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Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior
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Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior [Format Kindle]

Temple Grandin , Catherine Johnson
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Chapter One: My Story

People who aren't autistic always ask me about the moment I realized I could understand the way animals think. They think I must have had an epiphany.

But it wasn't like that. It took me a long time to figure out that I see things about animals other people don't. And it wasn't until I was in my forties that I finally realized I had one big advantage over the feedlot owners who were hiring me to manage their animals: being autistic. Autism made school and social life hard, but it made animals easy.

I had no idea I had a special connection to animals when I was little. I liked animals, but I had enough problems just trying to figure out things like why a really small dog isn't a cat. That was a big crisis in my life. All the dogs I knew were pretty big, and I used to sort them by size. Then the neighbors bought a dachshund, and I was totally confused. I kept saying, "How can it be a dog?" I studied and studied that dachshund, trying to figure it out. Finally I realized that the dachshund had the same kind of nose my golden retriever did, and I got it. Dogs have dog noses.

That was pretty much the extent of my expertise when I was five.

I started to fall in love with animals in high school when my mother sent me to a special boarding school for gifted children with emotional problems. Back then they called everything "emotional problems." Mother had to find a place for me because I got kicked out of high school for fighting. I got in fights because kids teased me. They'd call me names, like "Retard," or "Tape recorder."

They called me Tape Recorder because I'd stored up a lot of phrases in my memory and I used them over and over again in every conversation. Plus there were only a few conversations I liked to have, so that amplified the effect. I especially liked to talk about the rotor ride at the carnival. I would go up to somebody and say, "I went to Nantasket Park and I went on the rotor and I really liked the way it pushed me up against the wall." Then I would say stuff like, "How did you like it?" and they'd say how they liked it, and then I'd tell the story all over again, start to finish. It was like a loop inside my head, it just ran over and over again. So the kids called me Tape Recorder.

Teasing hurts. The kids would tease me, so I'd get mad and smack 'em. That simple. They always started it, they liked to see me react.

My new school solved that problem. The school had a stable and horses for the kids to ride, and the teachers took away horseback riding privileges if I smacked somebody. After I lost privileges enough times I learned just to cry when somebody did something bad to me. I'd cry, and that would take away the aggression. I still cry when people are mean to me.

Nothing ever happened to the kids who were teasing.

The funny thing about the school was, the horses had emotional problems, too. They had emotional problems because in order to save money the headmaster was buying cheap horses. They'd been marked down because they had gigantic behavior problems. They were pretty, their legs were fine, but emotionally they were a mess. The school had nine horses altogether, and two of them couldn't be ridden at all. Half the horses in that barn had serious psychological problems. But I didn't understand that as a fourteen-year-old.

So there we all were up at boarding school, a bunch of emotionally disturbed teenagers living with a bunch of emotionally disturbed animals. There was one horse, Lady, who was a good horse when you rode her in the ring, but on the trail she would go berserk. She would rear, and constantly jump around and prance; you had to hold her back with the bridle or she'd bolt to the barn.

Then there was Beauty. You could ride Beauty, but he had very nasty habits like kicking and biting while you were in the saddle. He would swing his foot up and kick you in the leg or foot, or turn his head around and bite your knee. You had to watch out. Whenever you tried to mount Beauty he kicked and bit -- you had both ends coming at you at the same time.

But that was nothing compared to Goldie, who reared and plunged whenever anyone tried to sit on her back. There was no way to ride that horse; it was all you could do just to stay in the saddle. If you did ride her, Goldie would work herself up into an absolute sweat. In five minutes she'd be drenched, dripping wet. It was flop sweat. Pure fear. She was terrified of being ridden.

Goldie was a beautiful horse, though; light brown with a golden mane and tail. She was built like an Arab horse, slender and fine, and had perfect ground manners. You could walk her on a lead, you could groom her, you could do anything you liked and she was perfectly behaved just so long as you didn't try to ride her. That sounds like an obvious problem for any nervous horse to have, but it can go the other way, too. I've known horses where people say, "Yeah you can ride them, but that's all you can do with them." That kind of horse is fine with people in the saddle, and nasty to people on the ground.

All the horses at the school had been abused. The lady they bought Goldie from had used a nasty, sharp bit and jerked on it as hard as she could, so Goldie's tongue was all twisted and deformed. Beauty had been kept locked in a dairy stanchion all day long. I don't know why. These were badly abused animals; they were very, very messed up.

