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Temple Grandin

Posted on February 7, 2010 at 8:02 am

Claire Danes plays Dr. Temple Grandin in an outstanding new HBO film about the pioneering animal scientist whose autism is a central element of her ability to understand animals and to think visually. Her astonishing and inspiring story first came to public attention in an article by neurologist Oliver Sacks called An Anthropologist On Mars. The title comes from Dr. Grandin’s own description of her sense of bafflement in trying to understand human behavior and communication.

But her understanding of animal behavior transformed the operations of cattle facilities. The movie makes clear that Dr. Grandin faced prejudice not just as an autistic person but as a woman. But her ideas were so compelling that she has become a world-respected authority. And she has been a guide to autism as well, writing and speaking about her experiences as a way of helping neuro-typicals understand those who literally see the world differently.

Dr. Grandin herself can be seen in this interview.

And here she talks to NPR about her squeeze machine. Her mother has also written a book about her experiences, Thorn in My Pocket.

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Biography Television The Real Story

Interview: Karen Osborne talks about treating Asperger Syndrome through Second Life

Posted on April 23, 2008 at 8:00 am

Karen Osborne is a research clinician at the University of Texas Center for Brain Health. Her background is in speech pathology. She is now coordinating the project that works on social skills and spoke to me about a new project that works with children and adults who have disabilities that impair their understanding of social cues and interactions, including Asperger syndrome, high functioning autism, ADHD, traumatic brain injury, and schizophrenia. They are using the online community Second Life to create an environment that gives these patients a way to test their social skills that gives them better feedback than previous treatments. It has been in development for two years and has been used with patients since last summer.
Tell me a little bit about your program and how it got started.
second-life-topper.jpgIn the past, therapists have worked with autistic children through role playing, stories, and rules. But the brain changes not by learning rules but by engaging in activities. Sandy Chapman had the idea to use virtual reality to immerse the patients in the environments that are similar to real life. It is not really role playing because they become the character. It adds a little more realism to the therapy aspect. In role playing it is hard to get past the fact that you’re playing with the therapist, but in virtual reality it is more like meeting for the first time and building a relationship.
Second Life has some wild corners. How do you control the environment?
Right now we’re using a private and secure island on Second Life with only people we let in. Patients can log in and be part of it. They get to create a character that represents themselves as closely as possible.

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