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February 5, 2015 / philosophermouseofthehedge

No guarantees: brains or books

1930.Dorothy Janis/Ruth H.Louise/USPD.,

Not right? According to whom? (1930/USPD.,

Illuminated by a straight from the movies shaft of light, she stood in the circle of trees. Although pines, not ancient oaks. Still. Posed like a statue.

I saw. They jerked me away.

I whinnied at her as they shoved me back into the line of marching campers. Just to let her know.

There was a tiny smile. Message received.

A worried “takes one to know one” look flashed between the scout camp counselors.

That shy sideways glance from the figure in the clearing didn’t make them feel any better.

“Who told you?” her therapist asked later after she searched me out at lunch. She had hoped the new outdoor therapy would unlock communication with that child, but this was unexpected.

Eyed her scornfully. (Seriously, Lady? No complex mystery: that raised hoof foot and bent knee. The tossing mane hair.) “I saw her. Anyone could figure it out. Obviously, a horse. Why are you keeping her from making friends?”

 1920.Lilymae still/The Tatler/

Remember how fast you ran out of clean clothes at camp? (1920/

Creative people see more. By design.

“It’s the structure,” a rather famous painting instructor told me once. “Eyes set farther out on the skull.”

“Gives a wider view of the world.

Artists see more: all the subtle differences. All the clues.”

Too bad most people don’t see what they see and certainly don’t listen much to them.

That’s something creative types and autistic kids have in common.

child by tree.. Ann Penningtons in "Susie Snowflake"1916/Photoplay mag/

Thoughts play hide and seek. (1916/USPD/

Dr. Temple Grandin says, “Nature is cruel. We don’t have to be.”

Grandin is writer, an animal behavior expert, and an autism advocate.

The last one is a natural as she, herself, is on the autistic spectrum.

It was a long time before she realized others didn’t think in pictures or movies.

And that others don’t consider “Words” as a second language.

In college she could test run equipment designs in 3D in her head. Completely surprised others couldn’t.

Cows are glad she thinks like they do. Visually.

Not like “reading their minds and thoughts”

She processes information about the world around her like they do: without emotion and heavily meshed with the sensory input.

A baffling world of overwhelming smells, sounds, touch/feeling and confusing visual mesh of shapes, colors, and shadow.

She explains it here: NPR interview.

woman.1926. Eiko Minami. "A page of madness"/ Japan/author unknown/US

A jumbled existence. (1926/Japan/US

Her ability to process the environment this way is a valuable asset in her work.

Many say she has done more to improve animal welfare than almost any human alive.

(Article by Verlyn Klinkenborg. Another one: Discovery Magazine. Check out the MRI of her brain!).

Only she could have realized it.

After crawling into the fenced yards of cattle feed lots, taking the path cattle take up chutes, she realized it was all wrong.

All the cattle could understand is fear: Strange dark shadows. Bright lights hitting them right in the face. Pressed into tight places where their legs unnaturally cross or feet are shoved together. All wrong. All fearful.

Fear and stress released more hormones, raising anxiety levels even higher.  Bad for cattle. Bad for human consumption.

Under Grandin’s guidance, structures were changed to eliminate scary dark shadows, lighting altered, distracting visual details like reflections off truck bumpers eliminated, and squeeze chutes redesigned to be more comfortable and soothing. (She even tried the chutes out, and discovered certain squeeze levels are calming for autistic individuals, too.)

Screaming, yelling and electric prodding of cows became unnecessary.

Cow Peeking into the barn. (Image:Cecilia of

Ever consider that cows thinks the world’s a scary place at times, too? (Image: Cecilia of

Grandin says it’s unlikely people will stop eating meat, but people owe animals humane treatment.

Currently she is working with agribusiness to improve the breeding practices in cattle and chickens focusing on ending up “with the best animal, not the one with the most of what you want. Moderation.”

How can anyone not be intrigued by her books?

Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior,  or  Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals,

Different – not Less, or Thinking in Pictures. (More books, DVDs, presentations)

Not surprising, she is also in great demand as a speaker in Autism conferences. 

One of her biggest concerns is that parents and educators give too much emphasis on a child’s deficits instead of developing their strengths.

Other researchers have suggested autism is an adaptation, rather than a disorder.

Her autism website is a respected source for practical things for autistic children and adults.

As Temple Grandin says, the world needs all kinds of minds.

And she is positive if you removed the autism gene, the world would lose many creative writers, artists, musicians, dancers, engineers, and computer geeks, and……

Check out Temple Grandin’s TED talk here.