But I had no understanding of this as a girl. I was never mean to the horses at the school (other kids were sometimes), but I wasn't any horse-whispering autistic savant, either. I just loved the horses.

I was so wrapped up in them that I spent every spare moment working the barns. I was dedicated to keeping the barn clean, making sure the horses were groomed. One of the high points of my high school career was the day my mom bought me a really nice English bridle and saddle. That was a huge event in my life, because it was mine, but also because the saddles at school were so crummy. We rode on old McClellands, which were honest-to-god cavalry saddles first used in the Civil War. The school's saddles probably went back to World War II when they still had some horse units in the army. The McClelland was designed with a slot down the center of it to spare the horse's back. The slot was good for the horse but horrible for the rider. I don't think there's ever been a more uncomfortable saddle on earth, though I have to say that when I read about the Northern Alliance soldiers in Afghanistan riding on saddles made out of wood, that sounded worse.

Boy did I take care of that saddle. I loved it so much I didn't even leave it in the tack room where it belonged. I brought it up to my dorm room every day and kept it with me. I bought special saddle soap and leather conditioner from the saddle shop, and I spent hours washing and polishing it.

As happy as I was with the horses at school, my high school years were hard. When I reached adolescence I was hit by a tidal wave of anxiety that never stopped. It was the same level of anxiety I felt later on when I was defending my dissertation in front of my thesis committee, only I felt that way all day long and all night, too. Nothing bad happened to make me so anxious all of a sudden; I think it was just one of my autism genes kicking into high gear. Autism has a lot in common with obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is listed as an anxiety disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Animals saved me. One summer when I was visiting my aunt, who had a dude ranch in Arizona, I saw a herd of cattle being put through the squeeze chute at a neighboring ranch. A squeeze chute is an apparatus vets use to hold cattle still for their shots by squeezing them so tight they can't move. The squeeze chute looks like a big V made out of metal bars hinged together at the bottom. When a cow walks into the chute an air compressor closes up the V, which squeezes the cow's body in place. The rancher has plenty of space for his hands and the hypodermic needle between the metal bars. You can find pictures of them on the Web if you want to see what they look like.

As soon as I caught sight of that thing I made my aunt stop the car so I could get out and watch. I was riveted by the sight of those big animals inside that squeezing machine. You might think cattle would get really scared when all of a sudden this big metal structure clamps together on their bodies, but it's exactly the opposite. They get really calm. When you think about it, it makes sense, because deep pressure is a calming sensation for just about everyone. That's one of the reasons a massage feels so good -- it's the deep pressure. The squeeze chute probably gives cattle a feeling like the soothing sensation newborns have when they're swaddled, or scuba divers have underwater. They like it.

Watching those cattle calm down, I knew I needed a squeeze chute of my own. When I got back to school that fall, my high school teacher helped me build my own squeeze chute, the size of a human being down on all fours. I bought my own air compressor, and I used plywood boards for the V. It worked beautifully. Whenever I put myself inside my squeeze machine, I felt calmer. I still use it today.

I got through my teenage years thanks to my squeeze machine and my horses. Animals kept me going. I spent every waking minute that I didn't have to be studying or going to school with those horses. I even rode Lady at a show. It's hard to imagine today, a school keeping a stable of emotionally disturbed and dangerous horses for its underaged students to ride. These days you can't even play dodgeball in gym class because somebody might get hurt. But that's the way it was. A lot of us got nipped or stepped on or thrown at that school, but no one was ever seriously hurt, at least not while I was there. So it worked out.

I wish more kids could ride horses today. People and animals are supposed to be together. We spent quite a long time evolving together, and we used to be partners. Now p...

Revue de presse

Candace B. Pert, Ph.D., author of Molecules of Emotion Animal lovers and people lovers will be thoroughly charmed by Temple Grandin's latest book. Its sweetly simple style, chock-full of fresh and funny anecdotes, somehow delivers brilliant insights into the way animals and autistic people perceive the world. As a neuroscientist researching autism, I was fascinated by Grandin's personal story and excited by her synthesis of classical learning theory and new paradigm mystery.

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs Temple Grandin has done many wonderful things for this world, things that have made a tremendous difference in the lives of animals and people. Not the least of these is that she has transformed autism from being an unfortunate disability to being an enviable advantage that many of us would give anything to experience if only we could understand animals as smoothly as she does. I feel strongly that her interpretations of animal behavior are correct. She has a Ph.D., too, but the autism has probably served her better. Now she has written a fascinating and compelling book, filled with wisdom and insight, that lives up to its promise of decoding animal behavior.

Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon In this insightful, quirky, and often funny volume, Temple Grandin takes us deep inside the minds of animals. Her observations of dogs, cats, cows, pigs, birds, fish, and horses are meticulous and humane, and her approach is impressive both for its synthesis of scholarship and for its original applications of theory. Grandin opens new vistas that will be invaluable to anyone who cares about the creatures of the earth and sky.

Alex Shoumatoff, author of The World Is Burning Temple Grandin's insights are absolutely fascinating, groundbreaking contributions to the field of animal awareness. This book is deeply moving and a triumph on many levels, not the least the understanding of herself and her condition that Ms. Grandin has succeeded in achieving, conveying so lucidly, and putting to such productive use. She is an inspiration to us all.

Monty Roberts, author of The Man Who Listens to Horses Animals in Translation is a comprehensive collection of the discoveries of a gifted human being. Through a unique set of circumstances, Temple Grandin was born with the ability to live in the animal world, completely understanding their environment. At the same time, she possesses the complex brain of a learned human being who I consider a genius. I read Animals in Translation in the style of a sponge soaking up water. If one is interested in learning more about the lives and needs of animals, Animals in Translation is a must-read. I found it impossible to put down.

Candace B. Pert, Ph.D. author of Molecules of Emotion Animal lovers and people lovers will both be thoroughly charmed by Temple Grandin's latest book. Its sweetly simple style, chock full of fresh and funny anecdotes, somehow delivers brilliant insights into the way animals and autistic people perceive the world. As a neuroscientist researching autism, I was fascinated by Grandin's personal story and excited by her synthesis of classical learning theory and new paradigm mystery.

Oliver Sacks author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat Deeply moving and fascinating.

Dr. Temple Grandin has, in her own inimitable way, brought to us a no-nonsense account of her unique insights into animal behavior and cognition in her most recent book, Animals in Translation. Temple sees it as it is, calls it as she sees it, and explains her rationale in scientific terms. Ably assisted by her coauthor Catherine Johnson, Temple has confronted many of the sacred cows of old school behaviorism and laid them to rest. This book is both entertaining and enlightening for those who would learn more about the way animals think and behave. Two thumbs up for this thoughtful and educational compilation.
-- Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, author of If Only They Could Speak and The Dog Who Loved Too Much

Animals in Translation is vintage Grandin; she just gets better and better. Each page is crystal-clear, conceptually profound, and empirically fascinating. Whether the reader is a cattle rancher looking for guidance in managing animals in a non-stressful way, or a layperson interested in what is going on behind the eyes of a pet, Grandin's work is the guidebook of choice for what, to most of us, is terra incognita. Her wit, crisp clear style, and unique voice synthesizing the most up-to-date scientific knowledge with voluminous personal experience make this book a pleasure to read, and a joy to learn from.
-- Bernard E. Rollin, Colorado State University Distinguished Professor, and Professor of Philosophy, of Biomedical Sciences, and of Animal Sciences

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5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Par soniia
A lire absolument : ce livre nous ouvre à un monde "animal" ( qui est aussi le notre) sensible, riche où la sensorialité est outil de communication et d'émotionS : l'humain et l'animal se rejoignent et se complètent : ce livre annonce le suivant "animals make us human" qui actualise les notions de dominances notamment chez les chiens : tout est dans leS titreS des deux ouvrages ! hélas , c'est en anglais , mais facile à lire .
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.4 étoiles sur 5  283 commentaires
231 internautes sur 243 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Fascinating and delightful read 22 janvier 2005
Par bookarts - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I savored every moment of reading this book. Grandin has an enthusiasm for her subject that she combines with endless quantities of fascinating research and observations about animals. The book isn't exactly what I expected - I thought it would focus more on her own interactions with animals. However, because the book is so engagingly written and the information is so interesting, the difference between what I expected and what I got didn't diminish my enjoyment in the least.

