Temple Grandin is one of the most well-known individuals with autism. She has a doctorate in animal science and is a professor at Colorado State University. Additionally, Dr. Grandin is a bestselling author and respected consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior.
From a radio essay on NPR a few years ago, here are some insights from Dr. Grandin about how autism affects the cognitive process:
Because I have autism, I live by concrete rules instead of abstract beliefs. And because I have autism, I think in pictures and sounds. I don’t have the ability to process abstract thought the way that you do.
Here’s how my brain works. It’s like the search engine Google for images. If you say the word love to me, I’ll surf the Internet inside my brain. Then a series of images pops into my head. What I’ll see, for example, is a picture of a mother horse with a foal, or I think of Herbie the Love Bug, scenes from the movie Love Story, or the Beatles’ song, love, love, All You Need is Love…
…I built a library of experiences that I could refer to when I was in a new situation. That way, when I confronted something unfamiliar, I could draw on the information in my homemade library and come up with an appropriate way to behave in a new and strange situation.
These are fascinating perspectives and I’d encourage you to find the full transcript and audio here. With 1 in 88 children being diagnosed with autism, sooner or later you’ll encounter an individual who has autism and thinks “in pictures and sounds” like Dr. Grandin.