Grandin, 2019). Grandin also had several direct fixations, such as extreme interest in the election or automatic glass sliding doors. The mentioned fixations correspond to having highly restricted, fixated parts that are abnormal in intensity or focus (Hooley et al., 2020). Even though Grandin did match most of the criteria throughout her life, she conducted dedicated work to overcome deficits caused by the disorder and may appear to almost not have them anymore.
It is hard to determine how the disorder impeded or limited Grandin’s success as she minimized the adverse effects by training and even used them as benefits. According to Grandin (2019), her “career as a designer of livestock facilities” maximizes her “talent areas and minimizes my deficits.” Nevertheless, the lack of ability to perceive large amounts of verbal data makes it almost impossible to conduct statistical studies or algebra. Autism spectrum disorder also makes it harder to memories numbers for a long time affecting the activities mentioned above. Another example of autism spectrum disorder limiting Grandin’s success is related to reading. Unique visualized-reading methods needed to be used to help Grandin read, and effective practice was required to learn to read silently. Finally, learning foreign languages is difficult as it involves memorizing a considerable amount of verbal information.
Autism spectrum disorder enhanced Grandin’s success in numerous ways, encouraging people with similar issues worldwide. First of all, Temple Grandin used visual thinking to pursue a career as an equipment designer. Her ability to visualize the final product decreased the chance of any risks related to inappropriate design, which may be hard or even impossible to fulfill. Grandin (2019) states that “designing a piece of equipment with a sequential mind may be just as difficult for an engineer as statistics equations are for me.” By such statements, she implies that autism may not always be considered a disorder, but simply a different way of thinking, which is weak in such aspects as social communication, but beneficial in other activities.
Moreover, autism encouraged and helped Grandin to study the disorder and explain various inner aspects to people who have difficulties communicating with their autistic relatives. As there is no particular cure for autism spectrum disorder, it is usually treated by a list of therapies and special care. Grandin made a significant contribution to the development of the therapies mentioned above, which in return enhanced her success.
Grandin also made a noticeable contribution to animal welfare and the design of livestock facilities. As animal’s perception is sensory-based, they tend more to rely on sights, sounds, smells, and touch. It is hard for a person with a verbal-based set of mind to determine and understand various factors that cause disturbance to the animal. Temple Grandin, on the other hand, used her visual thinking to identify better how animals perceive the environment, which allowed her to design proper livestock facilities.
The chosen article on the subject of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) addresses a list of various aspects related to the condition. According to the article, ASD is a relatively prevalent disorder, with approximately one in one hundred and sixty children being affected by it (Robison, 2019). In some cases, ASD may cause significant limitations and require specific care throughout life, and in other cases, it may have less severe consequences. Grandin’s case may be classified as the second category because the impediments created by the disorder may be considered possible to overcome. It is also mentioned in the article that specific behavioral treatment and training programs may be able to reduce issues related to communication and socialization (Robison, 2019). Such statements fully correspond with Grandin’s life experience, as she practiced diverse methods and training in order to improve her social skills.
As it was already mentioned, there are no methods able to cure autism spectrum disorders completely. However, several possible treatments may significantly decrease negative manifestations of ASD. Grandin does not particularly view ASD as a disorder but as an alternative way of thinking, which has some potential strengths and weaknesses if the child is raised properly. Grandin (2019) states that taking antidepressants caused “steady improvement in speech, sociability, and posture.” She also used a squeeze machine as a part of her treatment and admitted not being “aggressive after using it.” SSRI antidepressants were proven to be an effective way of reducing adverse consequences of ASD and some accompanying disorders (Costa et al., 2020). Squeeze machines are also used in clinics as an additional treatment for autistic and hyperactive children. Pressure stimulation provided by the machine may reduce hyperactive behavior.
Conclusively, there is a significant list of beneficial findings throughout the studied articles, which may be used in professional activity. First, it is crucial to acknowledge that ASD may have very diverse symptoms and specificities from one person to another, which means that any conducted treatment requires an individual approach. In many cases, such manifestations of the disorder as highly restricted, fixated interests may be used in favor of socialization processes by, for example, encouraging social activities related to the specific fixation. Another important aspect is that there are different causes of autism spectrum disorders, which may vary from minor social difficulties to overcome more extreme consequences, ultimately preventing socialization. It is also crucial to conduct ongoing intensive treatment to achieve improvements as passive approaches may not affect.
Costa, A. P., Loor, C., & Steffgen, G. (2020). Suicidality in adults with autism spectrum disorder: The role of depressive symptomatology, alexithymia, and antidepressants. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 50(10), 3585–3597.
Grandin, T. (2019). Temple Grandin: Inside ASD. Autism Research Institute.
Hooley, J. M., Nock, M. K., & Butcher, J. N. (2020). Abnormal psychology (18th ed.). Pearson.
Robison, J. E. (2019). Autism prevalence and outcomes in older adults. Autism Research, 12(3), 370–374.