In NeuroTribes, veteran journalist Steve Silberman chronicles the history of autism and Asperger syndrome, along with the lives and work of the two physicians who documented these conditions, so prevalent today but virtually unknown before World War II. Silberman argues for nothing less than the (re)consideration of autism and Asperger syndrome as different ways of thinking, alternative ways in which the human brain works. This philosophy is known as neurodiversity, one embraced by much of the disability advocacy community. The idea, however, is not entirely new. A Viennese physician by the name of Dr. Hans Asperger recognized the potential of the children in his care who presented with the then mysterious condition that today bears his name… back in 1943. That was a time when such ideas, to say the least, were considered dangerous and punishable by death under the Nazi regime. It’s a gripping history!
Equally astonishing is that Dr. Asperger remained virtually unknown for decades after his ground-breaking paper, which was not translated into English until 1991 (by Uta Frith, in the volume on the right) and has not been republished since then.
Please watch this space for reviews of both these books, along with another new book (also 2015), Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, by Dr. Barry Prizant.