Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Festschrift for Temple; respecting autistic elders; reappraising the Grandinator #temple@70

29 August 2017 is Dr Temple Grandin's birthday. She will be 70.

She is a professor at Colorado State University in Animal Science.

When professors reach a certain age or are known in their field, they receive a Festschrift from their colleagues and peers. It was 60 years for Uta Frith, the cognitive psychologist from University College London, who wrote about Grandin in the early 1990s.

I have thought a lot about what our autistic elders are due and how they contribute.

A few weeks ago I wrote to ScriptAutistic asking them questions about autistic elders.


It wasn't very easy for them for several reasons.

I also went to the #ActuallyAutisticBlogsList. This is by Judy, an Observer. At the end of July a young person had requested to sort the blogs there by age especially the teenagers.


Found a few [4] 60-something-year-olds; the eldest is 68.

The elders issue became pressing to me last March when the Karolinska Institute study was released. Sweden is one of the more switched-on and well-researched nations, certainly over the past 30 years.

And the end of April 2017 when Polly Samuel - who so many of you know and knew as Donna Williams - died.

It was 20 years ago that I encountered Emergence labelled autistic. I was keen to read Thinking in pictures at the start of 1997, and I did eventually - the week before Christmas 1997.

The thing I remember about Thinking in pictures from this particular reading is looking out at a farm on a highway and reading the excerpt about homesickness as Hans Asperger had written it. It was a good stir.


In mid-September 1997 I read the first three chapters [and the introduction; the foreword; the preface - Rimland; Carlock; Grandin herself].

The part I remember from the introduction was "I live independently with no financial worries. Today I am in my late thirties" - this was 1986 and from my research I am thinking the collaboration with Scariano had happened in 1982-83. She talks about Lorna Jean King - who was a sensory integration therapist she had worked with in Arizona while she was at university there - and she seemed to be the nearest thing to a friend.

I read roughly the fourth chapter of Emergence - how very Trekkie I thought at that time - and I was pleased to see when I read Thinking in Pictures - the chapter on Dating Data which is a very funny pun. When I explored Star Trek Next Generation parodies in 1993 and 1999 from Usenet, they were great. I especially liked Deanna Troi and Wesley Crusher and even Picard and Chekov.

The fourth chapter is New Worries and I think that was planted in right before Forgettable Days at Junior High. My psychologue of the time said something to the effect that my days were very different. Then there was Boarding School where Temple went to Mountain County Day and went to church and learnt about the door to my heaven.

Francesca Happe writes very well about her own impressionistic account of the writings. Happe was approaching Grandin from a cognitive perspective - specifically Relevance theory. She made 6 testable predictions which you can read in the relevant chapter of Autism and Asperger syndrome which stood us well for 22 years [1991 - 2013].

However a lot of people objected to the way Grandin was written about in the newsgroups of that time and a few years after. It is a very well-known academic book and Grandin's initial impact was academic and in that market that impact was seismic.

In the world of popular literature in 1997 and 1998 we were reading Tony Attwood who was having an emergence of his own through that highly popular book on Jessica Kingsley Press. And in one hot November week Attwood was having his own Festschrift visiting the schools and universities and launching his book which finally was reviewed in May 1998.

I had something of my own to do in that month of 1998. I launched the Statistical Reading Objective Analysis System [SROSA] which I had based on my mathematics books and what I knew of other readability systems and worked on that for at least the next 18 months. I have only ever done it on my own books for testing - the ones I wrote in 1995. One of them is the book on which Halfway up Rysy Peak is based. Somehow by November 1998 - January 1999 I got tied up in the sequel and never assessed the book where the young woman becomes an ambassador when she is in her early thirties. I can say only that it had as many words as The Guernsey Collegiate which is coming up to its 22nd anniversary this September.

The Happe interest came when I saw the Bowler and Wolff [the latter of Loners: life path of unusual children fame which taps into Ludwig Wittgenstein and his language games and his youth covered so well in the Jarman movie]. It was a good paper about the words someone might use to describe their mother.

Happe had said "With these analytical and sophisticated writings a more sensitive approach should be used".

My own reaction was something like "This book is all Temple and no Margaret" and this before I had the chance to read My experiences from 1984 - which I only really did this year [2017] because of Dave Alteri who writes Reward and Consent.

