cover image Thinking in Pictures

Thinking in Pictures

Temple Grandin / Author Doubleday Books $22.95 (8p) ISBN 978-0

In her second autobiographical volume (after Emergence: Labelled Autistic), Grandin, a high-functioning autistic profiled by Oliver Sacks in his recent book, An Anthropologist on Mars, offers a series of original, linked essays on her life and work. An assistant professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University, her heightened ability to visualize allows her to make sense of the world by constructing concrete visual metaphors; for her, every concept must be tied into her nonverbal ``video library'' of particular people, places and associations. By thus enabling Grandin to put herself in the place of cows and other animals, her visual imagination has helped her to design humane livestock-processing equipment (these designs have been so effective that they now handle one-third of the nation's cattle and hogs). Throughout these essays, Grandin blends personal anecdotes with plainspoken accounts of scientific approaches to autism and methods of treatment, like drug therapy and a ``squeeze machine'' she invented to modify sensory stimulation. Although her prose is uneven, her insights and achievements are astonishing. Ultimately, Grandin finds within science and autism the basis for belief in God, given that her designs, which spring from her powers of visualization, reduce suffering and promote calm in both the animals and herself. Photos. (Nov.)