"Spectrum: A Story of the Mind"

re-aired April 2018.

About the Show

Premiere Date: April 2017

Take a journey into the rich sensory experience of autism. Imagine a world where words taste and thoughts feel, where sounds swell with color and leaves on trees change tones visible to the naked eye, and where eye contact with another can cause physical pain.

"Spectrum: A Story of the Mind" explores autism through the lens of diverse characters on the spectrum.

Dr. Temple Grandin, the most well-known autistic person in the world, breaks down the link between autism and sensory experiences. Her descriptions are illustrated with vivid character animation. In childhood, Temple’s sensory sensitivities were severe; a simple hug felt like a tidal wave of stimulation. The sound of rain could be described as loud as bullets. Others experience visual sensitivity like seeing flickering in fluorescent lights in a classroom or having sensory overload that creates a kaleidoscopic chaos.

Grandin explains that sensory issues originate in the brain processing – not in the eyes or in the ears. She believes these issues should be a primary focus for autism research. Understanding sensory perception could make a big impact on the lives of autistic kids and adults.

Read more about the show and featured stories below.

A Closer Look at "Spectrum: A Story of the Mind"

More About "Spectrum: A Story of the Mind"

The kids at Big Fun gymnastics enjoy trampolines, swings and floor play as a form of occupational therapy. There, we meet Gene Hurwin, an occupational therapist who helps kids regulate their sensory systems through movement. Elle, Luke and Dan, love to “wibbly wobbly” and to “fly high in the sky, like an airplane!” The parents shed light on their kid’s unique perspectives and challenges.

Artist Judy Endow uses painting to express her shifting and often chaotic visual perception. Through painted animation, Judy’s artwork and descriptions come to life. In sensory overload, her vision breaks up into fragmented pieces. She finds eye contact overwhelming. Sometimes, colors and textures shift before her eyes. Judy sees fine details and perceives beauty in places that neurotypical people do not see.

While poet and author Tito Mukhopadhyay is nonverbal, he communicates by typing. Tito describes vision as the most overwhelming sensory channel. It can feel like shapes are floating around in a distorted way. Sometimes, his senses of sound, touch and emotion blend together as he experiences synesthesia. He loves the smell of books because his sense of smell is his most reliable source of information. Tito’s poetry reflects his dynamic perception of time and space and his appreciation for natural beauty.

Nick Walker was bullied as a child for being different than his peers. He studied Aikido to learn how to fight back. Nick found that his sensory perceptions gave him an advantage in Aikido, and he fell in love with the visual patterns he saw in the movement. As an adult, Nick has thrived and believes in the concept of neurodiversity. People with different ways of thinking and seeing have value to all of us. Nick has gained a sense of confidence in his extraordinary form of processing the world.

By seeing through the eyes of others, we can learn to empathize with different ways of being. Autism is not just a deficit or a lack of being normal. It means seeing, touching, hearing and feeling a different kind of reality. By imagining and listening to autistic perspectives, we can learn to value different experiences. 

"Spectrum: A Story of the Mind" was produced by Nanuq Original and

presented by Iowa Public Televison.

Nanuq Original

Iowa Public Television

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