13 November 2008

On autistic insight into the student experience

The link is to another article in the "Passion for Teaching" series in Times Higher Education. It jumps about, rather, but apart from anecdotal experience, its chief source is a remarkable book, which I recently read out of sheer interest but without making the connections Blaisdell (the article's author) does to the student experience.

Temple Grandin is Associate Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, and a renowned expert on stock handling systems in abattoirs. She is also seriously autistic. Her remarkable book (Grandin T and Johnson C (2005) Animals in Translation; using the mysteries of autism to decode animal behaviour London; Bloomsbury [ISBN 0-7475-6668-2]) explores animals' (particularly dogs' and cattle's) experience of the world on the basis of parallels between their experience and that of a person with autism. To the academic reader's understanding it is written remarkably directly, even naively; but as it goes on one begins to understand why.

What Blaisdell does is to suggest that this account of the behaviour of animals in the abattoir can illuminate the students' experience in class--and it is not cheap "lambs to the slaughter" stuff.

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