REVIEW: Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

Originally published 2015-09-09: Neurotribes The hidden history of autism and autism researchers is uncovered in Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

Autism is a subject close to my heart, because I know and love two autistic people, and I struggle daily to understand the trials they endure simply living life with those of us who fall on the neurotypical side of the human spectrum.

Sometimes it’s painful to watch; at other times, as they overcome their obstacles, it brings me intense joy and pride at their accomplishments and determination.

I’m always looking for more books to shed light on the difference between their brains and mine, and when I first heard about Neurotribes, I knew I had to read it.

cover of autism nonfiction book Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

Book Description

I’ve paraphrased the description for brevity, but basically, NeuroTribes is:

A groundbreaking book that upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently. What is autism? A lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius?

WIRED reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became famous for discovering it, and finds surprising answers to the crucial question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years.

My Rating

Understandably, I was intrigued. As I dove into this book, I realized that it wasn’t written in the light, fast paced, and easily digestible format that I was used to reading in books about autism for loved ones. This book is a tome in its finest form.

No stone goes unturned. Silberman digs deep — deeper than I realized the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) rabbit hole went.

From biography on several notable figures in history who are thought to have been autistic, to discussion of the repression of the work of psychologist Hans Asperger, and the mishandling of research for decades, Silberman strives to bring everything to light.

Silberman tells stories from the making of Rain Man, conversations with parents, and the widespread fear-mongering that happens in the autism community.

Autistic people throughout history have changed the world for the better; if the reader learns nothing else from this book, it will be that autism is not the horrible disease that organizations like Autism Speaks are trying to “cure.”

Instead, it’s just another point of the wide spectrum of natural neurological conditions that makes humanity as diverse and terrible and wonderful as it is.

It took a long time for me to read this, but it was worth every minute. I give this one a four of five stars, and highly recommend it to anyone who is even remotely curious about autism and the wonderful autistic people the world has to offer.

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Netgalley provided with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.