Thursday, August 14, 2014

Etiquette and Asperger Syndrome

Claire Danes in the role of a young, Temple Grandin, and co-star David Strathairn, from the critically acclaimed HBO movie 

From "Asperger's Syndrome: Secret to Success," Scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, PhD, reflects on life with Asperger's syndrome


Is there anything that was better in the 1950s than today when it comes to helping children with autism spectrum disorder?

Yes. In the 1950s, manners were taught to everybody. I just got an email from a teacher of a kid with Asperger's. She wrote that this child thinks it's funny to pull his pants down in class. I would have gotten in a lot of trouble for doing that. That's naughty behavior and Asperger's is no excuse. All children need to be taught manners and turn-taking. I was expected to sit at granny's formal Sunday dinner table for 20 minutes and I did.

Do you think that the prevalence of Asperger's is increasing today?

No. It's not increasing. It has always been here. We were just called nerds before. The autistic spectrum is a big spectrum from severely autistic kids that stay non-verbal to the brilliant child with Asperger's. There is a link between autism and genius.

Above, the real Temple Grandin ~ While autism spectrum disorder appears on many radar screens today, this wasn't the case when Temple Grandin was growing up in the 1950s. Grandin, now in her 60s, didn't utter a word until she was 3 1/2 years old. As a result, she was labeled "autistic," and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. Fortunately, Grandin's story does not end there. With the help of early education and a caring nanny, Grandin eventually learned to speak and flourish despite Asperger's syndrome, a developmental disorder marked by severe difficulties in understanding how to interact socially. Today she holds a PhD in animal science, is a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., and the author of several books including Emergence: Labeled Autistic and Thinking In Pictures. Grandin is also one of the few livestock-handling equipment designers in the world and has designed the facilities in which half the cattle are handled in the United States.

How are adults with Asperger's faring today?

I am finding that people with mild Asperger's are all employed today. One of the reasons they are employed is because they have learned you can't pick your nose in public or make rude comments to customers. I learned when I was 6 not to pick my nose in public. Learning a skill that other people value such as computer programming also helps.
Temple Grandin with Claire Danes, the actress who portrayed her younger self ~ "'The thing about being autistic is that you gradually get less and less autistic,' she says, 'because you keep learning, you keep learning how to behave. It's like being in a play; I'm always in a play.' Her rehearsal began early and in earnest. Born in 1947, she did not speak until the age of four. All of the doctors recommended permanent institutionalization; her father agreed. But her mother refused and hired a speech therapist and a nanny who spent many hours a week taking turns playing games with her daughter. She insisted that Temple practice proper etiquette, go to church, interact with adults at parties. 'I'd be in an institution if it wasn't for her,' Ms. Grandin says." From WSJ.com
         
"We were just called nerds before." Temple Grandin ~ The first documented appearance of the word "nerd" is as the name of a creature in Dr. Seuss's 1950 book, "If I Ran the Zoo." In 2012, campaigners in Sweden were trying to force a dictionary to change its definition of "nerd," but have "nerd" - and its sister word "geek" - now completely lost its derogatory connotations, after two decades of "reappropriation"?  In the 1984 film "Revenge of the Nerds" the rousing final speech of one of the protagonists begins with the statement: "I'm a nerd." Its plot may be cartoonish, but the film reveals a certain cultural backdrop - to be a nerd was to be socially awkward, even socially inferior. Today when people think of "geeks" and "nerds" they might very well name the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg - people whose imagination and grasp of the technical made them billions. Historic geeks are celebrated, with Alan Turing and Nikola Tesla's legacies provoking great passions. New York Times blogger and geeky statistician Nate Silver has been hailed as an unexpected star of the US presidential election after correctly predicting the outcome. "Memo to wannabe presidents: hire geeks, not pundits," advised New Scientist magazine. Even sportsmen unabashedly refer to themselves as "nerds". Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings, who had just been voted "sexiest man of the year", said of the honour: "It's a little weird because I'm a nerd video game player." From BBC News
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