In an attempt to understand the mystery behind autism, many authors ranging from parents, educators, scientists, and psychiatrists have attempted to explore and shed light on the autistic condition. However, there are limited reading materials that can offer a better understanding of the condition than a book authored by Temple Grandin entitled Emergence: Labeled Autistic, published in 1996 by Warner Books. Right from the outset, the book is apparently simple in presentation and straightforward in ideas. Hence, both young and mature audiences can equally borrow a lot from the book. As already mentioned, it is a simple yet moving account of problems that autistic children encounter, especially if their acquaintances fail to understand the challenges they are undergoing (Grandin, 1996).
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Summary of the book’s content
This book is an autobiography that adopts a straightforward plot structure. The first few chapters are the author’s recount of her childhood experience as an autistic patient. She sheds light on her experience in learning institutions right from kindergarten to a boarding high school. The following chapters are about images and symbols that she encountered on her journey to overcome autism. She explains how the symbols and images worked to her advantage in emerging successful in life. The final chapters are extremely insightful as she presents highly informative observations about autism. She also provides information on how to help autistic children to achieve their full potential in life. The three appendices are also useful. Appendix A and B are relevant questionnaires, while Appendix C is an extensive biography of materials related to autism.
Since the first diagnosis of autistic disorder was made, professionals and most parents alike seem to have placed an irreversible curse on autistic children. Conclusive remarks by researchers in autism seem to imply that “once autistic, always autistic,” a myth Grandin has ferociously fought to debunk. In her book, Grandin traces her life experience with autism and also proves that the condition is preventable. She relentlessly attempts to prove professionals wrong who argue that autism cannot be corrected. In her submission, she asserts that “…I feel strongly that I am living proof that they can. And this seems to be especially true of autistic children who have meaningful language skills before the age of five” (22).
This self-authored book critically examines her life, as she informs the audience on how she overcame disability occasioned by autism and later become a renowned livestock equipment designer. To date, autism is still embroiled with mystery. While medical scholars and researchers have developed a myriad of theories to understand the condition, the author is clear that this condition is nothing short of a slight medical problem that should not be perceived as a strange occurrence (Grandin, 1996). It is this so-called mystery that Grandin tries to unravel. She offers a succinct outlook of the condition by analyzing the emotional expression perspective of autism, a phenomenon that previous studies have overlooked. The book is a combination of her personal perspective of the disorder. She brilliantly blends with relevant research in giving insightful advice on how limitations caused by autism can be overcome. Also, her advice on how to utilize the very limitations to gain a personal advantage is indeed helpful. Besides, the book captures all development stages of autism. This has been amplified by her personal account of how she overcame the disability since childhood. In this moving and yet inspiring story, the author sounds remorseful of herself owing to pass ordeals as she explores how she was forced to abandon her “normal” school and subsequent erosion of her emotions.
The target audience of the book is diverse. For instance, the book content is suitable and relevant to educators, professionals, and parents, and, above all, those diagnosed with autism. Her story on the isolated world that seemed to engulf her ambitions in life is a typical example of individuals with a similar condition. The fact that she emerged from the situation successfully motivates similar victims to rise above their perceived disabled status. Parents and relatives of such a person can understand how to treat the person when they do not desire any human contact. She also explains the frustration she felt as she could not experience reality like other children of her age did. The frustrations she relented through outbursts of anger and isolation. The real-life account of her experiences can be of great help to teachers and parents to understand why an individual is behaving in a particular way. Her account of how she developed from an autistic child who was always gripped with fear to a successful professional is important for parents not to be ashamed of their autistic children. They should always try to tap the natural creativity, intelligence, and talent of a child. The account is also an excellent insight in the sense that a child’s inner talents should be allowed to develop. On the same note, they should not be compelled to accept their situation if they are able to rise above their disability statuses. The account also proves professionals wrong, and as part of the target audience, the book is indeed a wakeup for the very researchers to conduct further research.
Grandin’s book is undoubtedly credible since she demonstrates both qualified authority and deep recount on autism, contrary to other authors who may not have lived with autism. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has been participating in many autism advocacy movements. Her personal struggle with autism after diagnosis in 1950 is very relevant to all and sundry who may be interested in autistic studies. Moreover, the publication of her book can be seen as a tremendous contribution to the study of autism. The fact that she could rise above her shortcomings to share her experience with autism through book authorship is by far and large, admirable not just among autistic audience but also to the world at large. In a nutshell, her expertise on autism is enormous, and she shares her knowledge through numerous conferences on autism that she presides. To build on her authority on the issue, she has authored other similar books.
In my opinion, this book is relevant to the target audience. She confesses that society has been unfair in perceiving individuals diagnosed with autism as doomed. She says, “I have read enough to know that there are still many parents, and yes, professionals too, who believe that ‘once autistic, always autistic” (56). The author also recalls how her parents were advised to institutionalize her in an autism school after an autism diagnosis.
I relate to her book since it offers motivation to parents not to give up on their autistic children. Her personal success is sufficient proof that autism can be modified and controlled, especially if the condition is diagnosed early in life. She also portrays the importance of mentorship for autistic children. She recalls how she was considered labeled as “weird” in school, but her mentor recognized her abilities and interests that were beyond her autistic condition.
As a reader, I can recommend the book to families and victims of autism. The author allows the readership to access her world that enables one to comprehend the stressful situations the individuals have to endure. This understanding enables us to reserve our judgment by preventing any labeling in children. In addition, insights on how love and education can be used to overcome limitations brought about by autism are very informative.
To recap it all, Grandin’s book contributes positively to the field of autism. Her first-hand experience with autism is indeed an invaluable asset in the entire piece of writing.
Grandin, T. (1996). Emergence: labeled autistic. New York: Warner Books.