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The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

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A cutting-edge account of the latest science of autism, from the best-selling author and advocate When Temple Grandin was born in 1947, autism had only just been named. Today it is more prevalent than ever, with one in 88 children diagnosed on the spectrum. And our thinking about it has undergone a transformation in her lifetime: Autism studies have moved from the realm of A cutting-edge account of the latest science of autism, from the best-selling author and advocate When Temple Grandin was born in 1947, autism had only just been named. Today it is more prevalent than ever, with one in 88 children diagnosed on the spectrum. And our thinking about it has undergone a transformation in her lifetime: Autism studies have moved from the realm of psychology to neurology and genetics, and there is far more hope today than ever before thanks to groundbreaking new research into causes and treatments. Now Temple Grandin reports from the forefront of autism science, bringing her singular perspective to a thrilling journey into the heart of the autism revolution. Weaving her own experience with remarkable new discoveries, Grandin introduces the neuroimaging advances and genetic research that link brain science to behavior, even sharing her own brain scan to show us which anomalies might explain common symptoms. We meet the scientists and self-advocates who are exploring innovative theories of what causes autism and how we can diagnose and best treat it. Grandin also highlights long-ignored sensory problems and the transformative effects we can have by treating autism symptom by symptom, rather than with an umbrella diagnosis. Most exciting, she argues that raising and educating kids on the spectrum isn’t just a matter of focusing on their weaknesses; in the science that reveals their long-overlooked strengths she shows us new ways to foster their unique contributions. From the “aspies” in Silicon Valley to the five-year-old without language, Grandin understands the true meaning of the word spectrum. The Autistic Brain is essential reading from the most respected and beloved voices in the field.


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A cutting-edge account of the latest science of autism, from the best-selling author and advocate When Temple Grandin was born in 1947, autism had only just been named. Today it is more prevalent than ever, with one in 88 children diagnosed on the spectrum. And our thinking about it has undergone a transformation in her lifetime: Autism studies have moved from the realm of A cutting-edge account of the latest science of autism, from the best-selling author and advocate When Temple Grandin was born in 1947, autism had only just been named. Today it is more prevalent than ever, with one in 88 children diagnosed on the spectrum. And our thinking about it has undergone a transformation in her lifetime: Autism studies have moved from the realm of psychology to neurology and genetics, and there is far more hope today than ever before thanks to groundbreaking new research into causes and treatments. Now Temple Grandin reports from the forefront of autism science, bringing her singular perspective to a thrilling journey into the heart of the autism revolution. Weaving her own experience with remarkable new discoveries, Grandin introduces the neuroimaging advances and genetic research that link brain science to behavior, even sharing her own brain scan to show us which anomalies might explain common symptoms. We meet the scientists and self-advocates who are exploring innovative theories of what causes autism and how we can diagnose and best treat it. Grandin also highlights long-ignored sensory problems and the transformative effects we can have by treating autism symptom by symptom, rather than with an umbrella diagnosis. Most exciting, she argues that raising and educating kids on the spectrum isn’t just a matter of focusing on their weaknesses; in the science that reveals their long-overlooked strengths she shows us new ways to foster their unique contributions. From the “aspies” in Silicon Valley to the five-year-old without language, Grandin understands the true meaning of the word spectrum. The Autistic Brain is essential reading from the most respected and beloved voices in the field.

30 review for The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan Olesen

    I avoid books on autism. I don’t like the terminology of the “autism spectrum” and the snake oil cures that celebrities like to flaunt. I have worked with the seriously autistic for more than 25 years – the hard-core institutionalized kind – and have little tolerance for someone who thinks their child is autistic simply because he’s an introvert. And for the last 30 years I’ve had a profoundly impaired autistic foster son, and all that happy information for the mainstreamed four year old who mig I avoid books on autism. I don’t like the terminology of the “autism spectrum” and the snake oil cures that celebrities like to flaunt. I have worked with the seriously autistic for more than 25 years – the hard-core institutionalized kind – and have little tolerance for someone who thinks their child is autistic simply because he’s an introvert. And for the last 30 years I’ve had a profoundly impaired autistic foster son, and all that happy information for the mainstreamed four year old who might have Asperger’s does not apply to hard autism. Thus, I have avoided reading anything by Temple Grandin, the Holy Saint of autism. My bad. In The Autistic Brain, Grandin discusses very rationally the numerous scientific studies done on communicative autistics, how they often have an inner thinking self and an outer acting self, and how the two don’t often interact. The current psychiatric labels, she feels, do autistics a huge disservice by lumping so many people under one umbrella no one can tell who is who – and leads to misdiagnoses and disproportionate numbers. She discusses how functional MRI imaging shows the different ways different autistics perceive the world, and that one type of treatment will not work for all, and that it’s the brain that’s the issue, not the psychoanalysis. That reiterated some serious studies I had read years ago. She talks about the part genetics plays, and how research has shown some links, but no answers at all. Grandin stresses that education for autistics – whether the high-functioning Aspie who will find success in Silicon Valley or the non-verbal autistic who cannot dress himself independently – needs to focus on what strengths the person has, not what deficits, and that deficits can be improved by using strengths, and that these children, no matter what the functioning level, need to get out into society and learn even rudimentary social skills, for that is the only way they will ever progress. Grandin’s discussion of picture-thinkers, pattern-thinkers, and word-fact thinkers set my mind reeling to the hundred or so autistic children I have worked with, and the lightbulbs went on over my head. I thought about things I have tried, things that have worked, and things that have failed in a whole new light, and cannot wait to try new trajectories w/ my son. Grandin made me feel good that we have defied the “experts,” taking my son – whom no group home would touch because his behaviors were so severe – to places like Manhattan, Baltimore, Boston, boats, trains, weddings, and more – with a 90% success rate. She made me understand how J. can do things no “autistic” is supposed to be able to do. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone dealing with an autistic person of any functioning level. Thank you, Temple, for understanding. You’ve taught this old dog some new tricks without all that quick-cure quackery, and made a believer out of me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Burt

    Her best yet. So many times while going through this, I pictured Obama after the Zimmerman verdict was delivered, trying to get a country to understand what it's like to live as a black man in America. Temple takes on a task no less daunting in trying to help Neurotypicals appreciate the experience of a life lived inside the head of someone on the autistic spectrum. She describes how even her own assumptions about autistics were off the mark initially. Explaining the difference between the insid Her best yet. So many times while going through this, I pictured Obama after the Zimmerman verdict was delivered, trying to get a country to understand what it's like to live as a black man in America. Temple takes on a task no less daunting in trying to help Neurotypicals appreciate the experience of a life lived inside the head of someone on the autistic spectrum. She describes how even her own assumptions about autistics were off the mark initially. Explaining the difference between the inside person and the outside person, the one who feels and the one we observe, and listing examples of how the inside person is just as "normal" as the people who make the rules and decide what's acceptable behaviour and not, she makes her case. Think all autistics are incapable of deciphering facial expressions? Think some can't understand as much as anyone else if the presentation of images are slowed down? Think again. That's what you'll do over and over. You'll gain a new way of looking at "normal" in the process. The autistic spectrum has just as much variance as neurotypical when you consider that normal is just a mathematical concept that does not exist in the real world. Ever met a family with 2.4 children? Then why assume all people with an autistic spectrum diagnosis have a normal way of seeing the world? When she takes the DSM-5 to task, I wasn't just smiling, I was cheering. Required reading for anyone who likes to call themselves enlightened. An excellent consideration of walking a mile in those shoes for the rest of us, even if those are your shoes. This scientist lays out a roadmap of the brain, your brain and mine, and explains how recent advancements in neurology have moved the ideas associated with autism from psychology (it's all in your mind) to neurobiology (it's about your brain). She then extrapolates some very compelling concepts and future areas of study she deems worthy of consideration. We are all the richer from having had this woman living among us and expressing her thoughts about the experience. This work isn't just about the advances in science or medicine, it's about their impact on our understanding of the human experience. Yours, mine... theirs. Even if you like to pretend you're normal. We're more alike than you suspect. She shows us how.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I didn't know what more Temple Grandin could say about autism, but she's come up with some cutting-edge information and thinking. The book is well organized, thanks (she says) to her co-author. Grandin really wants to understand everything about autism, and she follows up on things she hears about. This book collects some current findings about the workings of the brain and notes areas slated for future investigation. She is interested in MRI data about brain structure and activity in normal and I didn't know what more Temple Grandin could say about autism, but she's come up with some cutting-edge information and thinking. The book is well organized, thanks (she says) to her co-author. Grandin really wants to understand everything about autism, and she follows up on things she hears about. This book collects some current findings about the workings of the brain and notes areas slated for future investigation. She is interested in MRI data about brain structure and activity in normal and autistic brains. This data has broader context and implications. It's fascinating how specific regions of the brain control specific ways of perceiving and thinking. I like that she has realized that all autistic people don't think like her or have her same strengths and weaknesses. She says that autistic people have various combinations of parts of the brain not working "normally" and that in fact, those variations are more extreme versions of variations in how everyone's brains work. By "parts of the brain" I mean the groups of cells in various areas in the various structures of the brain. Okay, I'm paraphrasing broadly, but I think she's saying that and I think that's correct. The book goes into sensory aspects of autism. I recently read a book about introverts, Quiet by Susan Cain. Cain postulates that introverts are more sensitive to stimuli from birth (or earlier?), and that's why they don't need to engage as much as extroverts. Could this be part of the same spectrum? And of course this would be the result of how the cells work in the parts of the brain that perceive and react to those stimuli. The book touches on the history of how the psychiatric profession has viewed the causes of autism. I was surprised and delighted to find a couple of quotes from Sigmund Freud saying, basically, that it's likely that in the future, physiology and chemistry will find answers that will "blow away the whole of our artificial structure of hypothesis." (He wasn't talking about autism but still, wow.) It includes a review of the changes in the DSM criteria for diagnosis, which have major effects on whether children on the spectrum have access to resources to help them learn and adapt. One big point that Grandin makes is an argument for three types of thinkers: visual and verbal (both widely accepted) and pattern thinkers. She goes into detail about each kind of thinking and about how being aware of them can help in the workplace. I'm not in total agreement with all of Grandin's points. She writes as though teaching manners to children is something that can easily be done. As a vegetarian, I cringe at her "humane" animal slaughter viewpoint (though I am sure that she has made it less inhumane where she's worked). That said, she is logical, sensible, curious, and enthusiastic--a great combination. This is the kind of book that gave me a lot of "Aha!" or "You have to hear this!" moments. Excellent.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    This book is written as two parts. The first is an overview of the current state of research into the causes of autism, in turn divided into subsections on brain structure and genetics. The second is a personal and impassioned but not terribly coherent plea for Aspies to be defined as much for their strengths as their weaknesses, indeed for Aspie traits to be seen just as traits without any attendant value judgements about them at all. Part 1 is excellent, giving a very comprehensive picture of w This book is written as two parts. The first is an overview of the current state of research into the causes of autism, in turn divided into subsections on brain structure and genetics. The second is a personal and impassioned but not terribly coherent plea for Aspies to be defined as much for their strengths as their weaknesses, indeed for Aspie traits to be seen just as traits without any attendant value judgements about them at all. Part 1 is excellent, giving a very comprehensive picture of what is and is not known about variations in brain structure between neurotypical and autistic brains whilst providing necessary caveats about the limitations of the imaging equipment used (especially fMRI which I advise all readers to be extremely sceptical about when used in psychological experiments). The follow-up on genetics is just as good, revealing that there are hundreds of genetic variations implicated in autism and that many of them are associated with the brain in some