Or the HBO movie about her life starring Claire Danes.

Life’s a bit like musical chairs with everyone trying to find their just right seat.

In a chaotic world, people look for guarantees.

Especially publishers: wanting writers with ready-made star quality like Temple Grandin or the reclusive Harper Lee.

Author Harper Lee/unknown author/

Author Harper Lee 1962/USPD/

The 88 year-old author of To Kill a Mockingbird announced that publisher HarperCollins will release her “new” novel Go Set a Watchman in July.

Actually this manuscript was written before Mockingbird, shoved aside by an editor, and forgotten for some 50 years.

The announcement caused something of a buzz as Harper Lee’s competency was questioned last year during a public spat with a biographer.

The publishers are annoyed anyone would think this novel was being released without the approval of the author.

Harper Lee, who suffered a stroke in 2007, and now lives in an assisted-living facility, is supposed to be “surprised and delighted” that the manuscript survived and someone considers it worthy of publication.

1962. Screenshot.To Kill a Mockingbird characters: Atticus and Tom Robinson (Gregory Peck and Brock Peters)/, no cr/

Jury’s not in on this one yet. (1962″To Kill a Mockingbird” Atticus and Tom Robinson in court (Gregory Peck.Brock Peters/

Harper-Collins is guaranteed a best seller – no matter what.

Hopefully some brainy lawyer is watching out for the elderly author’s rights and finances.

Don’t have to be a branic to recognize a whole bunch of Harper Lee fans will be furious if the publisher puts out a novel that doesn’t add to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s legacy.

No one will be happy if this title is only being published to guaranteed money in the publishing house’s bank.

Scout’s honor.

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

1962.screenshot. "To Kill a Mockingbird". Rosemary Murphy and Phillip Alford. (, no cr/

Camped out waiting and watching. (1962″To Kill a Mockingbird”(Rosemary Murphy and Phillip Alford/




  1. Ally Bean / Feb 5 2015 1:36 pm

    Two interesting women who’ve lived their lives in ways that make sense to them. Both are inspiring to me. Can’t wait to see what Lee’s newest novel will be like, but in the meantime I could always read something by Grandin, eh? Great post.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 5 2015 3:18 pm

      The way people think, how they process and utilize information has always fascinated me. So many variations of humans. Like you waiting to see the novel and it’s different point of view. We’ll see if the original editor was wise or foolish. Thanks for shelving a comment here


  2. Paul / Feb 5 2015 1:43 pm

    The Harper lee story is interesting. There is a blog – Exile on pain St. – that published a touching post on Harper Lee just recently.

    I am not as visual as Grandin, but I do seem to think a lot more with pictures and images than many do. I’ve gotten into trouble with this before by describing these images and many sort of back away as if I’m not normal. For survival purposes i haven’t mentioned this for years and was suprised when you brought it to the forefront in your post. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. i used to truck long-haul and could spend hours following from image to image to image – i.e. thinking in images.

    Anyway,you mentioned in passing that more emphasis should be put on teaching what people are good at, not what they are poor at. I have always thought that way, but the school system has always emphasized the opposite. That has bothered me, especially in higher grades. Once a practical understanding is reached, then the stronger topics should be the focus not the poorer.I would efinitely increase interest of stidents and would permit greater development.

    Great post Phil. Thanks

    Liked by 2 people

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 5 2015 3:47 pm

      Thanks for the link to that post. That was “the novel” for an era and will be sure to be talked about again now.
      We have friends with autistic sons ( one around 45 now – pre-vaccine controversy, and one now aging out of the public school system) so the measles mess is making all this surface.
      Did you know that families with lots of engineers in the family also seem to have quite a few autistic spectrum individuals? Grandin is firm about the genetics involved – and how it benefits the creative ahead of the curve thinkers. How many cruise through society unrecognized? I always laugh at her statement about autistic individuals don’t have time for chit chat.
      I was about 8 when I ran across that autistic girl at camp. She was had given them the key to her world, but they didn’t know how to use it or what she meant. Seemed to me it would have been better to let her be with the horses 24-7 and observe, guide, and facilitate learning rather than promising her she could ride once or twice a day if she “behaved” and performed the tasks they wanted.(From what Grandin seems to say, that treatment would have been more beneficial.)
      Education/learning works best when teachers view themselves as facilitators instead of lecturers and the source of all knowledge (like you said). K-2/3 used to be spent “learning to learn/acquiring tools to learn while grades above that were concerned with content and providing it in appropriate bunches at the appropriate times – and stair stepping building on all prior knowledge towards analysis and synthesis of new thoughts . But that’s pretty old fashion (snort)
      It is always startling when you realize you ordinarily do something different that many others. I read words as a unit – by the outline shapes – not by letters. Apparently a coping strategy dyslexic readers may use…but no one told me until I was grown. And I actually see letters move laterally inside the word while you are looking at it. Also common. No reason for excuses, though. Like Grandin, I really think people should saying “poor baby” so much and find ways to make it work for the individual. Everybody is good at somethings and bad at others. Which is really fortunate for society in general. Always enjoy it when you drive in to visit!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. marthaschaefer / Feb 5 2015 3:33 pm

