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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Grandin: Educate the visual thinkers too

Our society and our schools aren't designed for "visual thinkers, which so many of us neurodivergent folks are," writes Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State, in a New York Times commentary. Those like her who think in pictures rather than words, are "set up to fail."

Grandin, the author of Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns and Abstractions, spent 25 years designing equipment to handle livestock, she writes.

Twenty percent of the skilled welders and drafting technicians she worked with were autistic, dyslexic or had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, she estimates.

I often get asked what I would do to improve both elementary and high school. The first step would be to put more of an emphasis on hands-on classes such as art, music, sewing, woodworking, cooking, theater, auto mechanics and welding. . . . Too many students are growing up who have never used a tool. They are completely removed from the world of the practical.

Grandin loved hands-on classes, but could not pass algebra because it was too abstract, she writes. Today, with algebra as a graduation requirement, she'd have trouble earning a diploma.

(I'm the sort of person who needs directions in words, but I can't get much out of looking at a map. I was fine with algebra, but disliked geometry.)

Teenagers should be able to decide whether they want to prepare for university or a skilled career, with equal respect for both paths, as they do in Europe, writes Grandin. "The skill sets of visual thinkers are essential to finding real-world solutions to society’s many problems."


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