cover image The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

Temple Grandin and Richard Panek. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (304p) ISBN 97

If you want to know why an autistic person acts the way he or she does, “you have to go beyond” behavior and “into his or her brain,” according to Grandin (Thinking in Pictures) and science writer Panek (The 4% Universe). Since 1987, when Grandin, a noted Colorado State University animal science professor, became “one of the first autistic subjects to undergo” an MRI, she has taken multiple “journey[s] to the center of [her] mind” in the hope that neuroimaging technologies will lead to a better understanding of autism. “From the start, medical professionals didn’t know what to do with autism. Was the source of these behaviors biological, or was it psychological?” Now, 70 years after Johns Hopkins University M.D. Leo Kanner gave the first diagnosis, researchers are making huge strides. The authors urge parents, teachers, and society to focus on the strengths of autistics, and they devise a “three-ways-of-thinking model”—by pictures, patterns, or words/facts—to foster change in schools and the workplace. Grandin’s particular skill is her remarkable ability to make sense of autistics’ experiences, enabling readers to see “the world through an autistic person’s jumble of neuron misfires,” and she offers hope that one day, autism will be considered not according to some diagnostic manual, but to the individual. Illus. Agent: Betsy Lerner, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Apr. 30)