Grandin does a much better job of making the scientific information more interesting and less dry than in her previous book, Thinking in Pictures, which contained long passages about medications that could be used to treat autistic people. I found that book to be much more uneven. Animals in Translation, however, held on to my attention from the first page to the last. While she also includes a generous amount of scientific information in this book, it is all so interesting and sometimes surprising, that I was never bored. If you have pets or are simply interested in animals and/or biology, this is a must-read.
106 internautes sur 115 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 2 1/2 stars, because it is half a good book 16 septembre 2006
Par citywulf - Publié sur
When the author focuses on what she knows - autism, neurobiology, and domestic livestock - this book offers many insights. By applying some excellent existing research in neurobiology about what animals are truly capable of perceiving and feeling (read some of the referenced books for confirmation of emotions in animals) and applying her own experiences with domestic livestock and insights founded in her autism (a much more visual world than "normal" people (her word, not mine)), Dr. Grandin shows how a more visual, detail-oriented animal encounters the world.

Sadly, Dr. Grandin - perhaps wanting to appeal to a wider audience - tries also to include predator species such as our companion dogs and cats in her book. Her lack of direct experience with predator species is palpable in everything she writes about them. Her data sources are extremely outdated(Monks of New Skete, anyone?) and her own discussions are highly anecdotal ("my neighbor's dog..." "my childhood cat..."). Her word choices reveal her discomfort with the subject matter (much use of terms such as "probably" "pretty much" "nobody knows why"). Nor does she make any effort to validate her suppositions. Her "Troubleshooting" chapter should be avoided like the plague (recommending a shock collar for chasing behavior can create aggression, as the dog learns to associate the chase object with pain).

If you read this book, take it with a grain of salt and by no means use it as your only reference. Her own references are excellent and can be used for further study. Also, for those interested primarily in dogs, Patricia McConnell has an exceptional new book, For the Love of a Dog, that is grounded in more recent data and a lifetime of working with dogs.
116 internautes sur 137 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A novel look at animal behavior, but with room for improvement. 28 août 2006
Par Monika - Publié sur
What author Temple Grandin has attempted to do here is to use her own experiences as an autistic person to gain insight into the way animals perceive and react to the world around them. She explains that autism seems to impair the ability of the neocortex, or frontal lobes of the brain, to obtain and process information, and that animals likewise have less well-developed frontal lobes than normal humans do. Her theory is that the impairment of an autistic person's brain, in essence, makes them far closer to other animals than to non-autistic humans in how they view the world. As a result, Grandin has largely been able to help people better relate to their pets, and also to design more humane slaughterhouse equipment and more effective auditing procedures for slaughter facilities.

The book starts off well, with Grandin offering many insights that show that, in some ways, she really does have a better understanding of animal perception and thought than "normal" humans. Her principle examples revolve around the fact that animals, like autistic people, are detail-oriented. Their inability to generalize and see the "big picture" often leads to fixations on small things that the average person would not notice. Grandin illustrates this with stories from her inspections of meat plants, where something as simple as an abrupt change in lighting, or a reflection on a puddle - things which have entirely escaped the plant operators' notice - have been causing cattle to balk and refuse to go where they are being directed. She goes on to explain exactly why these details, which don't seem like much of a reason to be afraid, are so disturbing to the animals. Her observations, while not things that would immediately jump out at most people, make a lot of sense once she has explained them. Grandin also includes a useful checklist of things to look for when trying to determine what may be frightening an animal.

However, there are also some not-so-positive aspects to the book. In many places Grandin deviates from her theme of using autism to understand animals, and starts making speculations that not only have no connection to autism, but which seem to have little to back them up at all beyond the author's own opinions. She uses phrases like "statistics have shown" but then fails to elaborate on these supposedly evidential statistics, giving no information on who collected the information, when the study was done, or how large of a sample was used. This particularly comes into play when she discusses pit bulls - a topic she turns to repeatedly throughout the book. Grandin makes no attempt to hide her great distaste for pit bulls (she does not specify whether she is referring to American Pit Bull Terriers in particular, or all of the various breeds that fall under the generic "pit bull" label) and also Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Chows.

In addition, Grandin puts forth some opinions on dog training that range from strange to absurd. Two things in particular caught my attention. First, she strongly advocates the outdated "alpha" theory for establishing dominance over one's dog. And secondly, I found myself greatly puzzled when she posed her theory that leash laws result in undersocialized dogs. She goes on to reminisce about how, when she was a child, dogs in her neighborhood were allowed to roam free, and that there were rarely any fights. Perhaps this was the case in her neighborhood, but in most places allowing one's dogs to roam free without supervision poses many risks. And leash laws in no way prevent a dog from being well socialized - they just require that a dog owner take an active role in introducing their pets to other animals and humans.

