Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NeuroTribes - my thoughts

Neurotribes by Steve Silberman – Some Thoughts


I came to Neurotribes through various friends posting updates on when the book would come out, and then blogging their thoughts once it did come out. I needed to see for myself what their excitement was about (I'm autistic and a history nerd, also). A kind person gifted me a copy.


Hans Asperger comes out edging on the corner of the social model. And it is painful to know that he seemed be ahead of many people now. As my friend states in a blog post:
“If the social model concept, the idea neurodiverse people have strengths that are worth cultivating, and something like social role valorization in planning careers for disabled children have been around so long, why do people still act like these ideas are radical?”

And yet – it took a drastic downturn. World War II bombing destroyed the Viennese clinic. His colleagues had settled in the United States, and Leo Kanner chose to ignore his works. And strangely – Chavisory has mentioned this – for a group of people that had felt the effects of the Nazis and how they treated people, these clinicians chose to treat autistic children as individuals with a prognosis worse than death rather than value their strengths.

The search for turning a person allistic will never be noble. The framing in the book kind of... displayed it as misguided and driven by false medical advice, but noble in the end, a bit.

Rain Man was such a double-edged sword. It needed some mentioning that for all it did bringing autistic people to public light, it brought about a negative impact as well. Those of us who are not Rain Man face being told we're not really autistic, or that's not what autism is supposed to look like, or why don't you have savant skills? Or even that we don't have value if we don't have ~savant skills~. But I do understand that the book had limited space.

I got mad at Lorna Wing. “Interesting new syndrome!!!!!!!1111” Um, why, so much damage done. I agree that the diagnostic criteria as set by Kanner were too rigid and narrow, but the way Lorna Wing went about creating Asperger's syndrome was kind of not to my liking.

I really appreciate the thoroughness of the history. Silberman lays down what eugenics is and narrates one of the “Eugenics Congresses” that took place. This is so he could lead up to Hans Asperger again. Asperger gave speeches that attempted to protect his patients.  Like.... thank you for providing so much history. Not sarcasm.

There needs to be a more explicit references to people who are nonspeaking as part of the neurodiversity movement. Because they are. It was implicit, but I would have preferred explicit. And references to people who have ID and are autistic, or autistic and have epilepsy, because he touches on that with regards to Kanner classifying them as ineligible for an autism diagnosis. And I get that this book was more about autism as a whole, and not explicitly autistic culture. But... I wanted that. I also get that I would have been happier if this had been a 1500 page book, but then, must be able to sell to the general public.

-I am aware so many things did not make it into the book. I am aware that these result from not just editor's cuts, but the fact that history has overlooked many autistics who are diverse in more than just their autism. I hope these get another story somewhere, because they deserve to be told.


I really, really hope this book is what breaks the barrier for autistic authors... And so they can write books, and be taken seriously. I hope this book lays the groundwork for billions of other good things. Also that Silberman will post some of the stuff that didn't make it into the book on a blog, or have it made into another book. 

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