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Part Three: Talking with Dr. Temple Grandin, Author of "Thinking in Pictures"

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One of the things I'm most concerned about in the educational system is they're taking all the hands on courses out - things like art, music, welding, shop, wood shop, automobile mechanics shop. When I was in elementary school, art was my favorite class. And I think that's a real shame.

Yes, it's important for kids to learn reading and how to do math, but all the things where the people with good visual spatial skills will excel, they're going to get rid of that. I was really disturbed by an article I read recently in Science magazine that talked about this. The thing is, the people who think visually/spatially, they're the ones who will be the great engineers and artists.

I remember reading that you were talking about engineers and the new crop of engineering students who couldn't draw a circle freehand?

They were animal science students. In my class, I had my students lay out livestock handling facilities. And I had some students that didn't even know how to draw a circle with a compass. They didn't even know what a compass was. When I was in elementary school, we did compasses and protractors and we learned all about measuring angles and things like that. And there's less of that kind of thing being done.

You also talk about how we aren't outside enough and what happens when we don't spend time in nature.

For a lot of kids today, their lives are so structured, it's going to interfere with problem solving. When we were kids, we had to make up our own games, we'd make up bike racing games, building tree houses, putting up tents, just doing all kinds of stuff where we had to figure things out for ourselves. If you don't learn to figure some things out, you're not going to have very good problem solving skills.

That's very true.

One of the things we have to do with these quirky kids is we have to take these - this Asperger's is just a mild type of autism with no speech delay (another name for Asperger's is just geeks and nerds) - we need to take these kids that have uneven skills and develop the area of strength. If it's mathematics, maybe the 4th grade kid needs to be in high school math but he may need special ed. in reading. Or if it's visual/spatial skills and art, then the art ability needs to be developed. You need to take the thing that the kid is good at and build on it. I want to add autism is a very broad spectrum and half the people labeled with autism may not even fully have language.

Do you go and speak at schools at all?

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