Finally, I was slightly dismayed with Grandin's writing style itself, though I'm not sure whether this is just a lack of writing skill, or a by-product of her autism. Grandin is obviously well-educated and experienced, but the text felt more like a junior high research report with a lot of scientific words thrown in. She often uses the same phrases repetitively, and also uses juvenalized terms for some things. However, the author does admit that written language does not come naturally to her, and that she often draws on a collection of "stock phrases" to communicate, which is what makes me wonder if this aspect of the writing is actually due to the nature of her autism. However, she also makes the mistake of repeatedly using terms like "I believe" or "my opinion is" when putting forth her theories. While these theories obviously ARE her ideas, making statements of the "I think" variety in scientific writing makes the arguments sound weaker, especially when she fails to back up her claims with research or other evidence. Many times she simply concludes an argument with the statement "and I can prove it!" but then fails to go on to give actual proof.

On the whole, the book is a bit of a mixed bag. Though my previous three paragraphs focused on things I found disappointing, I do not mean to give the impression that Grandin's work is all bad. It's certainly not. She does have a lot of good insights, and when she backs up her assertions with specific evidence, her ideas are quite fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the beginning of the book, where she explains the differences in detail-perception between animals, autistic people, and non-autistic people, and also the sections devoted to animal language / communication, and the co-evolution of dogs and humans. In the end I would probably still recommend Grandin's book to readers, with the provision that one should take a slightly hesitant approach in deciding which of her arguments should be readily accepted, and which need further proof.
30 internautes sur 34 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Landmark book. 13 mars 2005
Par Nicholas Dormaar - Publié sur
Animals in Translation: Using the mysteries of autism to decode animal behavior.
I will never think about animals, and about autism, and about "normal" people quite the same way again. This is a landmark book.
The book is badly organized. You will have to read every page. You may not be interested in the long pages where she talks about slaughter houses, but then right in the middle of a paragraph you suddenly come across a bit of wisdom that you would not want to have missed. Right then you must underline it or you will never find it back again.
The upshot of this book is that animals do not have a fully functioning frontal lobe, nor do autistic people, and she tells us throughout the book what that is like, over and over again until you start to get a deep understanding of what it is like. We get a better understanding of ourselves too. The frontal lobe "puts it all together", and having put it all together, we race over the details like a speed boat over water. We do not see the details. An autistic person on the other hand, can not help but see them. He sees all the details, and only the details. He is overwhelmed by them. He sees all forty shades of brown. He can not see the forest for the trees, and more trees, and more trees. He hears every tone. He smells every odor. His life is a jumble of details. As you might expect, her book is rich in details about her own life and about all the animals she knows and when you emerge at the other end of the book, you feel immersed. Being a "normal" person you can not remember all the details, but you "know" something about these people's lives, and about animals' lives in a way you could never get from a text book. And yet, at the same time, she also has a doctorate and she does her own research. She has the training to write the text book, but then, being autistic, she can not. She does not hold the whole picture and therefore it remains a badly organized book. That is the message. That is what it is like to be autistic. That is what it is like to be an animal.
Nicholas Dormaar
British Columbia, Canada.
37 internautes sur 43 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 not quite as wonderful as I'd been led to believe 29 mars 2005
Par Maggie the Cat - Publié sur
I was interested in this book as a dog trainer, hoping to acquire insights into dog behavior. Unlike some other reviewers, I am also happy to read about autism and the meat packing industry as well. On those subjects I am incompetent to judge. However, as far as dogs go, Ms. Grandin has nothing on truly observant experienced dog trainers. She makes wild generalizations I know are not supported by evidence ("all Labs are like x"; "wolflike-appearing breeds are actually more wolflike in behavior"; "white dogs are crazy", etc.) Her ideas about dogs might be taken as remarkable by the complete novice to the subject--which is most people--but are no news to anyone who has been around the block, except where they are apparently inventions of her own.

She could be way cool on the other subjects she touches on. She has a very accessible style of writing, possibly attributable to her co-author.

If you want an understanding of dog behavior, try the classic "Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson.
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Animals and autistic people dont see their ideas of things; they see the actual things themselves. We see the details that make up the world, while normal people blur all those details together into their general concept of the world. &quote;
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This is the single most important thing to know about the way animals perceive the world: animals see details people dont see. They are totally detail-oriented. Thats the key. &quote;
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Pure white animals (and people) have more neurological problems than dark-skinned or dark-furred animals, because melanin, the chemical that gives skin its color, is also found in the midbrain, where it may have a protective effect.1 &quote;
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