And why the Grandinator? This is something like a theme park approach. I think it is something to do with the way she and her persona and the reception have become a thought-terminating cliche or just the Terminator movies. The way machine/information processing works. And this is the woman who went through a dip vat and it stopped her religious feelings.

That last chapter on the Meaning of Life in THINKING IN PICTURES is a good one. She talks about Charles Hart and the son of Hart who talks about "cannibals". Now in my youth I had a great deal of interest in cannibalism.

Thinking now about approach-avoidance as it was the first time I had seen this psychological concept at least by its name. She was rubbing her hands and fingers on a sock. And if you read Temple a little you will see she is a very tactile lady. Many of you will have heard or read about the squeeze machine, and that was my focus in writing a play about her - I am a door - for a youth theatre group in March 1998. Working through a powerful rejection and trying to be resilient.

The sock thing was in context of her mother and her packing for boarding school when she was 13 years old in 1960 after she had been expelled from a girls' school because one of her contemporaries called her the R-word and she hit this young woman with a book. It was apparently flying out of the air.

It was about this time her parents were divorcing. We learn a lot about how the sister closest to her, Jean, was affected. The other time that Jean is important is right at the beginning of the book when Temple shouts "Ice".

So many of Temple's words when she was younger and went to the speech therapist were stressed. The year before Emergence was published there was a development in the visual communication world. Picture Exchange Communication System. Andrew and Lori developed it in 1985 as part of applied behaviour analysis. The 1989 update of Emergence deals with that Lovaas paper and its fallout at the end of Working - Coping - Surviving and the epilogue Autistics and the real world which is a chapter of dot points and expansions.

And it was at that chapter that I started to think who Grandin was for and what she stood for. In the early 1990s Donna Williams had written for the Facilitated Communication Digest a paper about the "Real World" while she was still married to an Englishman who is told about at the end of Somebody Somewhere.

Grandin does talk about her sense-world a lot. She loved bright colours and flying things and was stimulated by a lot. This becomes important in The great continuum when we come to read that.

If you are not good at remembering texts Grandin uses a lot of set pieces. Happe noticed that too. A few weeks before I read Emergence - in early August 1997 - I read An insider's view on the Edelsten [yes, he is dead too - Rimland's assistant - biological psychiatrist and populariser more or less on his own account] website along with Doris Allen and Isabelle Rapin on semantics and pragmatics and Courtney Chadwick's Eagle poem and May's speech where she talked about idioms like she died laughing. [That idea terrified me especially as I breathe irregularly and might choke and that whole idea of losing control - also specific triggering experience].

I am trying to remember School days and how Grandin came to literacy. When she was about seven or eight her Mum Eustacia [Purves her birth name; Cutler when Grandin was 15 and at school and she met Ben Cutler - she gives speeches under the last and she wrote a firecracker of a piece about pornography which some four, five years later it is not easy to forgive for the Daily Beast] would read to her and she would read too. They drank tea together. And she describes trouble with a worksheet which was caused by her way of divergent thinking.

What a moment it was to encounter crystallised and fluid intelligence. Temple had said she had a high degree of fluid intelligence. I think in the physics and chemistry world fluid and dynamics run together. Crystallised intelligence = g. G is for General in that instance.

There were birds and cages and suitcases and things within things.

And I remember at the end of the third chapter - "not with grace but with gumption" and how she survived those first five years. She was identified in the first place because she was not like the little girls next door. And Eustacia herself was all of twenty-one. Until we read Thorn in my pocket I wondered a lot about what she knew about children and babies.

There is a point in one of Eustacia's letters about normal therapy and abnormal therapy. That was resolved for me when I was reading about English and Welsh nursing training in the 1960s - one year of the normal and two years of the abnormal. I still dare myself to read The backward child which would give a perspective of that time from Cyril Burt's observations about learning disability which was then used in the USian sense. And learning difficulties too.

At that time I thought normal = community and abnormal = institution. Like the two pieces from Cal Montgomery which were out last week.

https://montgomerycal.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/a-knife-wound-to-the-gut-vor-and-people-with-disabilities/ [lots of links and videos of advocates, activists and cool people].

https://montgomerycal.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/bygones/ [that was a great piece about Jerry Lewis].

