The abstract concepts in algebra present a common stumbling block for many with an autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, or other learning problems. Many of the kids would do well if geometry was substituted for algebra. For autistic and photo-realistic visual thinkers, such as Grandin, understanding comes from being able to see and work through a concept in images, creating what is in effect, a virtual reality program that plays out in the brain. In this manner, Grandin, who didn’t speak until she was almost 4, conceptualized down to minute details her design for a humane livestock restraint system now used on nearly half to the cattle in the .
Fortunately, the academic trend in the late 1960’s was finite math, a course Grandin passed with the help of tutors and devoted study, satisfying her college math requirement. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and both masters and doctoral degrees in animal science. For the past two decades, she’s been a professor at Colorado State University.
In her book, The Autistic Brain, she presents research findings that definitely show three types of specialized thinking. They are the photo realistic visual thinkers who think the way I do, math/pattern thinkers and word thinkers. Children who think differently will often thrive if they have more hands-on activities. Parents need to work with the schools to make sure that elementary school children have art, music, theater, sewing, woodworking, computer programs, and cooking . These classes teach important career skills and provide opportunities for students to have social interactions with their peers. Older students need to have access to career related classes such as welding, auto mechanics, and computer science.
There is a huge shortage of skilled mechanics. When I worked in construction installing my systems, I worked with many talented mechanics and metal fabricators. Some of them may have been on the milder end of the autism spectrum. These people were brilliant and they built very complicated things. Skilled trades are not for everybody on the spectrum. I estimate that a skilled trade would be a good choice for 25% of fully verbal people with ASD. When I look back on a long career, some of the best days of my life were out at a construction site. It was so much fun to talk about building things.
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Autistic Spectrum Disorder has come out of the shadows and gained notoriety in today's society through the actions of celebrities, organizations, and parents of autistic children as awareness of this increasingly prevalent disorder increases exponentially with research, education and mainstreaming. Since it was identified just a little over a half century ago, ASD has gained attention and momentum and tremendous strides in identification, possible causes, treatment, societal reaction/interaction, the learning/teaching cooperative, have provided lofty expectations for the future.