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Temple Grandin on Autistic Kids and Video Games

March 11, 2013

This morning we caught up with a rather interesting new conversation with Temple Grandin, posted by Autism Live, in which she offers her striking trademark combination of insight and common sense.

Asked by a parent what she thinks of inclusion for autistic kids, Grandin recalled that she herself had a successful experience with inclusion in a small, rural lower school. But her stint in a big public high school was a disaster, so she was sent to a specialized boarding school. There she did more talking to adults (not to speak of horses) than other kids, but that was fine by her, she said, because “I’ll be honest, socializing with teenagers was not a life-skill I needed.”

Bad experiences in middle and high school are the reason a lot of parents turn to home schooling, she noted. “For some kids, getting away from the whole teenage scene is the best thing you can do,” but not if home schooling means letting kids retreat to their rooms and become “video game recluses.” Grandin is passionate about autistic kids, in fact all kids, learning early to do work, around the house and outside the house. She believes that work skills she was taught early—sewing and mucking out horse stalls and carpentry—made a huge difference in her development.

“You’ve gotta stretch these kids,” she says. Kids should be doing more physical work, and more making and building things.”One of the worst things schools ever did was taking out things like auto shop, wood shop, metal shop, art, and cooking—all those hands-on classes that can turn into great careers.”

And video games? An hour a day. As a kid, she was allowed just one hour to do what was her equivalent of playing video games—spinning a brass ring that covered a bolt on her bed, and studying it as it slowed down. She could have done it for hours, and been riveted, she notes, but she was allowed just one, and then she had to be out of her room doing something.

By the way, asked if she believes she would still have a diagnosis of autism under the new criteria in DSM-5, Grandin said absolutely. She had full-blown symptoms of autism as a child, she said, including very delayed speech, rocking, spinning, flapping, repetitive behaviors. What helped her develop her talents so effectively, a parent wondered. Superb early intervention, great teachers, work skills developed early. And there were good people all along the way who helped her, she said—even in the cattle industry she so famously criticized.

For more conversations between Grandin and Autism Live’s host Shannon Penrod visit Autism Live’s Interview Series With Temple Grandin here.

Tagged with: Self-Advocacy
Caroline Miller
Caroline Miller
Caroline Miller is the editorial director of the Child Mind Institute. In that role she directs development of resources on … Read Bio