Saturday, September 19, 2015

Now and for the future, a hopeful look at autism

It may not be the best book about autism ever written, however NeuroTribes: the Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman, may be the most important book about autism in this time.

Silberman does some extensive research in the history of the condition, from the work of Kanner, Aspberger and before and discovers that autistic people have always been around, in roughly the same numbers. The conditions of asylums, sanitariums and other horrible places where the 'feebleminded' were kept are revealed in great detail. We're given the details of the beginnings of Applied Behavioral Analysis and how some of Lovaas' research and work was accomplished and it was not pretty.

One of the flaws of the book and also one of its more informative points, are the stories of autistic people throughout the years. Some are entertaining, as is the story of the man who inspired the film Rain Man. What's left out are too many stories of the voiceless, the lower functioning non-verbals. We do not, or cannot hear from them.

A strong point is how Silberman explains that there is no autism epidemic happening now. He cites facts in diagnostic changes in the DSM over the years and the ignored research of Lorna Wing which confirm that when you expand the diagnostic criteria for the condition, the numbers of those effect will greatly increase. So no, as Silberman states over and over, vaccines do not, have not, and will not result in autism.

Overall NeuroTribes is a very well thought out and engaging read for those interested in the history of how a condition is diagnosed and the sometimes horrible ways those afflicted are treated. Silberman concludes that instead of a majority of research monies being sent to find a cure for something that is not curable, that funding be strongly directed toward building a quality of life for those who are afflicted, and I could not agree with him more.

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