*** NeuroTribes by Steve Silverman


I have many quibbles with NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, the main one being that the author focuses on high-functioning individuals on the autism spectrum, starting with his example of Lord Cavendish. If all autistic adults were like him, surely many would wish for autistic children — and although the author does bring up other examples, he for the most part presents fairly well-adjusted adults and children, with dedicated parents and resources to help. Not exactly a realistic portrayal of life in the trenches.

That being said, the book presents a vivid history of autism and Asperger’s syndrome, from the first researchers of autism, Hans Asperger himself and Leo Kanner, to the Nazi purges of the disabled, including autistic children and adults, the awful experiments that (non-Nazi) doctors inflicted on autistic children while searching for a cure , and the dreadful “refrigerator mother” theory of Bruno Bettelheim, and finally the rise of parent (and patient) activists. In an age when “autistic” is thrown around carelessly, it’s interesting to see how long it took for the theory and acceptance of it to take hold.


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