Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson

I first heard of Temple Grandin because of the 2010 movie of her life. It was amazing to watch the changes she made in the cattle industry captured within the movie. Don’t get me wrong, the movie involves a lot more than her innovation when it tells her life story, but that part of it captures what interested me in this book. I noticed in the process of writing this post just how many books she’s written on both autism and animals and it’s remarkable. Check out her listing on her website here.

This book is packed with ideas about animals, mostly domesticated prey animals but dogs and cats come into play here and there too. It’s fascinating to hear Grandin talk about her experience with animals, how the way her own mind works effects her experience of animals and her ability to observe them, and then all the research she’s compiled on how they think and interact with the world.

She takes the reader carefully through the makeup of the brain and sensory perception, but then also takes into consideration the differences between the way humans learn versus the way animals learn. She talks about the differences between observations of animals in the wild versus the way we treat them when they are at home, which made the biggest impact on me. I feel like we do forget sometimes that there are ways that animal interact when we aren’t around that should be honored. We’re always trying to put what makes sense to us onto an animal with an entirely different perception of the world and it just doesn’t work.

In a way, it all boils down to that. How do animals experience the world and what can we do to interact with them on their level?

I love the entire discussion on communication because I’ve seen it alot with my own dogs. People who don’t spend much time with their animals may miss that there is a different bark for different kinds of responses, but it is responses that this keys on. Anyway, that could be a whole other book and maybe I’ll come across it one day. I did buy Animals Make Us Human when I saw it in her list of books while writing this. I LOVED her final chapter on dogs and the way they make us human as much as we make them dogs. I’m interested in that whole train of thought as well as improving the ways we interact with them too.

If you’re interested in animals at all, and especially if you have some at home, this is a great book to read. It also raises a host of questions about autism and how their location on the spectrum effects people. Mostly it raises questions on how to create the most balanced and healthy upbringing for someone on the spectrum and what to do later in life if that wasn’t done.Fortunately, she has books on that too. When I saw the movie, I had no idea that she was such a prolific author. I honestly assumed she carried on with the cattle and achieved more notoriety in that alone. But of course not.

Animals in Translation is fascinating and definitely a book I’ll be rereading along with checking out several others. Add it to your Litsy or Goodreads TBR!

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