“Thinking In Pictures”

thinking in pictsI recently started to read a book Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin.  It is an autobiographical account of a woman with autism and her experiences and analysis of autism.  I was assigned this book as an extra credit assignment for my Child Development class, this book is great for an inspiring teacher in order for them to expand their horizons on children cognitive thought and learning processes. 

I think it is quite interesting how Grandin describes words as being a second language and how she translates words to pictures.  Visual thinking enables her to create things in her imagination and come up with effective floor plans such as the “cattle walking on water” design.  The way she is able to piece together different images in her heard is probably the way I would create a scrapbook or collage with paper and images.  Her thought process is all cognitive/visual and mine would be more of a kinesthetic/visual type of process.  I rely on what I see and what I can physically manipulate and she is able to just mentally manipulate scenarios, solutions and plans all in her head.

The way she explains how her mind works and how her memories are stored, she is a human computer metaphorically speaking: her memories are replayed chronologically and so are the images stored in her mind.  My memories are scrabbled in my mind randomly and sometimes it takes a nostalgic moment to really bring out a certain memory of my past, some are vivid like last day I saw my father before he was off to the hospital and then other memories are distant and foggy.  She is also able to readily accept new information which most normal people find difficulty in doing.  It is hard to change a person’s schema or point of view; she could easily assimilate information to widen her horizons of understanding while most people have confined minds and just stick to what they know.  I thought of myself as being a visual or creative person however, I am not that visually inclined to be able to superimpose programs into my memory.

The book mentioned that teachers need to be able to understand associative thought patterns in autistic children in order for them to understand the associative words that autistic children use: I think it would be beneficial for teachers to understand different thought patterns of diverse populations and not just the thought pattern of their teaching concentration.  This may be helpful if some children are going throughout their school careers undiagnosed, then maybe that teacher can pick up on these details and refer the child to get the proper help. 

Converting abstract ideas into pictures or visual concepts is something Grandin had to consciously do but those of us who are not autistic subconsciously do this: we all know universal symbols and themes such as the “American flag” to represent pride, the 50 states, and the original 13 colonies or know that the “Statue of Liberty” represents freedom, etc.  Exercising visual skill expands the brain motor mapping abilities, maybe along with cognitive development we should also focus on a child’s visual skills when they are younger.  Visual and verbal thought work different via brain systems and each has their advantages over the other. 

The most intriguing part of this chapter was the connections that Grandin made between windows and doors to represent relationships and how she made a break thorough and understood the establishment of relationships.  When she was stuck in between the sliding doors and related that experience to her autism that made me think of myself.  I felt somewhat trapped when my primary care doctor diagnosed me with high blood pressure a few months ago or when I was stuck at the hospital overnight in 2009 because of my atrial tachycardia.  I remember thinking of my past, the doors behind me and then of my future, what will become, how would my life change or will it even change.

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