Autism: Explaining the Enigma – Review

AutismI recently read the book Autism: Explaining the Enigma by Uta Frith. It is an older book, having been published in 1989, but it is still useful.

I have read many books on autism but I found this book particularly interesting. One of the things the author touches on is the history of autism. Leo Kanner published a study identifying autism in 1943 and Hans Asperger published in 1944. While there were some differences between their studies, there is even more in common.

Frith goes even further in looking at the history. Autism, as a neurological disorder, must have predated the 1940s. Frith looks at a number of examples throughout history that may or may not have been autism. This includes reports of feral children as well as fictional characters ranging from Sherlock Holmes and Spock to The Who’s Tommy.

In addition to the history, Frith looks at the different aspects of autism and how they are reflected in the research. I appreciated the breaking of myths and the acknowledgment of diversity within the spectrum.

There are parts of the book that are dated. For example in the discussion of possible causes for autism, the author refutes certain false claims but never mentions the vaccine theory. Also, Firth describes autism as relatively rare, something that most people wouldn’t claim today.

Still, it was a good resource that provides a solid foundation for understanding autism.

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