Around the World in 80 Books: Autism in America

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Welcome to the next installment in my Around the World in 80 Books Challenge! It’s exactly what it sounds like: I’m trying to read 80 books from 80 different countries/cultures around the world, and to add a frugal spin, I’m trying to do it all for under $20.

Here’s my running tally so far:
$0- Library books: Russia, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Spain, Nigeria, New Zealand
$2.75- Late fees on the book for Italy
$0- Free eBooks: Scotland, England, Portugal, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Mongolia
$0- Gift: Turkey, Pakistan
$0- Won in a Giveaway: Jerusalem
$1.99- eBook: Basque Country, Japan
$0- Paid review on an interesting read: Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid

Grand Total: $6.73

Holy, moly. It’s been quite a while since I did one of these posts. I swear I’ve been reading. They just haven’t been books that qualified for this challenge.

Today’s book isn’t from a foreign land, either. It is, however, a look into understanding people who are different from me. Which totally qualifies it for this challenge.

Also, it was a gift. So no money added to the total!

Autism in the USA

The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger's: 32 New Subject Revised & Expanded

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With one in every sixty-eight kids being diagnosed with autism, it’s extremely likely that this “disorder” has touched your life. Maybe it’s your kid. Maybe it’s your uncle. Maybe it’s your best friend’s niece.

But odds are, you know someone. Autism, though, makes it really hard to know someone in the traditional way that we’re used to socializing with people. It causes neural differences, changing the way that those with autism perceive and process the world. That can range anywhere from being a little socially awkward all the way to not being able to talk or engage with the world on any level whatsoever.

That’s why this book was so riveting for me. Temple Grandin has autism herself. She was diagnosed back before they removed the distinction between Asperger’s Syndrome and autism. But today she’s at the head of a very specific field in engineering for cattle ranchers and devotes a lot of time teaching parents of children with autism about how they may process the world so that they can better educate and raise them.

Educating and Socializing Different Types of Learners

Included in that is thought patterns—for example, Grandin describes her native language as pictures, and groups herself with visual learners. There are two other groups of learners within the spectrum according to Grandin, and she goes into the best teaching methods for all three.

Sensory Processing Issues

I have literally read books about occupational therapy. I’ve always come out still unsure of what, exactly, it did to help with sensory processing issues, or what those issues even were.

Grandin is phenomenal at explaining the same exact thing. I feel like this is the first time I can really understand what it means to organize neurons and how the therapy helps. I’m not going to butcher it here—go read the book yourself. It’s worth it.

The Far End of the Spectrum

In this specific edition, she also talks about people on the far end of the spectrum. The ones who are unable to engage in the world. What she found was incredible. These are individuals who typically have such extreme sensory processing problems that the world fades in and out.

Auditory processing disorder is when you can hear, but you can’t make sense of what you’re hearing. Visual processing disorder is when you can see, but it’s hard to make sense of what you’re seeing. You might see a shape, but not be able to recognize its color, or visa versa. Another thing that can happen is that one second you’ll be focusing just fine, but the next the world falls apart, looking more like a mosaic or spin art than real life.

How do we know this if these individuals can’t engage with the world? Recently, a few have been able to, at least in short spurts. Grandin interviewed a couple of them and recommended books that they have written about their own experiences. They do this through keyboards—I’m assuming something like an iPad.

Grandin was shocked that in the interviews she conducted, these individuals seemed to have more social skills than she did—they just couldn’t express them. They had a whole lot going on inside their heads, but without modern technology….

It was mind blowing. I really want to go read some of their books.

…Other…Parts of the Book

Keeping in mind that autism is a spectrum, and that Grandin is just one person on it, I would caution that not all of her opinions should be taken as gospel. There is a lot of research involved in the book, but when you come up against an opinion keep in mind that it does not represent the opinion of everyone on the spectrum. It should be taken with more consideration than that of a neurotypical person, but it’s important to remember that there is an increasing number of voices out there from the spectrum that we can also turn to.

Mad kudos to her for being one of the first, though.

A couple things I didn’t enjoy reading: there was one section where she broke down cognitive processing into two parts. These two parts were ascribed male and female genders. As a woman who grew up with a mathematical mind, I didn’t appreciate it.

Plus, the whole right brain/left brain, girl brain/boy brain thing is played out. Science is discovering that the left and right brain interact with each other far more than we used to think. And the way we socialize and ascribe gender norms to our children has nothing to do with specific thought processes. It has to do with our culture.

Also there was a chapter with a very long diatribe about a yeast infection that i just wanted to end.

I’ll deal with it, though, for all of the insights I gained in other sections of the book. Highly, highly recommend this read so you can understand those people in your life who process the world differently.

On Deck

Autobiography of a YogiIf I’m honest, this book is the reason it’s been so long since I’ve done one of these posts. That doesn’t mean it’s bad; it’s just taking me a long while to get through it. Tiny print. Lots of footnotes. Lots of pages. I’ve found myself deviating from it more than once. Also, I lost it for a little while when we got home from the beach.

But finishing it is a new goal.

Have a recommendation for what I should read next? Leave it in the comments! Here’s what’s already in my queue:

Canada: The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat recommeded by Messy Money
Afghanistan: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg recommended by Savvy Working Gal
Philippines: May Day Eve and Other Stories by Nick Joaquin recommended by Guiltless Reader
Iceland: Scarcity in Excess by Arna Mathiesen & Thomas Forget
Sudan: The Wedding of Zein by Tayeb Salih recommended by Kate Wilson
Kenya: Out of Africa by Karen Blixen recommended by Christine from The Wallet Diet
China: Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang
Ethiopia: The God Who Begat a Jakal by Nega Mezlekia recommended by Based On a True Story
French Antilles: Victoire: My Mother’s Mother by Maryse Conde recommended by Based on A True Story
Suriname: The Free Negress Elisabeth by Cynthia McLeod recommended by Based On A True Story
Costa Rica: The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica
France: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr recommended by Our Next Life
Germany: In the Garden of Beasts or Devil in the White City by Erik Larson recommended by Emi from AIP Around the World
Haiti: All Souls Rising by Madison Smartt Bell recommended by Tre from House of Tre
Jamaica: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James recommended by Jana of Jana Says
South Africa: Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton recommended by Emily from The John & Jane Doe Guide to Money & Investing
Australia: In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson recommended by Aaron from When Life Gives You Lemons, Add Vodka
Romania: Anything by Andre Codrescu recommended by Abigail from I Pick Up Pennies
Mali: Monique and the Mango Rains recommended by Rebecca from Stapler Confessions
Croatia: Girl at War by Sara Novi recommened by Erin from TexErin-In-Sydneyland

6 thoughts on “Around the World in 80 Books: Autism in America

  1. Miss Mazuma

    I haven’t read the book (didn’t know there was one) but I love love loved the movie. Temple is one of the reasons I stopped eating meat due to the unecessary cruel practices in slaughter. When the topic of animal welfare or autism comes up in conversation (usually not at the same time!), I immediately direct people towards this movie. She is a master engineer with a beautiful mind and elegant perception of life. I’ll definitely be adding this to my reading list!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      The movie was fantastic, and that part made me more than a little sad inside, too. While the movie stirred up empathy and hope for me, the book was more a pragmatic type of hope. Which was equally if not more thrilling and wonderful. This title is just one of many she’s written, too. There’s a whole slew I have to go check out after this introductory read.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Will have to check that one out for sure when I finish this challenge! Already hit Sweden, but I’m learning that I love Scandinavian literature in general.

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