Ted Talks

Decades ago, few pediatricians had heard of autism. In 1975, 1 in 5,000 kids was estimated to have it. Today, 1 in 68 is on the autism spectrum. What caused this steep rise? Steve Silberman points to “a perfect storm of autism awareness” — a pair of psychologists with an accepting view, an unexpected pop culture moment and a new clinical test. But to really understand, we have to go back further to an Austrian doctor by the name of Hans Asperger, who published a pioneering paper in 1944. Because it was buried in time, autism has been shrouded in misunderstanding ever since. (This talk was part of a TED2015 session curated by Pop-Up Magazine: popupmagazine.com or @popupmag on Twitter.)

Steve Silberman is a writer and contributing editor for Wired who covers science and society. His newest book explores neurodiversity and the link between autism and genius.

Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.

Through groundbreaking research and the lens of her own autism, Temple Grandin brings startling insight into two worlds.  Grandin’s books about her interior life as an autistic person have increased the world’s understanding of the condition with personal immediacy — and with import, as rates of autism diagnosis rise. She is revered by animal rights groups and members of autistic community, perhaps because in both regards she is a voice for those who are sometimes challenged to make themselves heard. 

Alix Generous is a young woman with a million and one ideas — she’s done award-winning science, helped develop new technology and tells a darn good joke (you’ll see). She has Asperger’s, a form of autistic spectrum disorder that can impair the basic social skills required for communication, and she’s worked hard for years to learn how to share her thoughts with the world. In this funny, personal talk, she shares her story — and her vision for tools to help more people communicate their big ideas.

Alix Generous is a college student and biology researcher with Asperger syndrome. She stresses the importance of building accepting environments for all kinds of minds.

“People are so afraid of variety that they try to fit everything into a tiny little box with a specific label,” says 16-year-old Rosie King, who is bold, brash and autistic. She wants to know: Why is everyone so worried about being normal? She sounds a clarion call for every kid, parent, teacher and person to celebrate uniqueness. It’s a soaring testament to the potential of human diversity.

Rosie King challenges stereotypes of people with autism and contextualizes the issue by asking us, “Why be normal?”

Born three and a half months prematurely, Derek Paravicini is blind and has severe autism. But with perfect pitch, innate talent and a lot of practice, he became a concert pianist by the age of 10. Here, his longtime piano teacher, Adam Ockelford, explains his student’s unique relationship to music, while Paravicini shows how he has ripped up the “Chopsticks” rulebook.

Pianist Derek Paravicini understands music systematically. Once a child prodigy, he’s matured into a creative musician, able to reimagine songs in ways few can.

Carina Morillo knew almost nothing about autism when her son Ivan was diagnosed — only that he didn’t speak or respond to words, and that she had to find other ways to connect with him. She shares how she learned to help her son thrive by being curious along with him. (In Spanish with English subtitles)

Carina Morillo is an advocate for the social inclusion of people with autism.

“Autism is not a disease; it’s just another way of thinking,” says Ethan Lisi. Offering a glimpse into the way he experiences the world, Lisi breaks down misleading stereotypes about autism, shares insights into common behaviors like stimming and masking and promotes a more inclusive understanding of the spectrum.

Ethan Lisi believes we are all different and unique in our own way.  

Ethan Lisi is an undergraduate student at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. He was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at a young age. His mother’s recent autism diagnosis inspired him to speak publicly about autism.

Lisi speaks fluent French, has perfect pitch and enjoys watching his dogs play. He enjoys discussing electronics, public transit and video gaming. In the future, he hopes to travel extensively and explore new places.

Hannah Gadsby’s groundbreaking special “Nanette” broke comedy. In a talk about truth and purpose, she shares three ideas and three contradictions. Or not.

How would Hannah Gadsby describe herself to a teenager at a dinner party? “I am a stand-up comedian from Tasmania. Courtesy of my Netflix special, Nanette, released last year, I have found some rather sudden fame, and I am deeply uncomfortable with so much positive attention. Prior to said special, I had spent a decade or so quietly working my way round the live stand-up circuit in Australia and the UK and had thought of my career as a reasonably successful situation. I am yet to recalibrate my definition of success since the event known as ‘said special.’

“I am on the spectrum. I have two dogs whom I love deeply. I enjoy gardening. And I am so sorry you are sitting next to me, teenager.”

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