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  • I think I'll start out and just talk a little bit about

  • what exactly autism is.

  • Autism is a very big continuum

  • that goes from very severe -- the child remains non-verbal --

  • all the way up to brilliant scientists and engineers.

  • And I actually feel at home here,

  • because there's a lot of autism genetics here.

  • You wouldn't have any...

  • (Applause)

  • It's a continuum of traits.

  • When does a nerd turn into

  • Asperger, which is just mild autism?

  • I mean, Einstein and Mozart

  • and Tesla would all be probably diagnosed

  • as autistic spectrum today.

  • And one of the things that is really going to concern me is

  • getting these kids to be the ones that are going to invent

  • the next energy things,

  • you know, that Bill Gates talked about this morning.

  • OK. Now, if you want to understand

  • autism, animals.

  • And I want to talk to you now about different ways of thinking.

  • You have to get away from verbal language.

  • I think in pictures,

  • I don't think in language.

  • Now, the thing about the autistic mind

  • is it attends to details.

  • OK, this is a test where you either have to

  • pick out the big letters, or pick out the little letters,

  • and the autistic mind picks out the

  • little letters more quickly.

  • And the thing is, the normal brain ignores the details.

  • Well, if you're building a bridge, details are pretty important

  • because it will fall down if you ignore the details.

  • And one of my big concerns with a lot of policy things today

  • is things are getting too abstract.

  • People are getting away from doing

  • hands-on stuff.

  • I'm really concerned that a lot of the schools have taken out

  • the hands-on classes,

  • because art, and classes like that,

  • those are the classes where I excelled.

  • In my work with cattle,

  • I noticed a lot of little things that most people don't notice

  • would make the cattle balk. Like, for example,

  • this flag waving, right in front of the veterinary facility.

  • This feed yard was going to tear down their whole veterinary facility;

  • all they needed to do was move the flag.

  • Rapid movement, contrast.

  • In the early '70s when I started, I got right down

  • in the chutes to see what cattle were seeing.

  • People thought that was crazy. A coat on a fence would make them balk,

  • shadows would make them balk, a hose on the floor ...

  • people weren't noticing these things --

  • a chain hanging down --

  • and that's shown very, very nicely in the movie.

  • In fact, I loved the movie, how they

  • duplicated all my projects. That's the geek side.

  • My drawings got to star in the movie too.

  • And actually it's called "Temple Grandin,"

  • not "Thinking In Pictures."

  • So, what is thinking in pictures? It's literally movies

  • in your head.

  • My mind works like Google for images.

  • Now, when I was a young kid I didn't know my thinking was different.

  • I thought everybody thought in pictures.

  • And then when I did my book, "Thinking In Pictures,"

  • I start interviewing people about how they think.

  • And I was shocked to find out that

  • my thinking was quite different. Like if I say,

  • "Think about a church steeple"

  • most people get this sort of generalized generic one.

  • Now, maybe that's not true in this room,

  • but it's going to be true in a lot of different places.

  • I see only specific pictures.

  • They flash up into my memory, just like Google for pictures.

  • And in the movie, they've got a great scene in there

  • where the word "shoe" is said, and a whole bunch of '50s and '60s shoes

  • pop into my imagination.

  • OK, there is my childhood church,

  • that's specific. There's some more, Fort Collins.

  • OK, how about famous ones?

  • And they just kind of come up, kind of like this.

  • Just really quickly, like Google for pictures.

  • And they come up one at a time,

  • and then I think, "OK, well maybe we can have it snow,

  • or we can have a thunderstorm,"

  • and I can hold it there and turn them into videos.

  • Now, visual thinking was a tremendous asset

  • in my work designing cattle-handling facilities.

  • And I've worked really hard on improving

  • how cattle are treated at the slaughter plant.

  • I'm not going to go into any gucky slaughter slides.

  • I've got that stuff up on YouTube if you want to look at it.

  • But, one of the things that I was able to do in my design work

  • is I could actually test run

  • a piece of equipment in my mind,

  • just like a virtual reality computer system.

  • And this is an aerial view

  • of a recreation of one of my projects that was used in the movie.

  • That was like just so super cool.

  • And there were a lot of kind of Asperger types

  • and autism types working out there on the movie set too.

  • (Laughter)

  • But one of the things that really worries me

  • is: Where's the younger version of those kids going today?

  • They're not ending up in Silicon Valley, where they belong.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • Now, one of the things I learned very early on because I wasn't that social,

  • is I had to sell my work, and not myself.

  • And the way I sold livestock jobs

  • is I showed off my drawings, I showed off pictures of things.

  • Another thing that helped me as a little kid

  • is, boy, in the '50s, you were taught manners.

  • You were taught you can't pull the merchandise off the shelves

  • in the store and throw it around.

  • Now, when kids get to be in third or fourth grade,

  • you might see that this kid's going to be a visual thinker,

  • drawing in perspective. Now, I want to

  • emphasize that not every autistic kid

  • is going to be a visual thinker.

  • Now, I had this brain scan done several years ago,

  • and I used to joke around about having a

  • gigantic Internet trunk line

  • going deep into my visual cortex.

  • This is tensor imaging.