    As always, lots to think about here as you wove your stories together. I work with a 50 year old woman who is a “highly functioning” autistic…meaning she “almost” is normal. I love seeing the world through her lens – very black and white, little emotion. In another time she probably would have been a medicine woman or shaman. I can’t imagine 50 years ago that there was even a diagnosis for her “condition” so her family has always worked very hard to help her integrate into common society.
    I love all Temple Grandin has to say. She is very much a hero here as she attended a nearby college. Nothing wrong with thinking a bit differently or seeing the world through a another’s eyes…Thanks Phil, great post!!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 5 2015 3:59 pm

      I love this line ” In another time she probably would have been a medicine woman or shaman”. There’s such a wide range of autism spectrum – many walking around and managing unnoticed. Grandin and her mother are speaking in town this week at a conference. She offers so much insight into how all people think, how human and animal brains work, and what educators should pay attention to with all children. She is revered for both her fields of knowledge.
      We have friends with autistic children – one around 45 yrs old and before vaccine controversy, some just aging out of public school systems, some younger. Treatment was shooting in the dark for so long – like with that child at camp when I was 8 or 9. People like Grandin writing from their view point, research with MRI/brain scans, and computers as a communication tool offer the younger ones so much hope and opportunities. How nice you were invited into one woman’s world. Thanks for stacking a comment on the shelf

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Littlesundog / Feb 5 2015 4:12 pm

    I admit I’m a little bit giddy reading this… I have been fascinated with Grandin’s story for a while now – ever since I learned of her. Like Paul, I do not talk much about the “weirdness” of myself with animals. My experience is more of “feeling” as wildlife does – the noise, instinct, flight response. I often have dreams or experiences at night (in my sleep) where I can actually feel or play out what an animal might live (deer fleeing predators, prey at the moment of being caught and the letting go in death), and often when I am presented with a situation (witnessing cattle loaded on a truck for example) I can feel the moment – the unnatural-ness of being loaded, transport movement, cries out, chaos, fear, and smell of fear – fear in everything from the energy emitted in the trailer, to the smell of fear in feces from previous loads of cattle – the energy of “fear” is outstanding. It is why, when I transport Wildlife or care for it, I try to feel and tap into the energy or message of what the critter needs to be comfortable and calm. Remember the post I wrote about transporting the juvenile Mississippi Kite to WildCare, which is an hour away? That bird was fearful when we picked it up. To me, the energy of the place we picked it up at (two men who had been keeping it for a time in a DOG house!) was negative and heavy. When we loaded the bird in the car, I asked Universe to help me make it a quick and calming transport. When that bird began calling out, I could feel the energy… and it was GOOD energy. The motion of the car moving was exhilarating to my little charge. Just being away from the oppression of being in a dog cage (predator to birds) was freeing. And animals reading OUR energy is just as important. Oh, I could go on an on… sorry I got so long-winded!! 🙂 It’s so good to be weird!!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 5 2015 4:35 pm

      You are probably more common than you realize. Imagine what the world would be like if children were not boxed and channeled and taught to chant on cue some given “correct” response. So many loud voices wailing about people not getting along – yet society rigidly decides what the roles are and how they will be performed. Grandin and her mom are in town speaking this week. What Temple has to say about creativity – and the signs of autism spectrum she sees in the front runners, the trend setters, scientists, and all creative thought is fascinating. As a scientist and research she speaks from facts. Families with engineers tend to have more autistic spectrum individuals…. And she is firm about not offering excuses and thereby limiting an individual – but facilitating each to become what they are meant to be. She is amazing and more should explore her writings – it’s not just the autistic kids who need her ideas. Cheers for the idea that different is an adaptation not a disorder. (Take that square edu pegs) Thanks for leaving a soaring comment


