NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently

This is one of the most comprehensive, objective, and eye opening books about autism I’ve read. I read a lot about autism (research is my ‘special interest’), and this has blown most things out of the water (see – we can learn figures of speech).

What I love about this book is that it doesn’t pick a side. It’s not written with a political agenda, nor is it preaching to people to conform to a certain way of thinking. It’s facts, it’s research, it tells all of the theories and gives them all the same amount of paper and ink.

Now, anyone who reads it and still thinks ABA is a good idea, or that autistic people should still be in institutions awaiting a cure, is either heartless or didn’t understand what they were reading. If it’s the latter, I suggest you read it again, and listen to actually autistic people in your lives to find out why those things are the opposite of what you should strive for. Silberman has provided the facts, the research, and the testimonials; it’s up to you to use your critical reasoning skills to make an informed choice.

I went through many emotions whilst reading the book, from joy right through to physical pain. I read the section about eugenics aloud to my boyfriend, and I was sobbing so much he invited me to stop reading. I didn’t. In my opinion, it was essential to embrace that upset and discomfort so that I (and he) can ensure that we don’t get back to that place; something which is frighteningly possible with the likes of Autism Speaks at the forefront of autism research and promotion.

This, I feel, is essential reading for all. Not just autistic people and their families, not just those who work professionally with autistics; everyone. Unfortunately that brings me to my only negative. The book is extremely well written, however the language is overwhelmingly high brow. I’m an English student with an obsession with reading all things neuroscience, and there were a lot of words I had to look up to fully understand. I fear this will exclude a lot of people from accessing the book, and I wonder if there’s a way around this. Perhaps a simplified (but not patronising) abridged version would be a potential project in the future.

Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement. Stories from the Frontline

This is a comprehensive book in which (mostly) Autistic (including non-speaking) members of the Neurodiversity Movement write about how they, and the organisations they work with, have contributed to creating a world which better caters for Autistic people’s needs.

While this book chronicles the Neurodiversity Movement, there aren’t any entries which come from outside the autism world. While the title is prefaced with ‘Autistic Community’ so this shouldn’t come as a shock, it would be good to see a similar piece of work which includes a wider range of contributions from people with other Neurodivergences (NDs). That said, there are contributors (such as Monique Craine) who have multiple NDs, therefore there is some representation.

I agree with Knapp’s decision to edit with a light touch so that each author’s style isn’t lost and NDs (such as dyslexia) are not hidden, it did mean I enjoyed reading some chapters more than others, despite each having an interesting subject matter. There were some author’s styles I just didn’t get on with, but I haven’t dropped the star rating because they held my attention, and I think that it’s a personal preference matter rather than because they were inherently ‘worse’ than the chapters I enjoyed reading more.

I learned a lot of history about the Autistic community which I didn’t know, such as the Autistic involvement in the DSM-5 revisions, and I was impressed with how involved we’ve been in some incredibly important pieces of work – truly nothing about us without us.

I was fortunate to be involved in a webinar this week hosted by the European Council of Autistic People through my director’s role with Autistic UK, and a number of authors and organisations from the book were also in attendance. I’m looking forward to working with them in the future, perhaps as we pioneer the next big positive change for Neurodivergent people in Europe.

If you’re interested in either the Autistic or Neurodiversity Movements, I highly recommend you read this book. If you’re a teacher, medic, work in government or third sector roles steering policy, or are an autism (or other ND) researcher, you *should* read this book to help you understand why we repeat: Nothing About Us Without Us.

Note: This book is open access. You can access it here.