During my recent work with young people on the autistic spectrum, I was privileged to see some video recordings of Dr Temple Grandin.

Grandin, who has a doctorate in animal science, has been something of a hero to autistic people around the world. She was diagnosed as being autistic at three years old, and as an adult further diagnosed as having a mild, or ‘high functioning’ form of autism. She considers the world as completely concrete and visual. Some people think in words; others, like Temple, in pictures*. She finds it difficult to consider how other people think with language. As a visual learner, she has been afforded almost super-human insights into the world of animal thought and pictorial representation. Her work with cattle and understanding of animals is truly empowering.

To really understand how we think and to really know who we are is something a lot of us struggle with. This makes me think more deeply about my own practice. We all think differently, the beauty of the human race I think, but how well do we really pay attention to those differences?

Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences offer something lots of schools have adopted; most secondary schools have worked on these individual learning styles and different ways of thinking. Gardner said:

“We are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences – the so-called profile of intelligences – and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains.”**

Grandin really exemplifies this point; she lives and breathes visual learning with a heightened sense of reality. Some of the young people we work with – not only those with spectrum conditions – have remarkable abilities, and need our help to discover them.

I am going to relish the opportunities the new curriculum and the PLTS provide (see previous blog entries) to really try and develop individual learning skills. Learning from inspirational people like Grandin helps us all develop a perspective on things we would otherwise struggle to conceptualise.

*See Grandin, T. (2006) Thinking in Pictures – And Other Reports from My Life with Autism (Bloomsbury)
**Gardner, H. (1991) The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach (Basic Books)

Further reading
Grandin, T. (2005) Animals in Translation (Bloomsbury)