  • And my great big internet trunk line

  • is twice as big as the control's.

  • The red lines there are me,

  • and the blue lines are the sex and age-matched control.

  • And there I got a gigantic one,

  • and the control over there, the blue one,

  • has got a really small one.

  • And some of the research now is showing

  • is that people on the spectrum actually think with primary visual cortex.

  • Now, the thing is, the visual thinker's just one kind of mind.

  • You see, the autistic mind tends to be a specialist mind --

  • good at one thing, bad at something else.

  • And where I was bad was algebra. And I was never allowed

  • to take geometry or trig.

  • Gigantic mistake: I'm finding a lot of kids who need to skip algebra,

  • go right to geometry and trig.

  • Now, another kind of mind is the pattern thinker.

  • More abstract. These are your engineers,

  • your computer programmers.

  • Now, this is pattern thinking. That praying mantis

  • is made from a single sheet of paper --

  • no scotch tape, no cuts.

  • And there in the background is the pattern for folding it.

  • Here are the types of thinking:

  • photo-realistic visual thinkers, like me;

  • pattern thinkers, music and math minds.

  • Some of these oftentimes have problems with reading.

  • You also will see these kind of problems

  • with kids that are dyslexic.

  • You'll see these different kinds of minds.

  • And then there's a verbal mind, they know every fact about everything.

  • Now, another thing is the sensory issues.

  • I was really concerned about having to wear this gadget on my face.

  • And I came in half an hour beforehand

  • so I could have it put on and kind of get used to it,

  • and they got it bent so it's not hitting my chin.

  • But sensory is an issue. Some kids are bothered by fluorescent lights;

  • others have problems with sound sensitivity.

  • You know, it's going to be variable.

  • Now, visual thinking gave me a whole lot of insight

  • into the animal mind.

  • Because think about it: An animal is a sensory-based thinker,

  • not verbal -- thinks in pictures,

  • thinks in sounds, thinks in smells.

  • Think about how much information there is there on the local fire hydrant.

  • He knows who's been there, when they were there.

  • Are they friend or foe? Is there anybody he can go mate with?

  • There's a ton of information on that fire hydrant.

  • It's all very detailed information,

  • and, looking at these kind of details

  • gave me a lot of insight into animals.

  • Now, the animal mind, and also my mind,

  • puts sensory-based information

  • into categories.

  • Man on a horse

  • and a man on the ground --

  • that is viewed as two totally different things.

  • You could have a horse that's been abused by a rider.

  • They'll be absolutely fine with the veterinarian

  • and with the horseshoer, but you can't ride him.

  • You have another horse, where maybe the horseshoer beat him up

  • and he'll be terrible for anything on the ground,

  • with the veterinarian, but a person can ride him.

  • Cattle are the same way.

  • Man on a horse,

  • a man on foot -- they're two different things.

  • You see, it's a different picture.

  • See, I want you to think about just how specific this is.

  • Now, this ability to put information into categories,

  • I find a lot of people are not very good at this.

  • When I'm out troubleshooting equipment

  • or problems with something in a plant,

  • they don't seem to be able to figure out, "Do I have a training people issue?

  • Or do I have something wrong with the equipment?"

  • In other words, categorize equipment problem

  • from a people problem.

  • I find a lot of people have difficulty doing that.

  • Now, let's say I figure out it's an equipment problem.

  • Is it a minor problem, with something simple I can fix?

  • Or is the whole design of the system wrong?

  • People have a hard time figuring that out.

  • Let's just look at something like, you know,

  • solving problems with making airlines safer.

  • Yeah, I'm a million-mile flyer.

  • I do lots and lots of flying,

  • and if I was at the FAA,

  • what would I be doing a lot of direct observation of?

  • It would be their airplane tails.

  • You know, five fatal wrecks in the last 20 years,

  • the tail either came off or steering stuff inside the tail broke

  • in some way.

  • It's tails, pure and simple.

  • And when the pilots walk around the plane, guess what? They can't see

  • that stuff inside the tail.

  • You know, now as I think about that,

  • I'm pulling up all of that specific information.

  • It's specific. See, my thinking's bottom-up.

  • I take all the little pieces and I put the pieces together like a puzzle.

  • Now, here is a horse that was deathly afraid

  • of black cowboy hats.

  • He'd been abused by somebody with a black cowboy hat.

  • White cowboy hats, that was absolutely fine.

  • Now, the thing is, the world is going to need

  • all of the different kinds of minds

  • to work together.

  • We've got to work on developing all these different kinds of minds.

  • And one of the things that is driving me really crazy,

  • as I travel around and I do autism meetings,

  • is I'm seeing a lot of smart, geeky, nerdy kids,

  • and they just aren't very social,

  • and nobody's working on developing their interest

  • in something like science.

  • And this brings up the whole thing of my science teacher.

  • My science teacher is shown absolutely beautifully in the movie.

  • I was a goofball student. When I was in high school

  • I just didn't care at all about studying,

  • until I had Mr. Carlock's science class.

  • He was now Dr. Carlock in the movie.

  • And he got me challenged

  • to figure out an optical illusion room.

  • This brings up the whole thing of you've got to show kids