Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: Emergence: Labeled Autistic by Temple Grandin and Margaret M. Scariano

Emergence: Labeled AutisticEmergence: Labeled Autistic by Temple Grandin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd been reading a lot of nonfiction books this year, and I'd noticed that most of them left out the experiences of people with disabilities or mental illness. Over the last few weeks, I've been making a concerted effort to pick up more books about disabilities. So, somehow, this is the second book by Temple Grandin I've read in the last month.

Emergence: Labeled Autistic is a familiar story if you've seen the HBO movie with Claire Danes in the title role. It covers Temple's growing up with autism in a society that had no idea what that meant, her difficulties and adjustments, and how she learned to turn it to her advantage.

This book came out in 1996, so some of the terminology it uses has been phased out. Definitely a lot of the questions answered by her mother about her upbringing (included in an appendix) would no longer be asked today. The book also discusses Temple's having "recovered" from autism, which is no longer in use. Today, we acknowledge that a person with a particular diagnosis may still have a productive role in society, and that overcoming one's difficulties doesn't negate them.

A lot of the understanding we have today about autism and how it works is thanks to Temple Grandin's contributions, and so we have her to thank for the fact that autism isn't a life sentence of isolation and blame. While a lot of people still react negatively to those with autism, there's a movement toward inclusion that's benefiting entire communities.

The narrative has a much different focus than most memoirs I've read. Temple struggles with understanding other people and finding a balance in her life between her fear of overstimulation and the need for some unfamiliarity. She's able to verbalize a lot of her struggles in a way that I found easy to grasp.

While no two people with autism are exactly the same, I found it enlightening to read of Temple Grandin's upbringing and struggles in her own words, and to apply her observations to other people with autism I know. The book is a quick, accessible read, so I'd recommend that anyone, from neurotypical to on the autism spectrum, give it a try. It can't hurt to learn how others perceive the world.

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