Temple Grandin is famous; perhaps the most famous autistic person in the world. She’s written books, she’s got a great career, she has a PhD …. it’s amazing. But she’s autistic. I’m not. In this post, I detail some difference between me (and some others with NLD) and Temple Grandin (and some other people with autism).
When people hear about nonverbal learning disability (NLD), it often sounds a lot like Asperger’s syndrome (and there are similarities). And Asperger’s is, often, described as a form of autism (and there are similarities). Well, there’s also a saying “When you’ve seen one person with NLD, you’ve seen one person with NLD”. The same is true about autism; not all people with autism are like Temple Grandin. This article is about me; other people with nonverbal learning disabilities are different from me.
Some dissimilarities between me and many autistic people:
Many autistic people (not all) like animals. Most notably, Temple Grandin really likes animals. I don’t like animals. I don’t get them. When I’m dealing with people, I deal better with purely verbal information – words, whether written or spoken. And, except possibly for dolphins and some highly trained apes, animals don’t talk. Certainly none of them speak English. People who get along with animals rely on nonverbal cues, just the sort of thing I’m bad at. Many people (NT or autistic or whatever) get a lot of pleasure out of stroking a dog or cat. I don’t. I don’t hate doing it, but it doesn’t give me joy.
Many autistic people (not all) think in pictures. Indeed, Temple Grandin has a book called “Thinking in Pictures”. I do NOT think in pictures. Not at all. Not nearly as much as a typical NT (that’s neurotypical, the acronym for people who think they don’t need one). I think in words and sometimes in symbols. Unlike many people who are not visual, I am good at math (I’m a statistician), but I relate much better to algebra than to geometry, and in calculus, I liked the formal stuff better than the applications; when I was learning arithmetic I didn’t memorize stuff, I made up tricks; and the visual explanation of multiplication did nothing for me – I thought of it as repeated addition.
Many autistic people are good at certain types of routine physical tasks – things like spinning a top, or sometimes spinning themselves. I am not good at any of this.
Of course, in some ways, that makes me atypical for NLD as well as for autism. I’m typical of me. The only diagnosis that fits me perfectly is “Peter”.