April is National Autism Awareness Month, and it’s worth it to take a minute to celebrate the innumerable ways people are unique. Animal behavior pioneer Temple Grandin has been an Autism advocate and activist for years, and in her talk from TED2010, she shares her distinctive outlook on the world. She breaks down the main ways people on the “continuum” of Autism can develop as thinkers, and expands on her own experience as a visual thinker. For Grandin, her visual thinking allowed her insights into detail-oriented problem solving that the people around her missed – and in this talk, she makes it clear that young people today on the Autism spectrum have just as much potential as she did. In this exceptional discussion, Grandin encourages mentors around the world to take children on the spectrum under their wings to ensure that the next generation’s individuality leads to the kind of innovation and empathy she’s been able to achieve in her own life.
In the spirit of helping inspire you to think about the world from this new perspective, here’s a reading list highlighting the experience of Autism.
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism, Naoki Higashida, translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell (Random House, 2013)
This moving memoir, originally published in Japan in 2007, was written by Higashida when he was 13 years old with the aid of a Japanese character grid and a communications facilitator. Structured in a question-and-answer format interposed with short stories, Higashida gives readers insight into the different ways people express themselves with bravery, honesty and grace.
The Long Ride Home: The Continuing Story of a Father’s Quest to Heal His Son Rowan, Rupert Isaacson (Viking Books, 2014)
This uplifting sequel to the international bestseller The Horse Boy follows the journey of Rupert Isaacson on his quest to connect with his son, Rowan, who was diagnosed with Autism at a young age. Isaacson travels around the world with his son to visit healers from a variety of cultures, united by the idea that connecting Rowan with nature is the best way for father to connect with son.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (Vintage Books, 2004)
This modern classic, now a hit Tony-award winning Broadway play, follows Christopher Boone, an Autistic 15 year old, as he tries to solve the mystery of a neighborhood dog’s sudden death. Equal parts funny and heart-wrenching, this amazing novel is as unique as it is eye-opening.
My Picture Perfect Family: What Happens When One Twin has Autism, Marguerite Elisofon (Central Park Publishers, 2016)
This memoir tells one courageous family’s mission to support their Autistic daughter’s chance at living a “normal” life. Elisofon’s journey as a mother is a testament to perseverance, unconditional love and hope for families everywhere dealing with the unforeseen circumstances of having a child on the Autism spectrum.
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, John Elder Robison (Three Rivers Press, 2008)
This darkly funny memoir traces Robison’s reflections on his life after being diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 40. His perspective on his life, transformed by his diagnosis, is as thoughtful as it is slyly humorous.
(More) Recommended Reading:
Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism, Temple Grandin (Vintage Books, 2006)
In Thinking in Pictures, Grandin writes from the dualistic perspective as a scientist and a person living on the Autism spectrum. She brings these points of view together to create an insightful look into the world of Autism, spanning the gap between different walks of life and experiences.