  5. Carrie Rubin / Feb 5 2015 4:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing more about Temple Grandin. I know of her but haven’t read too much beyond what was in the news when her story first came to light. Just goes to show what a fascinating place the brain is and how it works in a different manner for some people. We’d be wise to learn from them.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 5 2015 5:34 pm

      Grandin and her mom are in town speaking. I was aware of her being autistic and her work as a spokesman, but didn’t realize how much she was involved with humane treatment of animals – and how her own way of processing information gave her an asset with that. Fascinating. We are barely beginning to understand how the brain functions…first we have to unlearn a great deal we thought we knew about it. Thanks for taking a peek and penning a comment

      Liked by 1 person

  6. heretherebespiders / Feb 5 2015 9:32 pm

    Read one of Grandin’s books – the first one, I’d guess. She is amazing, and I’m thankful she found this niche.

    I’ve been torn about the new Harper Lee book. You have given me more education here than I found anywhere else, so now I’m excited.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 5 2015 10:51 pm

      Seeing how Grandin thinks is fascinating. Following her thought process with animal behavior changes is so reasonable, but no one thought of it before – or did anything about it. Whether you eat meat or not, animals deserve to be treated humanely. They’ve got a good advocate. Her mom and she are speaking at a conference here. We have friends with autistic spectrum kids. It’s been interesting to watch all the progress in understanding how to reach them.
      I’m worried about the new book – was the 1st editor right to hold that one back? We’ll see this summer. Thanks for running along!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. cecilia / Feb 6 2015 2:46 am

    I do love how Grandin thinks, she thinks like a cow. I can relate to that. So can Elsie who is peering into the milking parlour in that shot (excellent choice by the way) . No hurry, I say.. Not hurrying, she thinks back. c


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 6 2015 1:53 pm

      Now all those efforts and problems trying to load cows and horses into trailers makes more sense. I do feel a little bad about pushing them so now. Thanks for the mooo-ing comment


  8. Spinster / Feb 6 2015 8:36 pm

    Wow. Very interesting story about Dr. Grandin. She found a great way to work with her (so-called) flaw(s) and use to her advantage AND to help others.

    To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my classic reads. It’d be nice to see Harper Lee publish this other book, hopefully to HER advantage and not that of greedy publishers/people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 6 2015 8:49 pm

      I just hope in the future, analysis/reviews don’t say things like “Well, Harper Lee should have let this one rest quietly unseen.” But no doubt she and her heirs will welcome unexpected income – money just doesn’t go as far as it used to. So that’s a positive for her.
      Grandin is in town to speak at an autism conference. I knew her as an advocate, but was really not as aware of her outstanding work for humane treatment of animals – she has been called in even by religious groups who have rituals/Kosher laws and regulations to make sure the religious laws are kept but the animals are treated humanely.
      Even her book titles are intriguing.
      While she is a high functioning autistic individual, researchers and others have benefitted from her ability to explain what she lives with and what helps her cope. Not to mention she is tells parents to offer opportunities for autistic children instead of excuses. Amazing person indeed.
      Thanks for wandering along

      Liked by 1 person

  9. roughseasinthemed / Feb 6 2015 9:59 pm

    Ok, I won’t comment on treatment of animals, Grandins views souns logical common sense to me.

    Reading this post reminded me I always assumed Harper Lee was a man when I was at school. Couldn’t get to grips with mockingbird. I’d try it again, but too many books, too many blogs! too little time.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 6 2015 10:26 pm

      I hate commercial feedlots. People always shouting at me to stop screaming a the cows “Run! Make a break for it now. Stop stuffing that food in your mouths.” Not kidding.
      Grandins is in town for a conference. To me it’s fascinating to read her interviews and speeches and see how she explains how she thinks, sees – her thought processes. Brain theory and acquisition of knowledge is still in infancy. We used to marvel at the “new” technology and bran scans seeing how those were changing everything we thought we knew about the brain.(And how one PI quietly said “We see all this, but realistically we still don’t have a clue of what we are looking at or for.”)
      Mockingbird was so popular and required reading, but I was pretty lukewarm on it the actual book itself. Not planning to revisit it, but strongly hope they aren’t using this author’s good name just to sell books.
      Thanks for reading along


  10. jubilare / Feb 9 2015 3:21 pm

    “One of her biggest concerns is that parents and educators give too much emphasis on a child’s deficits instead of developing their strengths.” I see this so much! Friends of my parents had to move half way across the country to get proper support for their autistic son. It’s frustrating to think of all the people who can’t afford to move, but who need that support.

