Source: New York Times
By Temple Grandin
We hear a great deal about the need to fix the infrastructure in this country, but we are too focused on the things that need improving and updating rather than the people who will be able to do the work. For over 25 years, I designed equipment to handle livestock and worked with the highly skilled people who built the equipment. When I look back at all the projects I designed for large companies, I estimate that 20 percent of the skilled welders and drafting technicians were autistic or dyslexic, or had A.D.H.D. I remember two people with autism and who held numerous patents for mechanical devices they invented and who sold equipment to many companies. Our visual thinking skills were key to our success.
Today, we want our students to be well rounded; we should think about making sure that the education we provide is as well. At the same time, I wager that the people who will fix America’s infrastructure have spent hours and hours on one thing, whether it be Legos, violin or chess — hyper-focus is a classic sign of neurodivergent thinking and it’s critical for innovation and invention.
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. I would have hated school if the hands-on classes had been removed, as so many have been today. These classes also expose students — especially neurodivergent students — to skills that could become a career. Exposure is key. Too many students are growing up who have never used a tool. They are completely removed from the world of the practical.
Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and the author of “Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns and Abstractions.”