Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How Temple Grandin Changed My Parenting

I posted a link to a TED talk that Temple Grandin gave in February on the Parenting Autism Facebook fan page.  Then I asked members what they thought of Temple and the responses reminded me why Temple Grandin changed my parenting.

After Tristan was diagnosed with ASD, I drove right to Bear Pond Books 
(our local book seller) and guess what they had one copy of Thinking in Pictures.  That night I read the book from cover to cover and woke-up with a different thought about how I parented Tristan.

We already knew that Tristan responded to visual cues more than verbal cues, but Temple's description of how a visual thinker interprets the world gave me a greater understanding.  I am a verbal thinker, you say "school", I know what you are talking about, my brain does not flip through a Rolodex of pictures of all the schools I have ever seen.  But I think Tristan does. 

So, I began to shift my thinking to how Tristan may think.  The first step we took was to give Tristan more time to process verbal language.  If you are a visual thinker, flipping through all those pictures could at first take longer than a person who is a verbal thinker.  What we found is that if given a little longer to process Tristan did respond verbally.

Then I decided to make Tristan's world more visual with picture boards through out our house (and at school) to provide some independence to Tristan.  He could access the information he needed about dressing, bathing, brushing teeth, getting ready for school, daily schedules, and undressing.  Ann, our SLP (speech language pathologist), even made me a bracelet with tiny pictures dangling off so when we were out-and-about I had pictures to use to communicate with Tristan.

The bracelet became essential in diverting tantrums or when I needed to communicate quickly with Tristan.  Knowing how Tristan thought leaped me forward to understanding what skills to cultivate in Tristan.  Tristan spends hours building with Legos or reading comic books.  And in kindergarten Tristan began making his own books, first without words then now with words and even a storyline.

The most valuable information Temple gave me (as a parent) was what she calls the "1950's parenting".  How I interpreted Temple's words was that I needed to be direct with Tristan.  For example, if Tristan is talking to his classmates at lunch about a comic book and all his friend's non-verbal cues are saying they are not interested.  I would say, "Tristan look at all your friends' faces, they are not interested in Spiderman, ask them what they want to talk about."  Also, if Tristan doesn't respond to a person greeting him, I would position Tristan's body to face the greeter and have Tristan respond.  I think of all this as practice for Tristan.


Kelly said...

Visual schedules and cues are a fantastic way to improve life and communication with an Autistic mind. Many parent make these on their own but there is a new resource called SchKIDules that design and assemble quality magnetic visual schedules for you. Check it out at

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