AUTISM, AND A BOOK REVIEW OF “NEURO TRIBES”, BY STEVE SILBERMAN

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“Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has been described by one state administrative law as “a disability category characterized by an uneven developmental profile and a pattern of qualitative impairments in several areas of development, including social interaction, communication, or the presence of restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. These core features may present themselves in a wide variety of combinations that range from mild to severe, and the number of behavioral indicators present may vary. ASD may include Autistic Disorder, Childhood Autism, Atypical Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, Asperger’s Disorder, or other related pervasive developmental disorders”.

Not many years ago, a person would have been diagnosed as an idiot or imbecile if he or she exhibited the characteristics noted above. They would have been institutionalized until they died. Fortunately, the present and future lives of those who are “gifted” with extraordinary memories, intelligence and other brain powers, and those who seem not to be, who sit within this neurodiversity spectrum, are now living in a more enlightened world.

In his book, Neuro Tribes, Steve Silberman painstakingly tracks the history of autism including the prescient works of Hans Asperger (who recognized the virtues of such gifted minds), Leo Kanner (who misdiagnosed important aspects of the condition– especially his opinion that the parents exasperated their young children’s issues, and that autism was rare), and the organized work of parents, those with autism, and the efforts of other concerned organizations. Silberman includes several touching encounters he had with those with autism and their parents, and reports about their frustration with claims by “professionals” of fake “cures”, low awareness and acceptance of the condition by public schools and other government entities. The modern approach, the author says, is to focus on the day-to-day lives of those with autism, and to educate the public about providing a suitable environment for those with the condition. There are many touching stories about parents and their children with autism. This book is a little sad at times, but very inspiring. I recommend this book. 

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