I’ve been working on this book for about 9 months, off and on, and have finally finished it. The author, Temple Grandin, is an autistic woman who is an expert in animal science. Both autistic individuals and animals are visual thinkers, so she is well positioned to write on this subject.
It turns out that any child (like me) more interested in playing with blocks, colors, and preferring to tinker, or work with their hands, is a visual thinker. Unfortunately, schools cater to verbal thinkers, and underserve visual thinkers. This was definitely true in my upbringing. Also, as a homeschooling mother, I had both types as children, and can vouch how different they are to educate well.
The gap between these two types of thinkers has widened, now that we are teaching so much to the test. Visual thinkers are being left behind more than ever. To compound the problem, art, music, shop and home economics, are diminished (or eliminated) these days in schools, which is where these kids would thrive (other than possibly math and science).
In the United States, at least, handy trades people are becoming more and more rare, as are the creative hands-on problem solvers. Who will fix things as they start to break? Also, visual thinkers are the ones that can foresee disasters, can come up with a practical plan to avoid them, and can visualize solutions to remedy the situation after they happen, but rarely are their skills utilized. Those that think in pictures are undermined by a system that promotes verbal learners instead, who do not see what is so obvious to the visual thinkers. Meanwhile, the whole society suffers.
Reading this book helped me understand myself and our daughter better. It turns out, we are called visual-spacial thinkers, where those on the autism spectrum are called visual-object thinkers. I am not an object visualizer, but a conceptual thinker. This comes out especially in both my spirituality and my art. Usually, this book says, visual-spacial thinkers like myself and our daughter like math, physics, and art, which of course is exactly correct for us.
This book also helped me understand how to better explain my abstract art. Most people think of abstract art as abstracting an object, by making it less defined, obscured, or more unusual. I, however, start with an abstract idea and attempt to make it tangible. No objects were ever involved. This is not generally done, so my abstract art is often not understood, because my frame of reference was never object based at all.
I wholeheartedly agree we desperately need our education systems to change so we can amplify everyone’s unique abilities, and be blessed by them all, utilizing everyone’s skills more fully. Unfortunately, most legislators and policymakers are not visual thinkers, so cannot appreciate how real, disastrous, and exclusionary this problem is. They would do well to read this book. Also people who want to understand better an autistic child, or (a late reader) visual-thinker like myself, would be benefited from reading this.
Visual Thinking is overly thorough, and for me, it was a really slow read. For this reason, I give it only 4 stars. However, I’m glad I read it, and you may feel the same way. This book could hold a profound revelation for you.