Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Comprehensive View of Autism Past and Present

The diagnosis of autism is on the rise and such a diagnosis terrifies parents. This book puts into perspective what the diagnosis means and how autistic people can realize their potential. Autistic people range from the genius level to being barely able to cope with self-care. However, each child has potential, and the parents and teachers need to find ways to bring out their special gifts.

The story of autism is a long one. Autistic people have always been with us. I particularly enjoyed the stories of Cavendish, the Wizard of Clapham, and Paul Dirac. Both men exhibited autistic tendencies, but made significant contributions to science. High functioning people with autistic tendencies in the past were considered eccentric. Low functioning autistic people ended up in asylums.

The book covers Asperger's work with his “little professors” before the second world war, and the work of  Kanner, a child psychiatrist, who suppressed the knowledge of the autism spectrum proposed by Asperger.

The frightening controversy over whether the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine was responsible for pushing susceptible children into autism is covered in detail, as is the current “neurodiversity” movement. It also explains how the change in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual's criteria for autism led to an expanded diagnosis that had the appearance of an epidemic.

If you have an interest in autism, or are working with an autistic child or adult, this is a must read book. It puts the history of autism in perspective and with the “neurodiversity” movement gives hope that with improved teaching and behavioral management skills autistic people may be able to recognize and use their talents.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.