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? In truth, it is all of these things and more—and the future of our society depends on our understanding it. 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.
Going back to the earliest days of autism research and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle, while mapping out a path for our society toward a more humane world in which people with learning differences and those who love them have access to the resources they need to live happier, healthier, more secure, and more meaningful lives.
Along the way, he reveals the untold story of Hans Asperger, the father of Asperger’s syndrome, whose “little professors” were targeted by the darkest social-engineering experiment in human history; exposes the covert campaign by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner to suppress knowledge of the autism spectrum for fifty years; and casts light on the growing movement of “neurodiversity” activists seeking respect, support, technological innovation, accommodations in the workplace and in education, and the right to self-determination for those with cognitive differences.
Praise & Reviews
“Explores in fascinating, near-encyclopedic depth how autism has evolved… a gripping narrative written with journalistic verve.”
“An essential resource. My own copy is already dog-eared.”
“NeuroTribes is a sweeping and penetrating history, presented with a rare sympathy and sensitivity. It is fascinating reading; it will change how you think of autism, and it belongs, alongside the works of Temple Grandin and Clara Claiborne Park, on the bookshelf of anyone interested in autism and the workings of the human brain.”
— From the foreword by Oliver Sacks, author of An Anthropologist On Mars and Awakenings
“The monks who inscribed beautiful manuscripts during the Middle Ages, Cavendish an 18th century scientist who explained electricity, and many of the geeks in Silicon Valley are all on the autism spectrum. Silberman reviews the history of autism treatments from horrible blaming of parents to the modern positive neurodiversity movement. Essential reading for anyone interested in psychology.”
–Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and The Autistic Brain
“NeuroTribes is remarkable. Silberman has done something unique: he’s taken the dense and detailed history of autism and turned the story into a genuine page-turner. The book is sure to stir considerable discussion.”
–John Elder Robison, Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence at The College of William & Mary and author of Look Me in the Eye
“Be prepared to overturn all prior knowledge you had about autism. With meticulous research, Steve Silberman has unearthed the surprising truths about the history of autism, uncovering the roots of the lie of the autism “epidemic.” Be prepared to share the deeply compassionate understanding that the author bestows on the many different individuals we now include in the autism spectrum. His empathy touches even the villains of the story, and this is both moving and apt when he advises us all to embrace diversity. This gripping and heroic tale is a brilliant addition to the history of autism.”
–Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at University College London
“In this genuine page-turner, Steve Silberman reveals the untold history of autism: from persecution to parent-blaming, from Rain Man to vaccines, of doctors for whom professional ego trumped compassion, to forgotten heroes like Hans Asperger, unfairly tainted by Nazi links. It ends on an optimistic note, with ‘autistics’ reclaiming the narrative and defining autism in their terms — more difference than disability and an essential part of the human condition. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in autism or Asperger’s, or simply a fascination with what makes us tick.”
–Benison O’Reilly, co-author of The Australian Autism Handbook