way. There is a also a short discussion of environmental factors (drugs, pesticides etc.). It's short mainly because there's been very little research on the subject. If I am to be critical of part 1 at all it is that some of the technicalities of both brain anatomy and genetic theory aren't explained in sufficient detail for non-biologists. (My lack of grasp of genetics is an increasing frustration to me; if you know of a good introductory text on the subject please tell me about it!) Part 2 is not so fabulous and causes a star to be docked. The material is much more personal and is not organised in a very clear fashion. Grandin admits that this has never been her strong suit but her journalist co-author was evidently unable to completely sort out the problem. There seem to be two main points. The first is advocating research that is based on single symptoms. Instead of taking autistic people and comparing them to neurotypical people, take people with a specific symptom, e.g. extreme hearing sensitivities and compare them with people who don't. One does not necessarily have to be autistic to have such a sensitivity and if you're autistic you won't necessarily have it either. This makes a great deal of sense to me from a scientific stand-point and I hope researchers adopt the approach. The second main point is to try to see past labels to people and recognise their strengths as well as their weaknesses and that traits are actually neutral and are only strengths or weaknesses in their contexts. Well, I can get behind that but along the way we are treated to some bizarrely self-contradictory opinions. On the one hand we are told that Grandin was hopeless at geometry and that her teacher should have given up on the subject and taught something else she could do instead e.g. geometry. On the other, we are later subjected to a rant in which Aspies with various difficulties that Grandin doesn't have should essentially "get over it." I find this to be on exactly the same level as telling a depressed person to "pull yourself together" and pretty offensive. Taking this along with her completely false (and now dropped) assumption that because she is Aspie and she thinks in pictures primarily, all Aspies must think in pictures, what I see is a woman who is very poor at figuring out the level of variation there is in human modes of thought. Assuming everybody sees the world the way you do is, however a very Aspie trait!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Very good nonfiction look at how thinking about autism has changed as our understanding of neurology and brain chemistry has increased. For me, the second part of the book ("Rethinking the Autistic Brain") was far more interesting and useful than the neurology/brain chemistry first part. Just because people with autism think differently doesn't mean that our thinking is wrong. It's just different. And if researchers develop a "cure" for autism, what will be lost? There's evidence suggesting that Very good nonfiction look at how thinking about autism has changed as our understanding of neurology and brain chemistry has increased. For me, the second part of the book ("Rethinking the Autistic Brain") was far more interesting and useful than the neurology/brain chemistry first part. Just because people with autism think differently doesn't mean that our thinking is wrong. It's just different. And if researchers develop a "cure" for autism, what will be lost? There's evidence suggesting that people such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo had high-functioning autism, as well as probably Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc. That doesn't seem like "wrong" or "broken" thinking to me. I'm glad that I'm old enough (47) that I made it through the education system as a "weird smart kid" instead of as someone with a disability, and that I learned I could take care of and support myself. All of it was through a pretty non-standard path, which I'm not sure would be an option today. My pattern-matching brain and ability to look at problems in a way that's completely different from the way my coworkers do is valued by the company I've worked for for over 17 years.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    I first came across Grandin in grad school in 2000 in a class on ethnomethodology. I knew that she was a high functioning autistic woman who came up with a very humane way to slaughter cattle based on her own experience as an autistic person. The cattle were are slaughtered while terrified have worse meat than those who are slaughtered while they are calm. Her machine was akin to the squeeze machine that she designed for herself as a way to calm her tactile oversensory reaction. The point of brin I first came across Grandin in grad school in 2000 in a class on ethnomethodology. I knew that she was a high functioning autistic woman who came up with a very humane way to slaughter cattle based on her own experience as an autistic person. The cattle were are slaughtered while terrified have worse meat than those who are slaughtered while they are calm. Her machine was akin to the squeeze machine that she designed for herself as a way to calm her tactile oversensory reaction. The point of bringing up Grandin in ethnomenthodolgy was to think about how we think and how we know what we know. Grandin questions everyone's experience and shows how reality is perceived reality. In this book she frequently distinguishes between the thinking person and the acting person; the autistic might need to act (run around and flap arms) as a reaction to over sensation, but the thinking person is noticing the odd behavior and analyzing it even as he is doing it. In this more recent summary on autism, Grandin discusses new developments in research and then explores her own previous error: categorizing people as visual vs. word/fact thinkers. She originally qualified all autistics as visual thinkers, but has since re-thought to divide them into pattern or visual or word. The addition of the third category helps to explain some of the differences among the autistic. I was slightly disappointed, I rather wanted a bit more personal information (I probably should have read her other book for that), but overall feel like I learned more about autism than I had known before. I especially enjoyed the details about the fMRI scans and learning about the differences between people's brain development. Not just the stuff about autistics, but also about the London cabdrivers and the specific examples of the ways in which our brains grow and change to accommodate learning and doing. Grandin does a great job of explaining lots of phenomenon in terms of brain development. We wouldn't expect a 3 ft. tall adult man to ever be able to dunk a basketball; we shouldn't expect someone with an under developed cerebellum to be a tight rope walker. I was also a bit annoyed with her prescriptive measures for education and employment of autistic people. Not because they were bad suggestions, they weren't. They were quite common sensical and useful suggestions, but because they would apply to anyone. Her ideas about tailoring education to the needs of the child. Great! Fabulous! Let's do it. Of course it is a problem with the education system AT LARGE that it is a one-sized-fits all curriculum. Certainly special education allows kids diagnosed with autism to get adjustments, but shouldn't we allow all kids the focus on learning the way that makes the most sense to them? Why can't we (as a society) arrange our education to be geared toward visual/word/pattern thinkers, rather than forcing square pegs into round holes? Overall I learned a bit and it is an approachable nonfiction quick read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    H.A. Leuschel