    I’m no expert, but I think that the “autism spectrum” covers a lot more of humanity than the general public realizes… we think we know what “normal” is, but we’re deceiving ourselves (and limiting ourselves) by thinking that “normal” is even a thing. I’m not denying that there are issues that sometimes require treatment and help. Mental illness is a real thing. But autism isn’t mental illness, and the practically infinite variety of human minds needs more respectful recognition than it gets.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 9 2015 3:30 pm

      So much truth in all you’ve said here. I’ve seen such progress in understanding and treating of how people acquire language, knowledge, and social integration since encountering that little girl at camp. The broad reach of the internet helps many. Having one who deals with autism that can explain to researchers what’s going on is huge. (Her website’s/books suggestions are logical and may work for many – actually based on real experiences rather than what someone on the outside “thinks” is going on and behavior options that should be used.)
      Might be better if society went back to “that’s an explanation, but not an excuse”. Lower the bar too much and cripple the individual. The human race stumbles along. Thanks for adding such great insights

      Liked by 1 person

      • jubilare / Feb 9 2015 3:54 pm

        “Having one who deals with autism that can explain to researchers what’s going on is huge. (Her website’s/books suggestions are logical and may work for many – actually based on real experiences rather than what someone on the outside “thinks” is going on and behavior options that should be used.)” So true, it is huge. More huge than I think I’m able to understand!

        To some extent, yes. I have what are generally considered 2 learning disabilities. In working through and with these issues, I’ve found, not only that I can be a successful academic in spite of them, but that they carry with them certain advantages. But I was helped in this by the people around me who understood what the issues were, and encouraged me. They never treated me like a hopeless case. When I hear teachers and parents lamenting over a kid’s A.D.H.D. (it’s a real thing, though perhaps over-diagnosed) as if it is simply a bad thing, a disease to be treated, I have to try really hard not to get angry.


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 9 2015 4:24 pm

          I think it’s time to get angry. Too much focus why an individual is “predestined” to fail rather than finding, encouraging, and developing their strengths and native talents. People are not all the same with the same abilities and it is foolish to expect all to have or develop the same skill set. People should grow as they can. Sometimes I think it was easier/more productive when people were’t all categorized ( which leads to limited expectations.)
          Old phrase, “If the rider throws their heart over the jump, the horse will follow.” Found that is also true with kids and teachers. (The key is a skilled astute educator who is able to be flexible – able to adjust as needed on the fly, with realistic expectations (careful analysis of tasks, prep, and setting kids up for success in little steps if needed), and perhaps a dreamer. Kids follow without question when someone believes in them. A matter of confidence – in both).
          Life shouldn’t be limited by “well meaning” people.

          Liked by 1 person

        • jubilare / Feb 9 2015 5:25 pm



  11. EllaDee / Feb 10 2015 8:51 am

    Wonderful post 🙂 I’ve always thought people with autism, aspergers, etc have something extra… but a tough gig… I wonder if as supposed we pre-choose our destinies, lessons before embarking on this human life, do they get extra well earned credits for showing the us their ways. I’m looking forward to reading Go Set a Watchman… intriguing.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 10 2015 3:39 pm

      Two mysteries that have been around and only noticed now. Fingers crossed the reveals are positive. Thanks for musing along


  12. Alan G / Feb 10 2015 8:19 pm

    I have watched the Temple Grandin HBO film more times that I care to admit. She is quite the women and deserves a great deal of admiration and praise for how she dealt with her autism, her amazing accomplishments and her compassion for the sanctity of life.

    Although clueless as to the details of the plot on the new Harper Lee manuscript, I have already begun my personal efforts to cast the ‘sure to come’ upcoming film. Not knowing how much older the characters are going to be posed some measure of difficulty but I have given it my best….

    Atticus – Clint Eastwood
    Scout – Mary Stuart Masterson
    Jem – Joaquin Phoenix
    Boo – Robert Duvall (wouldn’t that be cool)


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 11 2015 1:28 am

      Somehow I missed that film. Such an amazing person, I will turn on the TV and look for it. Reading her words and interviews, and seeing all she’s done, makes me feel a tad lazy and wasteful of potential.
      You are assembling an intriguing cast (and you’ve contacted your agent, right) – we should chat and start the script writing now…we can adjust to fit the book when it’s available…I think that’s how it works.
      Thanks for wandering over to chat. (Hope the Beatle boots didn’t get too dusty over here)


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