I guess, technically, I’m an “autism parent.” I’m the parent of an autistic child, but that’s kind of where it ends. My son is nine and this is the first book I’ve ever read on autism. I’m not proud of this, but not really ashamed, either.
I really got interested in this book after reading Amy Lutz’ “Please Stop Whitewashing Autism.” Read the comments to see what Silberman calls “the autism wars” in full swing: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/…
Silberman himself jumps in during the comments section, stating that his book is a history of the autism diagnosis, not a “how-to” manual, and he’s absolutely right. The book I think this bears the most resemblance to, in scope and tone, is Randy Shilts’ “And The Band Played On,” a sweeping history of the AIDS crisis. “NeuroTribes” is no more about living with autism than “And The Band Played On” is about living with AIDS, or “Too Big To Fail” about how to invest money.
It’s an unflinching, sometimes funny, sometimes infuriating, sometimes heartbreaking look at a much-misunderstood, unnecessarily dreaded and evolving neurological condition. I’ll admit to weeping openly during the section on Hans Asperger’s clinic in Vienna. It also gave extensive backup to information given by our son’s pediatricians and teachers during his time of assessment. I remember asking “is there an ‘autism epidemic’?” and being told “no, the diagnostic tools are just much better now.” “NeuroTribes” goes through this point in painstaking detail, from Asperger’s initial findings through the various editions of the DSM.
I also remember basically putting my son’s first pediatrician up against the wall and saying “tell me the truth about vaccines, or you’re dead.” He told me about the Wakefield study, the only study ever to establish a link between vaccines and autism, which is now (rightly) considered one of the deadliest hoaxes of the 20th and 21st centuries. Silberman spends a relatively small amount of the book’s 477 pages on this debacle, wisely avoiding the “autism wars” as much as he can (and most of the “autism wars” have had little to do with the quality of life and services for autistic people, anyway). However, his history is concise, unbiased (in my opinion) and detailed-he doesn’t shrink from the subject, either.
Like I said, I’ve only read one book on autism, but I’m glad it was this one.