    This book is a delight from start to finish. It doesn't only mention all you need to know about autism but challenges preconceptions and the dangers of labeling but also gives sound advice about how to see the disorder in a positive light. Tenple Grandin is an inspiration to all of us whether autistic or not as she emphasizes the fact that we should look at the talents and abilities in a person and nurture them rather than insist on deficits. She also suggests that today's education system is to This book is a delight from start to finish. It doesn't only mention all you need to know about autism but challenges preconceptions and the dangers of labeling but also gives sound advice about how to see the disorder in a positive light. Tenple Grandin is an inspiration to all of us whether autistic or not as she emphasizes the fact that we should look at the talents and abilities in a person and nurture them rather than insist on deficits. She also suggests that today's education system is too unilateral in that it favors the 'word-fact thinkers', leaving so many people feeling they don't fit into the mould. Her idea is that there are more than one way to think: in picture, in words and in patterns, which challenges IQ tests and the way we teach children in school and raise them at home. It's a thought-provoking read which was very well written and I will recommend it anyone who is interested in knowing more about the diversity of brains and their individual thinking processes. Fabulous read!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brandt

    After I read Eli Gottlieb's Best Boy. I immediately sought out the works of Temple Grandin. Both of my sons are on the autism spectrum and my youngest son is the one who is "classically" autistic and the one I have the most difficulty "figuring out." Gottlieb's autistic narrator made me want to try and understand how my youngest sees the world, and I have often heard that to understand someone you should try to walk a mile in their shoes. But when it comes to my son's autism I have a hard time p After I read Eli Gottlieb's Best Boy. I immediately sought out the works of Temple Grandin. Both of my sons are on the autism spectrum and my youngest son is the one who is "classically" autistic and the one I have the most difficulty "figuring out." Gottlieb's autistic narrator made me want to try and understand how my youngest sees the world, and I have often heard that to understand someone you should try to walk a mile in their shoes. But when it comes to my son's autism I have a hard time putting myself in his mindset. Temple Grandin has walked many miles in my son's shoes and for much longer. And while The Autistic Brain is not the "how-to" guide to my autistic son that I will likely never find, Grandin is able to user her own experience combined with the research she has done on autism to give me a better understanding of how both of my boys operate. Unfortunately for those of us who live with autism on a daily basis, there is no "one-size fits all" approach to autism, but in her efforts to understand her own autism, Grandin has done a ton of research on the topic, often volunteering to be a guinea pig when a new neuro-imaging technology or technique is introduced. She has also turned her autism into one of her great strengths--since she sees the world differently from a neurotypical person, she has been able to force her readers to see things in a different way. If I have learned a lesson from The Autistic Brain it is that I should stop trying to "figure out" and pigeon-hole my sons. They are dynamics personalities and like all of us have strengths and weaknesses. What I need to do is focus on accentuating their strengths and help them cope with their weaknesses, but don't let those weaknesses define them for others. That would be selling them short, and if there is anything that Temple Grandin is proof of, it's that you don't sell and autistic person short.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    Brilliant. Fascinating look at neurological and genetic studies regarding autism and the need for better MRI and other technologies to achieve accurate diagnoses. This book highlights the problems of DSM diagnoses: that the current autism spectrum is not based on science but relies on subjective interpretation that is constantly changing. Until the science evolves and autistic diagnoses can be consistently traced to specific parts of the brain or specific genes, Grandin recommends diagnosing and Brilliant. Fascinating look at neurological and genetic studies regarding autism and the need for better MRI and other technologies to achieve accurate diagnoses. This book highlights the problems of DSM diagnoses: that the current autism spectrum is not based on science but relies on subjective interpretation that is constantly changing. Until the science evolves and autistic diagnoses can be consistently traced to specific parts of the brain or specific genes, Grandin recommends diagnosing and treating individual autistic symptoms/traits rather than grouping children together on the spectrum and giving them inaccurate sub-labels designed more for insurance companies than parents and their struggling children. Grandin also recommends using education to identify and expand autistic children's strengths to prepare them for the workforce rather than focusing on "fixing" autistic weaknesses, forcing autistic children to conform to standards where they are marginalized and perform poorly. Grandin describes three brain types - picture thinkers, word-fact thinkers and pattern thinkers - which could help teachers better assess their autistic students and, if used to adapt curricula, could help children develop the skills they need to shine.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I respect Temple Grandin both as a scientist and as an educator. She speaks up with knowledge and authority regarding the humane treatment of livestock, and of the humane education of human beings. I enjoy her writing—her unique personality shines through and adds a validity to what she says. “The Autistic Brain” is much more scientific than her earlier “Thinking in Pictures,” and as such, may be a bit of an information overload for those who aren’t looking for such an in depth education on brai I respect Temple Grandin both as a scientist and as an educator. She speaks up with knowledge and authority regarding the humane treatment of livestock, and of the humane education of human beings. I enjoy her writing—her unique personality shines through and adds a validity to what she says. “The Autistic Brain” is much more scientific than her earlier “Thinking in Pictures,” and as such, may be a bit of an information overload for those who aren’t looking for such an in depth education on brain function. I really appreciate the places where she admits that her earlier thinking/writing was incorrect, and shares her updated insights. As one of the foremost authorities on autism, her openness is refreshing and to be highly regarded. Throughout the book, she pays some of the highest respect and tributes to her mother. I feel that this is a vitally important theme in her book (and her life); especially in this age in which motherhood is regularly denigrated. If you live with or work with autistic individuals, this book provides a lot of insight.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Manaster

    Fantastic book co-written with another fabulous author, Richard Panek. I had Temple and Richard as guests on my Read Science! google hangout on air. She is a wonderful person whose contributions to us are inummerable. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypWZZo... Fantastic book co-written with another fabulous author, Richard Panek. I had Temple and Richard as guests on my Read Science! google hangout on air. She is a wonderful person whose contributions to us are inummerable. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypWZZo...

