Temple Grandin earned her Ph.D. in animal science from the University of Illinois, went on to become an associate professor at Colorado State University, and wrote two books on autism, including the seminal Thinking in Pictures. One of the most celebrated — and effective — animal advocates on the planet, Grandin revolutionized animal movement systems and spearheaded reform of the quality of life for the world's agricultural animals. Her latest book is Different ... Not Less: Inspiring Stories of Achievement and Successful Employment from Adults with Autism, Asperger's, and ADHD.
From Grandin's Q & A with Thomas Rogers at Salon:
The CDC recently released a shocking report that showed a huge uptick in autism numbers. What do you make of it?--Marshal Zeringue
I’m very familiar with those figures. One big question that’s come up is: Has autism increased on the mild side of things? I don’t think so — they’ve always been here. Some of this is increased detection. I’ve worked with tons of people that I know who are on the spectrum — but now I think severe autism has really increased. There may be environmental contaminants. I read an article the other day that a supposedly very harmless pesticide on cattle was making bulls infertile, so this brings up the issue of genetics.
There is some concern that by expanding the numbers of people with autism, the CDC is diluting the autism diagnosis.
The problem with these diagnoses is they’re not precise. They’re talking about changing the DSM and replacing it with Social Communication Disorder and they’re sitting around in rooms discussing it. It’s not a precise diagnosis like tuberculosis. You show certain behaviors, like social awkwardness, or fixated interest or repetitive behavior, and that’s labeled autism. But it’s a very big spectrum. On one hand you’ve got people working in technology jobs and on the other hand you’ve got someone who’s nonverbal with epilepsy, and that’s one of the big problems. Steve Jobs would probably be on the spectrum, and so would Einstein.
On the other hand, this newly expanded number may also make a lot of parents of kids with autism feel much less alone.
I think that’s really important. When I was young my mother was totally alone. It would have definitely made a lot of difference. She would have...[read on]