Katie's Diary

Autism: How Has Your Perception Altered? by Dorothy Jarvis-Lee

4th December 2015

When it comes to disability in general and autism in particular, attitudes have changed.

Here at ubu, it’s important to us that – while we still have a long way to go, acceptance of the people we serve and disability in general -  is improving.  We’ve worked hard to position the people we serve every day in their local communities, to be part of it and to live it!

So we were pleased to discover a new book which highlights this ever-changing shift in thought. Pinpointing altered attitudes to the condition once known as ‘childhood psychosis’, Steve Silberman talks about autism – and how our views towards the disability have evolved – in his book "Neurotribes".

It’s generating a lot of discussion in mainstream media, which Amazon  have described as ground breaking because of the way it talks about the changes in perception and attitudes.

Autism affects one in 100 people of all ages in the UK today, but until 1943 it was defined as a rare disorder of childhood. That change has been down to better understanding of autism along with a generally more tolerant society.  Thanks to Silberman’s study, we can now discover more about the disorder, as well as a forensic exploration of its history.

Autism: Some Food for Thought?

A technology journalist and writer for Wired magazine and the New Yorker, Silberman – who’s based in the US - interviewed Silicon Valley innovators and discovered they had autistic children. His interest was then piqued, and he went on to write "The Geek Syndrome".

That suggests that Silicon Valley fast became a hotspot for autism diagnoses, as geeky programmers and engineers met there and then went on to have children. More than that, though, it’s thought that these programmers and engineers carried a “genetic predisposition” for autism.

As you’d imagine, since he published the piece, Silberman received plenty of mail, with some people saying they ‘saw autism as a tragic disability severely compromising their children’s future’, while others saw strengths and unique skills in their autistic children. On top of this, those with the disorder also recognised some of their children’s traits in themselves.

Let’s face it; it’s been suggested elsewhere that we’re all on the spectrum somewhere, but perhaps in the world of those ‘diagnosed’ as autistic, the usual premise of ‘opposites attract’ could be slightly off the mark.

Want to know more about the history of autism and its perception amongst the public? Read the full piece on The Guardian website, or order a copy of Steve Silberman’s book, whose full title is "Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently".

Autism: How Has Your Perception Altered? by Dorothy Jarvis-Lee

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