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Thorn in My Pocket: Temple Grandin's…

Thorn in My Pocket: Temple Grandin's Mother Tells the Family Story

by Eustacia Cutler

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Temple Grandin has long been my personal hero. Having read most of her books, seen the outstanding HBO biopic, and heard multiple radio stories about her, I was well aware of the role that her mother played in bringing her daughter out of her autistic isolation and into a world she could participate in and enrich. So when I heard a couple of weeks ago that Temple's mother, Eustacia Cutler, was going to be giving a lecture locally, I immediately registered for the event online and ordered Mrs. Cutler's book.
The book is wonderful. But to my surprise, the story of raising and empowering Temple is only part of the story. A THORN IN MY POCKET is also the story of Eustacia's own emergence from the role her background, husband, and era wanted to force her into. Not only did Eustacia defy her husband's insistence that Temple be institutionalized, she insisted on becoming her own woman.
Eustacia Cutler is a remarkable woman, still active and vibrant at the age of 87. Her story is worth reading, especially if you're interested in people on the autism spectrum. Her overview of research on the causes of the neurobiological disorder provided me with fresh insights. ( )
  dickmanikowski | Oct 20, 2013 |

Title: A Thorn in My Pocket: Temple Grandin's Mother Tells the Family Story
Author: Eustacia Cutler
Publisher: Future Horizons
Year: 2004
Genre: memoir, psychology
240 pages

A memoir by the mother of Temple Grandin (author of Thinking in Pictures: And Other Reports from My Life with Autism among other notable works). There is a major focus on Cutler's life as the mother of an autistic child, as compared to a close third-person narrative about the autistic child herself, as in Clara Claiborn Park's Exiting Nirvana: A Daughter's Life with Autism). The title is something of a misnomer. Cutler explains in her introduction that her other three children did not want to be included; Temple's father, while described in some detail, does not have his own say. Thus the narrative is somewhat lopsided and not, in fact, the family story as promised. These omissions may explain why some reviewers are critical of this work, a critique that seems justified. Others seem disappointed that Cutler has not provided a "how to" guide detailing what she did that caused Dr. Grandin to function so well as an adult despite her autism. These latter reviewers seem to me to miss two important points. First, there is no single, validated way to ensure that any child achieves its maximum potential. This is especially true with a spectrum disorder such as autism, which probably is not a unified entity but rather a collection of syndromes with multiple etiologies that have overlapping expressions. Second, Cutler's narrative in fact goes into great detail about what she does as a parent. The Grandins were a privileged family with many resources, and Cutler was able to hire helpers, teachers, and consultants; advocate for flexibility in Temple's education and other activities; and keep her deinstitutionalized. Some readers may not find this a satisfactory response, but one of the major ways that her mother was able to assist Temple was by having the money to hire specialists. The second "how to" that Cutler exemplifies particularly well, and which bears emulating by other parents, is that she insisted on having her own life and identity as well as her role as Temple's mother. This is a difficult balance for any parent of a child with extraordinary needs, and Cutler gradually was able to enact it (again, money helps). The sections of the book where she described her own interests and development were the most interesting to me, especially as they interwove with the narrative of raising Temple.

Though I understand the impetus, Cutler may have missed the opportunity for better editing by publishing with Future Horizons, an autism publishing house. A mainstream publisher might have helped her structure this memoir a little more efficiently. As it stands, Temple Grandin's books actually cohere somewhat better than her mother's memoir. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
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The story of Temple Grandin and of her father from her mother's point of view, covering from 1947, when Temple was born, to 1962. The triumph of autistic children and their parents over autism.

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