Neurotribes : the legacy of autism and the future of neurodiversity / Steve Silberman.
PW Reviews 2015 June #5
Journalist Silberman devotes this thick, linear tome to the stunning evolution of the autism diagnosis from one that's explicitly negative to something more ambiguous and even positive. Child psychiatrist Leo Kanner named the disorder in 1943 after noticing that 11 of his patients lived in "private worlds." His belief that autism was a severe handicap persisted for decades. But pediatrician Hans Asperger saw autism as both handicap and blessing, particularly in milder forms. Calling his patients "little professors," Asperger wondered whether, in science and art, "a dash of autism is essential," noting a predilection towards abstract thinking as well as a type of "skepticism indispensable to any scientist." Now, Silberman says, it is recognized that much gets done inside intense "private worlds," and that negative views began to ebb when the "spectrum" definition was adopted. The "neurodiversity" movement that Silberman sketches now helps those on the spectrum access services and draw positive attention. He does reach some overexuberant conclusions, including the speculative claim that autism is a "strange gift from our deep past, passed down through millions of years of evolution." Still, the main point—that autism may persist because it can come with adaptive qualities—is well taken. This is a thorough look at the difficulties and delights of a very complex disorder. (Aug.)[Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC