Summary and Info
Autism is one of the most fascinating psychological conditions. It sprang to attention of many people, me included, with the wide success of the movie "Rain Man." Dustin Hoffman's brilliant portrayal of an adult with autism won him an Oscar, and created an idea in the minds of the general public of how an autistic individual behaves and interacts. However, the particular kind of autism that is portrayed in that movie is actually rather exceptional, and this condition comes in many different forms and degrees.
This very short introduction does a very good job of describing various forms that autism can take, and presents the reader with the typical behavioral patterns of a few chosen case study individuals with autism. It helps dispel many myths about autism, including the myth that all autistic individuals are capable of certain extraordinary intellectual feats in some very specific areas. Such autistic individuals are known as idiot savants, and constitute no more than 10% of all people with autism.
Autism has actually been considered a separate psychological condition for a relatively short time. Autistic individuals have of course always existed, but have generally been either miscategorized or more tragically ignored. A better way of diagnosing autism from the very early in child's development has helped many parents deal with such children from very early on. However, this increase in diagnosing autism has also sparked impressions that there are some environmental causes of this disease, of which the most frequently blamed culprit is the early childhood vaccination. This book is very adamant in pointing out that so far there has been no evidence for the environmental causes of autism. On the contrary - most reliable evidence indicates that there is a very strong genetic component in autism. Unfortunately, we still don't know what sort of genetic mechanisms are at play, or even what autism is on a very deep neurological level. There have been many speculations over the years, and this book presents most of the more plausible ones, with strengths and weaknesses of each one of those hypotheses. This might be the biggest weakness of this book - even though it aims to provide a solid basis for understanding of autism, too much of it is rather speculative. It could indeed be that autism is still such an unknown condition that we really don't know all that much about it. However, my impression is that more of the book could have been used for verified facts and the latest research. Overall, however, I feel that this is an important book to read for anyone who has even the most cursory interest in autism.
More About the Author
Uta Frith, DBE (Hon), FRS, FBA, FMedSci (née Aurnhammer; born 25 May 1941) is a German developmental psychologist working at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London.
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