6.9 1986 onwards: autistic people speak for themselves
The dominant image of autism up to the 1980s was that of a person lacking the self-insight and communicative skills necessary to tell others what it is like to be autistic. This perception was challenged when an American professor called Temple Grandin published a book about her experience of autism (Grandin and Scariano, 1986). As a child in the 1950s, Temple’s delayed speech development and odd behaviour were attributed to brain damage. Her mother resisted attempts to have her institutionalised and hired a speech therapist. At school Temple benefitted from the encouragement of some wise mentors. When she was 18, her mother happened upon Bernard Rimland’s work and realised that her daughter was autistic. Temple nonetheless went from strength to strength, studying at university and becoming a professor and world expert on livestock handling, as well as a spokesperson on autism. Since Temple’s pioneering effort, many other personal accounts of autism have been published.