  12. 4 out of 5

    julieta

    I love Temple Grandin. Her insight is always a treat, she's a great embassador for people who have autism. The most important thing about her angle is that she does not think of her autism as a problem, but as a strength. I love Temple Grandin. Her insight is always a treat, she's a great embassador for people who have autism. The most important thing about her angle is that she does not think of her autism as a problem, but as a strength.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    The Autistic Brain is supposedly about autism but the brain research can be generalized to pretty much any brain. The best parts of the book are the chapters that present the newest brain research and how that is being used to figure out why autistics are different. Advances in neuroplasticity are also showing that brains can change over time as people gain knowledge, learn new skills or experience new places. Grandin also makes a case for looking at autism with an eye for the unique strengths o The Autistic Brain is supposedly about autism but the brain research can be generalized to pretty much any brain. The best parts of the book are the chapters that present the newest brain research and how that is being used to figure out why autistics are different. Advances in neuroplasticity are also showing that brains can change over time as people gain knowledge, learn new skills or experience new places. Grandin also makes a case for looking at autism with an eye for the unique strengths of the child rather than just deficits. There is an interesting section in which she lays out some ideas how to think about careers for autistics and how to find jobs that play to autistic strengths (obviously leaning toward highly functioning autistics here). I feel that I learned some new information about autistics in this book, but much of what is presented can be generalized to all kids. We should find the strengths of all kids, all brains can change, people are particularly good at certain things because they may have brain damage here or larger brains there, etc. Grandin occasionally discusses individuals with vision/reading problems. I'm unclear at times if they are dyslexics, autistics or both. She has some fascinating information about helping them change their ability to focus on print by changing the color of the paper they work on. Similarly, some people are helped with environmental overload by wearing colored lenses. It was fascinating and I plan to look up more about this. Two critiques I have. First, Grandin often speaks about her own experience as an autistic and seems to assume that her readers know all about her so she provides little background knowledge. It took me 1/3 of the book to figure out what she meant when talking about drawing cattle chutes. Apparently her professional job is to design stock yards, a fact that would be nice to know up front. Having never seen the movie about her nor read any of her earlier works (this book was recommended to me by someone at the library) I had a lack of background knowledge about her personal life that made reading confusing at times. Oddly, she mentions that in her earlier books she sometimes makes the mistake of over generalizing her experience for all autistics. She does that occasionally here, but not enough to be inappropriate. My second issue with the book is, not surprisingly, the chapter about educating autistics. Once again the public school system is failing these children by not offering enough choice, requiring certain things that don't play to the individual strengths of the autistic, insisting on a certain scope and sequence to classes, not allowing for advanced work or creative work, making kids write down their thought processes, etc. Yes, these are all weaknesses of the public school system. What most people don't understand is that the teachers and administrators of the system aren't being negligent in allowing these weaknesses to exist. They exist because education is such a politically charged and mandated system that is regulated to the hilt by state and federal standards that force teachers and administrators to make sure all kids know x by a specific date no matter what they individual needs of the child. On top of this the x they need need to know is growing every year and being pushed down to younger and younger grades so that the x they need to know by the time they go to college is staggering and not really what colleges and employers are looking for. If American graduates today cannot do what is expected of them in the work force that is a change that needs to be made not by our schools but first by our political bodies that run the schools. Obviously the people making these standards don't work with fourth graders and have no idea what they are really capable of (especially when you factor in a large number of families who don't want to do any work outside the school day or support the school system in any other way than play sports). I could go on ranting about all the issues of the public school system (which are vast and systemic) but the fact is no teacher or administrator has power to change much at this point. Change public opinion and increase local control of the system and maybe we have a chance. Of course then you run into funding issues and the fact that people want a diverse and individualized program for their children but don't want to pay beans for it... but I digress. Getting back to the book, I agree that yes, the individualization that would benefit autistics in the public school system would be wonderful, but the reality is that there isn't nearly as much leeway as Grandin (or anyone else) would like to see to change the curriculum for each kid. Overall I enjoyed the information but not the style of the writing, learned a bit about brain research and have found some new ideas I would like to pursue to possibly help some students who struggle with reading and seeing print.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cheshire Public Library

    I avoid books on autism. I don’t like the terminology of the “autism spectrum” and the snake oil cures that celebrities like to flaunt. I have worked with the seriously autistic for more than 25 years – the hard-core institutionalized kind – and have little tolerance for someone who thinks their child is autistic simply because he’s an introvert. And for the last 30 years I’ve had a profoundly impaired autistic foster son, and all that happy information for the mainstreamed four year old who mig I avoid books on autism. I don’t like the terminology of the “autism spectrum” and the snake oil cures that celebrities like to flaunt. I have worked with the seriously autistic for more than 25 years – the hard-core institutionalized kind – and have little tolerance for someone who thinks their child is autistic simply because he’s an introvert. And for the last 30 years I’ve had a profoundly impaired autistic foster son, and all that happy information for the mainstreamed four year old who might have Asperger’s does not apply to hard autism. Thus, I have avoided reading anything by Temple Grandin, the Holy Saint of autism. My bad. In The Autistic Brain, Grandin discusses very rationally the numerous scientific studies done on communicative autistics, how they often have an inner thinking self and an outer acting self, and how the two don’t often interact. The current psychiatric labels, she feels, do autistics a huge disservice by lumping so many people under one umbrella no one can tell who is who – and leads to misdiagnoses and disproportionate numbers. She discusses how functional MRI imaging shows the different ways different autistics perceive the world, and that one type of treatment will not work for all, and that it’s the brain that’s the issue, not the psychoanalysis. That reiterated some serious studies I had read years ago. She talks about the part genetics plays, and how research has shown some links, but no answers at all. Grandin stresses that education for autistics – whether the high-functioning Aspie who will find success in Silicon Valley or the non-verbal autistic who cannot dress himself independently – needs to focus on what strengths the person has, not what deficits, and that deficits can be improved by using strengths, and that these children, no matter what the functioning level, need to get out into society and learn even rudimentary social skills, for that is the only way they will ever progress. Grandin’s discussion of picture-thinkers, pattern-thinkers, and word-fact thinkers set my mind reeling to the hundred or so autistic children I have worked with, and the lightbulbs went on over my head. I thought about things I have tried, things that have worked, and things that have failed in a whole new light, and cannot wait to try new trajectories w/ my son. Grandin made me feel good that we have defied the “experts,” taking my son – whom no group home would touch because his behaviors were so severe – to places like Manhattan, Baltimore, Boston, boats, trains, weddings, and more – with a 90% success rate. She made me understand how J. can do things no “autistic” is supposed to be able to do. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone dealing with an autistic person of any functioning level. Thank you, Temple, for understanding. You’ve taught this old dog some new tricks without all that quick-cure quackery, and made a believer out of me. If you’re dealing with an autistic child, I also highly recommend Barry Neil Kaufman’s book Son-Rise, about his own autistic child. If you can, read the original version. His later version (The Miracle Continues) delves too deeply into his new-age self-help foundation while the original deals only with his son. - Reviewed by Susan http://cheshirelibraryblog.wordpress....

