I didn’t expect to review this book for my blog. I read it for an entirely different reason — there are several young people in my family with autism, and I have been trying to learn more about it. Temple Grandin is about my age, and when she was a child, autism was not understood well at all. Temple faced many challenges, and with the help of family and compassionate teachers grew up to become a successful scientist. She has written and spoken extensively on the subject of autism, hoping to gain understanding herself, and impart what she knows to others. Surprisingly, there is a spiritual aspect to her book. God was definitely at work in Temple’s life. As a high school student, she describes a sermon in which the minister quoted John 10:9:
“I am the door: if any man enter in, he shall be saved.”
Temple was captivated by the idea of the door. As a highly visual person, it became a symbol of the obstacles she had to overcome and leave behind at each stage of life, as she walked through “the door” to become a more mature person. She actually found “the door” at her school — it was called the Crow’s Nest and was a small observation room that overlooked the mountains. This became a holy place to Temple, a place where she could be alone and ponder “Me My life. God.”
Later Temple explains that she believes God formed the gene structure that created her as a person with autism, and that there was a purpose behind her differences. She wonders:
“Maybe God or destiny willed it that way so that I would invent a method or device that would help other people.”
The device she is talking about is the “squeeze chute” she built for herself, modeled after the chutes animals were placed in to brand, castrate or vaccinate them. She found it calmed her and allowed her feel tactile stimulation that was difficult for her to accept in the form of hugs or caresses from loved ones. In her work with animals, she thought about death, and how although God gave us dominion over animals for our use, they were also His creation, and to be treated respectfully.
Temple’s account of her life is inspiring. She points out that some autistic characteristics (such as becoming fixated on an idea or project) can be strengths and should be channeled and guided appropriately, not simply eliminated. She is a living illustration of the way people with autism grow, change and learn to cope with the difficult parts of their personality, just as we all do.
VERDICT: 4 STARS. There were times when Temple tended tp perseverate about an idea too long, but overall this book was illuminating and helpful to anyone wanting to better understand the effects on autism.
For more about autism see these posts:
Autism and your church by Barbara J. Newman — Book Review
Uniquely Human by Barry M. Prizant, PHD — Book Review