And that was the whole St Luke's thing. Eustacia was very very grateful that they were supporting her point of view and intuition even though they were a long way from fully understanding it.

Now - not too much glory to mothers. As I have tried to indicate - Eustacia was a highly emotional and social woman who was an actress and an university student. And probably all the reflected glory which has been shone on this mother in particular.

Now I made myself - or was encouraged to stop - pause on the part about Dr Stein and M and Ms. It is good grounding for hard talk and not the way I usually would read through a thunderstorm.

I am remembering Temple and the tennis shoe incident which is the time where her father loses his temper in a big way. That is one characteristic that they share. I know also of the English distinction between a hot temper and a bad temper. A bad temper hurts someone - it is malicious. And of course temper and character/personality/tone.

And someone had said - it was Tony W - that they lived in a world of daydreaming and fear and were afraid of everything.

Grandin became that way after she suppressed her temper - or rather repressed it. I find the lack of repression as unbelievable as Sacks did - though for very different reasons. You can repress/suppress behaviour - something she admits at the end when she talks about her medication - "My behaviour and speech improved more slowly. It takes time to change patterns and habits".

And she talks about categories and generalisations which is a very behaviourist way to look at it. I tend to think abstractions move us further from reality - something that was reinforced in The world of the simple by Oliver Sacks in The man who mistook his wife for a hat. And she has a lot of cognitive ideas during the 1980s and 1990s.

A lot of the time the science caught up with Grandin - from a low base, as Michelle Dawson's The misbehaviour of behaviourists showed us in such a catalysmic way at the end of 2003-the beginning of 2004. It was a great day when I visited Ralph Smith's website. He has so many wonderful illustrations.

It would be good to have one of the "Crow's Nest" though I've not talked about it much or some of Grandin's buildings. Architectural drafting is something I was exposed to in my youth because of a maternal grandfather who died before I knew him. I did pick up the Institute of Engineers book and also the World Book Dictionary so I do know mechanical and engineering symbols and the architectural ones too for lights and doorways.

Symbolic logic. This is an important one. A key to Grandin's work is the visual symbol world she theorised and practised in the 1960s and 1970s and wrote in her diaries when she was at Franklin Pierce and the university she went to before that.

There is "Graduate School" and "The Sliding Glass Door" and that psychology department party. I do imagine the people gathering around and calling her "Buzzard Woman".

The work does come alive when Grandin is at work and working her dream job at Swift's in Arizona and writing for the Ranch Magazine.

Soon after comes the scary part of the book. Eustacia makes her write something personal and gives her the letters. Now this moment could have been handled very differently. I rejoice after all when the Stehlis threw everything before 1977 into the sea on a cruise to Switzerland and France. And there is such a thing as the thirty-year rule. Or even the ten-year rule.

And this is also the time of yoghurt and colitis of the ulcerative variety. That bit probably did inspire me in a dark way. It was a prelude to all the gluten and casein diets - she does mention Shattock and Reinheldt.

There is that picture of Grandin in a Senate hearing... She speaks for the animals.


Benedetta Leoni said...

Ciao, nuova follower; complimenti per il blog, qui la mia ultima recensione, appena pubblicata, se ti va ti aspetto da me come lettrice/lettore fissa/o


Adelaide Dupont said...

Benedetta, ciao, ciao!

Grazie per ...

Mio chiamo Adelaide Dupont.


The post seems to be about Animals and Others.

The blog is about Series TV.

It's been a long time since I have been talking Italian and writing it. I did make a little children's book in 1995 called Mia Familigia.

I do appreciate your complimentary remarks, Benedetta.

I know lettrice - lettore is author/writer.

So "Final recount and publication"? "Aspects of a writer". "Or aspects of my writing"?

Hokis said...

Great post!

You have a nice blog!

Would you like to follow each other? (f4f) Let me know on my blog with a comment! ;oD

Have a great day!

xoxo Jacqueline

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention. I'm glad you found value in the Autistic Blogs sorted by age of blogger.

Adelaide Dupont said...

Hello, Judy:

it is indeed very helpful.

Especially as my usual "blog home" is the Autism Blogs Directory.

And the Observer has only come in the last year and so.

I also find the Alexa ordering valuable...