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I listened to "The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum" as an audiobook. I haven't read much on autism before and I hoped this book would help me understand more about it. I've met autistic people before, and I have a niece who is autistic. So, I have some experience with the way that autistic people can behave, but there are huge differences from individual to individual. Some people behave just a little oddly, and others can't speak and aren't potty trained. While they are all conside I listened to "The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum" as an audiobook. I haven't read much on autism before and I hoped this book would help me understand more about it. I've met autistic people before, and I have a niece who is autistic. So, I have some experience with the way that autistic people can behave, but there are huge differences from individual to individual. Some people behave just a little oddly, and others can't speak and aren't potty trained. While they are all considered autistic, they are all very different, as different as non-autistic people. "The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum" discusses how the autistic brain can physically differ from the brains of non-autistic people. The author cites various different studies in detail. It probably would have been helpful for me to have a diagram of the brain with all the different parts labeled. Also, since I listen while I drive, I can only devote part of my attention to listening to a book. So, at times, I got a little lost with all the facts and figures. My attention would cut out for a second while I'd deal with traffic, and then when my attention shifted back to the book, the narrator would be rattling off boat loads of data and I didn't know what the point was or what I was supposed to focus on. It might have been easier for me to follow this part of the book by reading the actual physical book instead of listening to the audio book. The rest of the book was easier to follow. It discussed the different sensory experiences of autistic people and ways they can learn to cope. It also discussed the different ways of thinking - picture thinker, pattern thinker and word/fact thinker and their strengths and weaknesses. One major point the author makes is that while an individual may be autistic, that does not mean he/she has no future. Autistic people have many strengths as well as challenges, and by getting the proper guidance they (at least the higher functioning ones) can become useful members of society, in some cases performing their jobs better than a non-autistic person could. The trick is to not try to fit all individuals into the same mold. Build on the strengths and foster the skills they can be good at and like to do. This will build confidence and happiness. Don't try to force individuals to do things they can't do because this will only make them miserable and make them frustrated with failure. Of course, this means careful observation and testing of the individual to determine the path that is right for the individual. If you think of it, this approach makes sense for all people in general, autistic and non-autistic. It is too bad our public school system is not designed in this way. Parents definitely have to take an active role in making sure their kids are getting the right educational guidance.

  16. 5 out of 5

    J.V. Seem

    Having found out that you have autism at the age of 26 is somewhat strange. First of all, it's happily liberating, since you realize that you weren't stupid after all, just differently wired. All those times that your mother frustratedly yelled that "you're so smart, why can't you do this particular thing, you should be able to", the not fitting in at school, being bullied and never really forming any lasting friendships is all down to this differentness. And it's not my fault. Sadly though, socie Having found out that you have autism at the age of 26 is somewhat strange. First of all, it's happily liberating, since you realize that you weren't stupid after all, just differently wired. All those times that your mother frustratedly yelled that "you're so smart, why can't you do this particular thing, you should be able to", the not fitting in at school, being bullied and never really forming any lasting friendships is all down to this differentness. And it's not my fault. Sadly though, society's attitudes haven't quite caught up as much as I'd like. This book tries to remedy that. It's all about the brain, how it's physically different in people with autism spectrum disorders and in all the different ways that manifests in behaviors to the outside world. I really wish more people would read this book. A lot of people, even today, are ignorant about autism, they don't quite believe that it exists, or they think it's a mental illness, or they only focus on the negatives of it (yes, there are good things too). Sadly, my own parents are among them. My father thinks that shrinks over-diagnose a lot these days (which might be true in some cases), and that autism isn't *really* a thing, and my mother asks why we don't just "pull ourselves together". It's ignorance, that's all. And I'm not having it. Everyone needs to read this book, as most people know someone on the spectrum. I know it sounds really strange to find out you're autistic and take it as an absolute blessing, but it is. It explains all the strange things in my life, all the troubles growing up, and I also have a sort of scapegoat when there are things I can't do or don't understand (which is often). Now I can joke and laugh about my occasional uselessness and the different way I view the world (I very much enjoy pointing out the strange things normal people do). The only thing that's left now is gaining the respect and recognition from society (which after all prefers outgoing, well-dressed people with good interpersonal skills [gah!]), that we're valuable human beings too, and we too can do shit. Therefore, I recommend this book, as a positive and encouraging view of people with autism, explaining the differences in our brains, how they affect us, and concrete tips on developing your strong points. It also helps that this book's author is autistic herself, and that it features stories and anecdotes from her own experiences.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Thank you, Temple Grandin. She may be a high-functioning autistic, but after reading this I feel like a low-functioning review - her point however is to live to your fullest potential. This book encompasses so much experience and research about the autistic brain that I can't hold on to much of it. She looks at the genetic nature of autism, the possible causes, the elasticity of the brain and capacity to keep growing, perceptual styles or preferences (verbal, object-visual, spatial-visual patter Thank you, Temple Grandin. She may be a high-functioning autistic, but after reading this I feel like a low-functioning review - her point however is to live to your fullest potential. This book encompasses so much experience and research about the autistic brain that I can't hold on to much of it. She looks at the genetic nature of autism, the possible causes, the elasticity of the brain and capacity to keep growing, perceptual styles or preferences (verbal, object-visual, spatial-visual pattern), education and employment, etc. This is a great book too for educators, and not just those of those on the autism spectrum but of the NTs (neuro-typical) individuals. Grandin's view of the harm that comes from viewing autism through the lens of its deficits is very insightful, and she thankfully explores a strengths-based view of their condition. One measure of a non-fiction book for me is whether I chuckle at something or say "wow!" or "unbelievable," or look at my own behavior or thinking. The Autistic Brain satisfies on all fronts. I would imagine Grandin's work will give hope to the autistic and those who care for or work with them. She concludes with a suggested list of jobs for picture thinkers, word-fact thinkers, and pattern thinkers - it's an extensive list, so don't be surprised to find your own job there. She ends,We've come a long way from the days of doctors telling the parents of autistic children that the situation was hopeless and that the only humane option was a life sentence in an institution. We have a lot farther to go, of course. Ignorance and misunderstanding are always difficult to overcome when they've become part of a society's belief system. ...When something is "all in your mind," people tend to think that it's willful, that it's something you could control if only you tried harder or if you'd been trained differently. I'm hoping that the new-found certainty that autism is in your brain and in your genes will affect public attitudes.In the vein of visual perception (either spacial, pattern or object) I would recommend Alexandra Horowitz's On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes - nothing to do with autism, but all to do with how we see and interpret the world.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tweedledum

