A large audience in Havre this evening heard some first-hand descriptions of the impacts of autism and ways to help people on the autism spectrum disorder succeed from a world-renowned researcher, author and lecturer — who is on the spectrum herself.
Colorado State University professor Temple Grandin, Ph.D., presented “The Autism Experience” at the Fifth Avenue Christian Church, part of the Hill County Extension Office’s Cabin Fever series of classes.
Grandin presented a lecture about autism spectrum disorder, then took questions from the audience, before moving to the lobby of the church to visit with audience members and autograph copies of her works.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines autism spectrum disorders as developmental disorders than can cause problems in communication, social interaction and behavioral interaction. Grandin talked about problems ranging from dislexia to communication problems, from not being able to hear some sounds to not being able to wear scratchy clothes.
Grandin talked about her research and experience on autism spectrum disorder, as well as her own experiences growing up, starting with her not speaking through her third year.
She focused on two major concepts during her presentation. One was that people need to help people strengthen what they are good at — rather than focusing on their deficits — and push them to become good at more things.
“If you don’t stretch them, they don’t grow,” Grandin said.
The other main focus was on avoiding labeling people. Grandin said the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is not hard and fast, black and white, with immense variability in the symptoms and impacts.
Labeling people often focuses on the deficit, locks people in and prevents them from growing and learning, she said. She wants to hear people talk about — and to see them focus on — their science project or their art or their animals rather than their autism, Grandin said.
“We’ve got to bust them out of these silos,” she said.