Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently by Steve Silberman

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Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently by Steve Silberman

Category: Reference
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Steve Silberman challenges readers to view the world of autism differently and celebrate neurodiversity, in this well-researched book.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 544 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
External links: [www.stevesilberman.com Author's website]
ISBN: 9781760113636

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Winner of The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2015

Neurotribes is is an ambitious book. It aims to challenge the widely-held perception that autism is a disability, or a developmental delay. One of my favourite quotes from the book is this:

One way to understand neurodiversity is to think in terms of 'human operating systems' instead of diagnostic labels... Just because a computer is not running Windows doesn't mean that it's broken.

This refreshing approach underpins the whole of this ground-breaking work, which is essentially a potted-history of autism from the distant past to the present day. It will fascinate and enlighten anyone with an interest in the subject, or who is affected, directly or indirectly, by the condition. For autistic people, this book represents their roots; their cultural history, and illustrates how far the autistic community have come over the past few decades.

Although we tend to think of autism as a relatively modern condition, Silberman explains that there have always been autistics among us, even if they were not recognised as such at the time. He cites the example of the wonderfully eccentric Wizard of Clapham Common and the brilliant Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla, who, as early as 1926 predicted such innovations as the internet, television and mobile phones. We also learn about the darkest period in the history of autism, during the Nazi era, when children with disabilities were routinely murdered or experimented upon. It makes for harrowing reading.

On a more positive note, we see how the genius of autism contributed to many of the technological advances and innovations that we use on an everyday basis. Indeed, in one of her most famous quotes, autism advocate Temple Grandin concluded that the maker of the first stone spear was likely a lone autistic at the back of the cave, rather than one of the yakkity yaks chatting around the fire.

Silberman also looks at the many different methods used to cure or treat autism over the years have been largely unsuccessful and argues that, rather than looking for a cure, we should be embracing neurodiversity and making the world more accessible to people who think differently.

Neurotribes is a well-researched and intelligently written book that manages to successfully explain how autism went from being a relatively unknown condition to one of the fastest-growing diagnoses in the western world. It is, in part due to the fact that the criteria for diagnosing autism are constantly being reviewed and changed as knowledge of the subject increases.

From the point of view of a book-reviewer, it was quite an achievement to read this weighty tome from cover to cover; as a reference book, it is not really designed to be read that way. But I'm glad that I did, as it gave me a unique insight into the autistic world. I thank the author for his thorough research and the publishers for my review copy.

Families affected by autism will love The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida and David Mitchell, the story of an autistic boy in his own words.

Buy Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently by Steve Silberman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently by Steve Silberman at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently by Steve Silberman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently by Steve Silberman at Amazon.com.


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