For the Fall 2015 Semester, the Common Reading Experience book selection is Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism, by Temple Grandin. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is a gifted animal scientist who has designed one third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States. She also lectures widely on autism–because Temple Grandin is autistic, a woman who thinks, feels, and experiences the world in ways that are incomprehensible to many of the rest of us.
Here, in Temple Grandin’s own words, is the story of what it is like to live with autism, to be among the few people who have broken through many of the neurological impairments associated with autism. Throughout her life, she has developed unique coping strategies, including her famous “squeeze machine,” which she modeled after seeing the calming effect of squeeze chutes on cattle. She describes her painful isolation growing up “different” and her discovery of visual symbols to interpret the “ways of the natives.”
In this unprecedented book, Grandin delivers a report from the country of autism. Writing from the dual perspectives of a scientist and an autistic person, she tells us how that country is experienced by its inhabitants and how she managed to breach its boundaries to function in the outside world. What emerges in Thinking in Pictures is the story of an extraordinary human being, one who, gracefully and lucidly sheds light on the riddle of our common identity.
Oliver Sacks, author and professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine, writes, “If Temple is profoundly different from most of us, she is no less human for being so, but, rather, human in another way. Thinking in Pictures is finally a study of identity, the ‘who-ness’ no less than the ‘what-ness’ of a most gifted autistic person. It is a deeply moving and fascinating book because it provides a bridge between our world and hers, and allows us a glimpse into a quite other sort of mind.”