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A Chat with Temple Grandin and Richard Panek about “The Autistic Brain”

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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I am so pleased to announce that renowned animal scientist and autism expert, Temple Grandin, and her co-author of her latest book, “The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum“, Richard Panek, will be our guests on another collaborative Scientific American/Read Science! episode.

Join us Monday, September 9, 2013 at 1pm EDT at the Google + event link or on Scientific American’s YouTube channel. If you can’t make it, it will be archived afterwards on both the SciAm and Read Science! Youtube channels. (In case you missed it, our first collaboration was with E.O. Wilson, which you can view HERE)

Temple Grandin is the author of several best selling books about autism and autistic spectrum disorders. I have many points of connection with Temple. The first being that I have a daughter on the spectrum, so reading Temple’s works and hearing her speak (twice in person) with reasonableness about preparing a person on the spectrum for life has been of great benefit. Our family’s early intervention for our daughter has made all the difference and she has adjusted quite well to high school and her future looks bright. Temple is a fantastic role model for those children and parents of those children, and, being both articulate and intelligent, she has consistently provided the rest of us “neurotypicals” a much needed window into the mind of those on the spectrum.


Temple received her PhD in animal sciences right here at University of Illinois-Urbana where I have worked my entire career, and is currently on faculty at Colorado State University in Animal Sciences. (My son just started grad school at CSU in atmospheric sciences yet I doubt they will cross paths!) Temple credits her autism and associated sensory issues as providing her with a differing perspective which helped her understand animals and inspired her to create humane livestock handling systems. This is well documented in her book “Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior” She admits to “thinking in pictures” rather than through vocabulary, which was the topic of her book “Thinking in Pictures: Other Reports from My Life with Autism”. She is a perfect example of someone assessing and using her strengths and working around her weaknesses to make a difference in the world.

In her latest book, “The Autistic Brain”, she and Richard talk about the latest scientific research to help us understand autism, including brain imaging, genetics and much more. She expresses dismay at the dearth of scientific research into sensory issues that plague those on the spectrum and she addresses the topic of the ever changing DSM definition of autism and other spectrum disorders.

Temple’s co-author, Richard Panek, is the author of “The 4% Universe“, a quite enjoyable book that clearly lays out the history of the “discovery” of dark matter. He shifted easily over to biology from cosmology by assisting Temple with this project.
Maria Konnikova Hamilton posted an interview with Richard about his work with Temple here at SciAm.

If you can make it, please stop by the hangout where we will be talking about the latest scientific understanding of the possible origins of autism from the leading spokesperson on the topic. As always, Jeff and I at Read Science! are interested in sharing with you how science authors do their work, so we will also discuss how Temple and Richard worked collaboratively, with their “different kinds of minds”, to communicate this important information to the reading public.

Joanne Manaster About the Author: Joanne Manaster is a university level cell and molecular biology lecturer with an insatiable passion for science outreach to all ages. Enjoy her quirky videos at www.joannelovesscience.com, on twitter @sciencegoddess and on her Facebook page at JoanneLovesScience Follow on Twitter @sciencegoddess.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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