NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman is the pinnacle of understanding of autism as it’s developed from its initial coining, to autism in the current age. Silberman goes not only into historical depth concerning autism and its development over the course of its clinical existence, but he also incorporates anecdotal and first hand experiences of both parents of autistic children and autistic people themselves.
Silberman starts by tracing back the history of autism to its founders, namely child psychologist Leo Kanner and clinician Hans Asberger. From here Silberman discusses the man instantiations that autism took on a clinical level throughout the years, from those believing it was only a childhood “disease” to those who believed autism could be “cured” through punishment based therapies and even more horrifying methods.
Weaving in anecdotal stories of parents struggling to find services for their children, Silberman eventually turns the book almost completely on its head by putting the bulk of the focus on autistic people and their experiences, contributions and methods of dealing with “typical” society.
All along, Silberman advocates for the importance and necessity of having diverse thinkers in our culture: i.e. “neurodiversity.” Pointing to notable figures in the past who were likely to have been autistic (had the term been around at the time), such as Henry Cavendish, Silberman makes the argument that without these thinkers we would be far behind in the realm of science and philosophy.
Overall, NeuroTribes is both an inspirational and terrifying look into how views of autism have developed and evolved over time, and how autistic people have gained greater recognition as humans with a different way of thinking and nothing more.
Published by Avery in 2015, NeuroTribes is available at your local bookstore.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.