    Temple Grandin has been a great role model for people n the autistic spectrum almost all her adult life, a fact celebrated in the recent movie about her entitled Temple. However in this book she explores, in her typical systematic and thorough way, what it is about the autistic brain that makes it so unique and special. And it seems that she has truly found the key... "Patterns" Temple asserts and backs this up with all kinds of evidence that the one thing all autistic brains excel at is noticin Temple Grandin has been a great role model for people n the autistic spectrum almost all her adult life, a fact celebrated in the recent movie about her entitled Temple. However in this book she explores, in her typical systematic and thorough way, what it is about the autistic brain that makes it so unique and special. And it seems that she has truly found the key... "Patterns" Temple asserts and backs this up with all kinds of evidence that the one thing all autistic brains excel at is noticing patterns. As Temple waxes lyrical on the importance of this strength and of helping the growing young person to develop this strength and then link it up with other ideas I found myself thinking here at last is a way to get this message aross to educators and others who spend so much time dismissing skills they cannot understand so of the millions of words written about autism over the years perhaps this is just the one word we need to shout from the rooftops. People with autistic spectrum disorders are BRILLIANT at spotting PATTERNS. So the only thing we parents and educators need to worry about is identifying what kind of patterns they are good at spotting and then developing this skill. Don't try to teach a fish to walk in other words. Celebrate it's ability to swim better than you could ever do and give it an ocean to swim in. (Not a tiny fishbowl) There are lots of other excellent and important messages in this book and I am promoting it to top of my list of books to recommend both to those new to ASD and those experienced in the field.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Correen

    Excellent book, especially for families of autistic children. For the rest of us, however, it provides a good description of the problems, methods, and thinking in researching complex neurological diseases/syndromes. She has a gift in being able to present these complex matters in simple terms. Now that Grandin has her career well established in her primary field, she appears to have shifted some of her efforts to a more activist position for autistic children. With her unique perspective and ski Excellent book, especially for families of autistic children. For the rest of us, however, it provides a good description of the problems, methods, and thinking in researching complex neurological diseases/syndromes. She has a gift in being able to present these complex matters in simple terms. Now that Grandin has her career well established in her primary field, she appears to have shifted some of her efforts to a more activist position for autistic children. With her unique perspective and skills, this should be fruitful and certainly interesting. I was most impressed by her revisiting a piece of misleading information in an earlier book. She is open and able review her work in an open and helpful manner, using a bit of criticism to search for new answers -- this is the ideal model for scientists. I think her work with autistic persons will move her in new directions. Her methods are not consistent with typical counselors but in this group, she may show us new methods for autistic and other emotionally non-typical persons. The methods she uses in the book sound much like those used in the early 20th century known as trait-factor. The method was not wrong for typical groups, just insufficient. I feel certain that she will study the methodology as she becomes more active.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    The first two chapters were focused mostly on genetics and DNA, which was OK.. but the rest of the book was SO good. SO GOOD. I love that her evidence is more than just numbers - she shares a lot of stories and experiences that helped me understand what someone might feel or act like in that situation. My favorite chapter was the last one - focusing on strengths. I think this concept is so important when dealing with all people, not just those with autism, but is an especially important attitude The first two chapters were focused mostly on genetics and DNA, which was OK.. but the rest of the book was SO good. SO GOOD. I love that her evidence is more than just numbers - she shares a lot of stories and experiences that helped me understand what someone might feel or act like in that situation. My favorite chapter was the last one - focusing on strengths. I think this concept is so important when dealing with all people, not just those with autism, but is an especially important attitude when dealing with people with autism or disabilities. What do they like? What are they passionate about? What might they want to do as a job that connects with their interests? What skills are required for success in that type of job? How can we help them develop some of those skills and prepare themselves for the work force? If you work with people - any kind of people - you should probably read this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Richard Cytowic

    Grandin takes on the status quo, especially the muddle of Psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), and what the changes will mean to those who lose their insurance because they aren't properly "labeled." She makes a strong case against being "lable-locked," arguing that it makes more sense and is more practical in the day-to-day life of "Aspies" and parents to focus on a given symptom/behavior, and deal with one thing at a time. A few factual errors, and spots of oversimplification— Grandin takes on the status quo, especially the muddle of Psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), and what the changes will mean to those who lose their insurance because they aren't properly "labeled." She makes a strong case against being "lable-locked," arguing that it makes more sense and is more practical in the day-to-day life of "Aspies" and parents to focus on a given symptom/behavior, and deal with one thing at a time. A few factual errors, and spots of oversimplification——but the book's strengths far outweigh these minor weaknesses. Read my full review——and author Q&A——at the New York Journal of Books.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mom

    This amazing woman just keeps getting better and better. I loved this book and recommend everyone to read it. There is nothing more to say. Read this book!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Magdelanye

    Label-locked thinkers want answers. This kind of thinking can do a lot of damage. For some people, a label becomes the thing that defines them. p105 TG has taken her label and run with it. In her direct and astute observations, she is both avid and stern as she escorts the reader through the maze of the autistic spectrum. This is no means the first book she has published. Indeed, I was a bit irritated at first by her frequent references and her assumption that the reader would be familiar with her w Label-locked thinkers want answers. This kind of thinking can do a lot of damage. For some people, a label becomes the thing that defines them. p105 TG has taken her label and run with it. In her direct and astute observations, she is both avid and stern as she escorts the reader through the maze of the autistic spectrum. This is no means the first book she has published. Indeed, I was a bit irritated at first by her frequent references and her assumption that the reader would be familiar with her work. I was not. But by the time I was ready to put this book back on the shelf, I found a deep respect for this woman who has done so much to change the entire field for differently abled people. I was most surprised actually to find out that TG is also somewhat of a cowboy. Her designs for cattle shutes and her multitude of degrees do not suggest a woman with limited resources. Yet she begins this book with a grateful acknowledgement of her luck at not being institutionalized, and she reveals her weakness just as casually as her strengths. This is where the book jumped from a 3 to a 4 for me....The first part being rather too technical for more than passing interest. TG makes a definite case for not lumping people together nor focusing on weaknesses. She is a champion not just for autistic persons but for everyone who could use a little help to shine.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Francesca Calarco

