The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity

Book - 2015
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"A groundbreaking book that upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently. What is autism: a devastating developmental disorder, a lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more--and the future of our society depends on our understanding it. WIRED reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became famous for discovering it, and finds surprising answers to the crucial question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years. Going back to the earliest days of autism research and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle, while mapping out a path for our society toward a more humane world in which people with learning differences and those who love them have access to the resources they need to live happier, healthier, more secure, and more meaningful lives. Along the way, he reveals the untold story of Hans Asperger, the father of Asperger's syndrome, whose "little professors" were targeted by the darkest social-engineering experiment in human history; exposes the covert campaign by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner to suppress knowledge of the autism spectrum for fifty years; and casts light on the growing movement of "neurodiversity" activists seeking respect, support, technological innovation, accommodations in the workplace and in education, and the right to self-determination for those with cognitive differences"-- Provided by publisher.
"A groundbreaking book that upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House, [2015]
ISBN: 9781583334676
Call Number: 616.8588 Si325n
Characteristics: 534 pages ; 24 cm


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Provides a comprehensive history of autism and diagnosis, treatment and social acceptance today. The book also demonstrates how understanding and sympathy for differences in perceptions of the world can be fostered.

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Jul 27, 2019

I really appreciate the deep and thorough account of neurodiversity throughout history as investigated and reported on by a journalist. It is a refreshing perspective given the wide range of professional, medical and first-person experience material regarding autism that is currently available. I feel like I have a much better understanding of how we got to where we are today.

Jun 07, 2019

An engaging series of stories about autism: what it is, how it was treated in the past and at present, and its possible futures. To me, the best -- or at least the one that I needed to read the most -- is the story of Leo and his concerned parents, who are slowly lead down the path of gluten elimination, anti-vaccination, mommy blogging and mega vitamins, to the point they scrimped on measures that could actually help their son (speech and physical therapy) to pay their many medical quacks. They only draw back from chelation therapy when their own intelligence and advice from a concerned doctor grandfather kick in. It is easy to caricature such parents, but Steve Silberman writes with wisdom and compassion.

This is the most accurate and true meaning of how my disability was originated, how Cavendish seems to be busy with the science he discovered before anyone else, how things have studied over time from psychologists, how Leo got used to the green straws and more. I know I can't wait for the movie called "Rain Man" perhaps. I would've gotten to the National Autism Society... literally, it took me two months to read initially. I know April is Autism Awareness Month, and I'm pretty felt so much emotional about life. Autism is just what it is... I'm already a part of the Autism Spectrum Navigators for the past year of my life, and I'm proud of myself, even if things don't seem to go right as I would've done it a while back. I highly recommend this book for those who need the real truth about my disability.

WVMLlibrarianCathy Jan 05, 2016

A very interesting and well written book on the current state and history of autism. But this book is even more than this; it explores society's approach to differences in people, as well as its values regarding equality and education.

Dec 30, 2015

A very fascinating book that dispels many myths about autism. For parents and caregivers of autistic children who are hard pressed for time I'd rather recommend more helpful books like More than words and Talkability. Those were the books that helped me to teach my autistic grandson to communicate and to progress.

Dec 03, 2015

An interesting history of the slow dawning of understanding of the autism spectrum over the last 100 years. As the book explains, well past the turn of the 20th century psychiatric diagnoses routinely missed those with mild symptoms (now known as Asperger's syndrome) and committed most severe cases to institutions for life. Now all degrees of autism are much better understood and accommodations and acceptance, similar to what are afforded those with other disabilities, seem to offer the best chance for a positive outcome in terms of quality of life.

The book relates many stories of individuals who either have autism or try to help those who do, and also describes historic milestones in its study. Perhaps the most striking example given is the "Autism Wars" of the 1990s in which pseudoscientific claims blaming autism on childhood vaccines ended up doing much more harm than good as it led to near hysteria among parents. But the book quickly dispatches any claim of a causal link, making the simple observation that autism often manifests around age 2, which happens to coincide with vaccine treatments. An engaging read and a positive step toward understanding the full spectrum of autism, which is a hereditary condition with no cure but like other handicaps can be overcome, and even has some positive aspects, leading some to celebrate their "neurodiversity."

Nov 19, 2015

"Neurotribes" is a medical history that examines how autism was diagnosed and treated in the past and how those events lead to our culture's current views of autism. If you liked "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" then "Neurotribes" will be right up your alley. Although some of the true stories contained in this book are very sad, the ending leaves the reader with a sense of hope. The touching final chapters paint a picture that acceptance of people with all kinds of abilities is common sense and where we are headed as a society.

LPL_DirectorBrad Sep 09, 2015

This book is a tremendously readable work on autism. Silberman conducts groundbreaking research on the perception of autism through history. Completely fascinating and a crucial book about better understanding the many different ways the human mind works.


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Oct 14, 2016


Forward by Oliver Sacks ix
Introduction: Beyond the Geek Syndrome 1

1. The Wizard of Clapham Common 19
2. The Boy Who Loves Green Straws 44
3. What Sister Viktorine Knew 82
4. Fascinating Peculiarities 140
5. The Invention of Toxic Parenting 187
6. Princes of the Air 223
7. Fighting the Monster 261
8. Nature's Smudged Lines 335
9. The Rain Man Effect 354
10. Pandora's Box 381
11. In Autistic Space 424
12. Building /The Enterprise/: Designs for
a Neurodiverse World 469

Epilogue: The Mayor of Kensington 475
Acknowledgements 479
Notes 481
Index 517


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