What are the similarities and differences between Temple Grandin and Stephen Wiltshire?

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carolynosborne eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Temple Grandin and Stephen Wiltshire share a neurology and a means of expression, however, their lives also differ significantly. Both Grandin and Wiltshire were diagnosed early with autism and needed to be taught skills and behaviors that people not on the autism spectrum take for granted. For example, both had to be taught social skills. Because of autism, both share having strong interests in very particular things and learning a lot about their special interests. In fact, they share an interest in drawing, although they use their prodigious skills in very different ways.

Temple Grandin wrote a book called Thinking in Pictures in which she compares her mind to a CAD program on a computer. She is a visual thinker, almost to the exclusion of language, and she has used this skill to design animal handling facilities; when she designs, she can see the entire building in her mind. She uses her enhanced fight or flight feelings, common in autism, as a means for understanding the animals as they move from one place to another and experience various events.

Stephen Wiltshire is also a visual thinker but his interest has been in automobiles and cityscapes. Like Grandin, he can visualize extremely well in his mind and make very complex, detailed drawings from just brief encounters, such as riding over a city in a helicopter.

Both Wiltshire and Grandin are examples of people who have constructed positive lives for themselves despite struggles to cope with social settings in which their ways of thinking are not understood by other people.