    If you are looking for a great thematic memoir, then Temple Grandin’s The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum is more than a solid pick. Essentially, Grandin relays to the reader everything she feels would be helpful for others to better understand autism, and different matters related to being on the spectrum. She explores patterns of behavior with scientific inquiry, but what makes this memoir so good is that it feels like she is an investigator delving further and further into her ow If you are looking for a great thematic memoir, then Temple Grandin’s The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum is more than a solid pick. Essentially, Grandin relays to the reader everything she feels would be helpful for others to better understand autism, and different matters related to being on the spectrum. She explores patterns of behavior with scientific inquiry, but what makes this memoir so good is that it feels like she is an investigator delving further and further into her own mind, not just to better understand herself, but also to better understand others who are on the spectrum. Both a work of inquiry and advocacy, this is really a great read from a great mind and I highly recommend it if you are interested in any of these topics.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    4.5-5 stars. Very educational.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Sebesta

    What an insightful piece. If you have any interest in how the brain worx, you must read this. The book definitely benefits from the assistance of a co-writer. Altho TG is phenomenal at expressing her insights into the way her particular brain, and autistic brains in general, work, Richard Panek does a great job of keeping it organized so it makes great sense. My husband and I discovered early on that while I am most definitely a word person, he sees the world in pictures - a source of many giggle What an insightful piece. If you have any interest in how the brain worx, you must read this. The book definitely benefits from the assistance of a co-writer. Altho TG is phenomenal at expressing her insights into the way her particular brain, and autistic brains in general, work, Richard Panek does a great job of keeping it organized so it makes great sense. My husband and I discovered early on that while I am most definitely a word person, he sees the world in pictures - a source of many giggles and an equal number of frustrations as we try to explain things to each other. TG, tho, points out a third way of looking at the world, and that is in patterns. Her examples are fascinating and clearly researched. Just read it. You won't be sorry. And for a set of boox that look at the brain from many different angles try: - The Autistic Brain, Temple Grandin - as above - Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin - her first book and is special in its naivete - Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert - the "normal" brain and how/why it does things - Hallucinations, Oliver Sacks - trix the mind plays, and how/why - The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks - the very anatomically and/or physiologically sick (as opposed to mentally ill) brain

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mary Anne

    This content of this book is interesting. It describes brain research related to autism, and it includes many anecdotes from the experiences of Temple Grandin and other persons with autism. I have a couple of quibbles: First, the title is ridiculous. "The" Autistic Brain? What, there is only one autistic brain??? The book again and again emphasizes the inconclusive and sometimes contradictory research as well as the diverse strengths and weaknesses of persons with autism. An equally boring but les This content of this book is interesting. It describes brain research related to autism, and it includes many anecdotes from the experiences of Temple Grandin and other persons with autism. I have a couple of quibbles: First, the title is ridiculous. "The" Autistic Brain? What, there is only one autistic brain??? The book again and again emphasizes the inconclusive and sometimes contradictory research as well as the diverse strengths and weaknesses of persons with autism. An equally boring but less misleading title might be something like Brain Research and Autism. Second, the book reeks of ghost-writer voice. The cover of the book says "by Temple Grandin and [in much smaller type] Richard Panek". Dr Grandin credits her co-author with helping to organize her writing more coherently than she can do herself, which is terrific. However, the inconsistencies in writing style and tone are jarring, and the authors' effort to create a seamless whole were not successful. I would rather have heard Dr Grandin's voice throughout or read chapters clearly identified as written by one or the other of the named authors

  28. 5 out of 5

    Noor

    More like a 3.5 rating. Grandin made most of the science in this book understandable to non-biologists like myself (which makes sense, considering she's a "picture thinker"). The anecdotes and colloquialism of The Autistic Brain helped steer it away from being a boring research book and instead a book that challenged biological and social norms. I was most pleased with the final chapter, where Grandin gave solid advice on how to successfully integrate autistic people into society. She even inclu More like a 3.5 rating. Grandin made most of the science in this book understandable to non-biologists like myself (which makes sense, considering she's a "picture thinker"). The anecdotes and colloquialism of The Autistic Brain helped steer it away from being a boring research book and instead a book that challenged biological and social norms. I was most pleased with the final chapter, where Grandin gave solid advice on how to successfully integrate autistic people into society. She even included tables on the different types of jobs the three categories of autistic thinkers could take. The Autistic Brain is a pragmatic look at where science currently is in making and treating ASD diagnoses, and how we can change our perspective right now rather than wait for technology to improve. Not only did I find this to be an insightful and refreshing book on autism research, I found it to subconsciously support the proposal for a reform of our one-track minded education system. And I can definitely get behind that.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    I love learning about how the human brain functions. Temple Grandin's experience and research not only teaches about autistic brains, but the human brain in general. Human brain function is on a continuum. We are not easily categorized as "normal" or "on the spectrum". In a sense, we are all "on the spectrum". Without these differences our world would be a much less interesting place. It's those on the other side of normal that make the breakthroughs, think of new solutions, and change the world I love learning about how the human brain functions. Temple Grandin's experience and research not only teaches about autistic brains, but the human brain in general. Human brain function is on a continuum. We are not easily categorized as "normal" or "on the spectrum". In a sense, we are all "on the spectrum". Without these differences our world would be a much less interesting place. It's those on the other side of normal that make the breakthroughs, think of new solutions, and change the world. Are you an orchid or a dandelion? An orchid is fragile, yet magnificent under ideal conditions. It's not a question of nature vs nurture, but the complex combination of our DNA,our environment, and how we choose to react to it all. Excellent read for anyone who has a child, a loved one, works with someone, or is on the autism spectrum. Knowledge is power.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I appreciated the insight Grandin provides into living with autism. As autism can look so different for different people, I found her story a bit limiting and judgmental at times. I would recommend the book to those interested in understanding autism more.

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