NeuroTribes Notes–Emmett

NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman talks about the history of Autism, as well as the rise of the Neurodiversity movement.


“Then a year later, in an apparent synchronicity, a Viennese clinician named Hans Asperger discovered four young patients of his own who seemed strangely out of touch with other people, including their own parents” (Silberman 5).

Fascinating Peculiarities (Ch. 4)

“Asperger survived the war, but his concept of Autism as a broad and inclusive spectrum (a “continuum”, his diagnostician Georg Frankl called it) that was “not all that rare” was buried with the ashes of his clinic and the unspeakable memories of that dark time, along with his case records. A very different conception of autism took its place” (Silberman 140).

“Asperger’s thesis, published in German a year after Kanner’s Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact became a mere footnote to his landmark accomplishment” (Silberman 140).

“The fact that Asperger’s account of Autism languished in obscurity…is usually explained away by saying that in the aftermath of the atrocities committed by the Reich, clinicians in America and Europe were not eager to read papers translated from the German” (Silberman 141).

“After reading a paper about the therapeutic value of art, he [Kanner] distributed paints, crayons, pencils and paper throughout the [Yankton State] hospital and set up a gallery in the administration building that featured rotating exhibits of patients’s work” (Silberman 149).

“The Rosewood affair established Kanner in the public mind as a voice for the voiceless, and a defender of the defenseless. But his failure to name those responsible, and his statements to the press, rendered unclear whom exactly he was defending” (Silberman 161).

“The term autism, in the way that Eugen Bleuler originally used it, implied a gradual withdrawal into a private life of fantasy” (Silberman 171).

“As a scholar of medical history, Kanner saw references to his young patients’s predecessors scattered throughout world literature, where they were often portrayed as unwitting agents of evil and malevolent forces” (Silberman 178).

“Only in 1944, when Kanner produced a condensed revision of his paper for Pediatrics – a journal with a much larger readership – did he christen his syndrome with the name that stuck; early infantile autism” (Silberman 183).

The Invention of Toxic Parenting (Ch. 5)

“By blaming parents for inadvertently causing their children’s autism, Kanner made his syndrome a source of shame and stigma for families worldwide while sending autism research off in the wrong direction for decades” (Silberman 188).

“These theories had a decisive and devastating impact on Kanner’s view of his patient’s unusual fascinations and extraordinary memories” (Silberman 190).

“He [Bettelheim] would view the behavior of autistic children as essentially the same phenomenon on an individual scale” (Silberman 205).

“a consensus developed among autism researchers that the reason Kanner never discussed Asperger’s work was that the two men had described two very different groups of children – one ‘high-functioning’ (Asperger) and the other ‘low-functioning’ (Kanner)” (Silberman 216).

“While the psychiatric establishment was debating theories of toxic parenting and childhood psychosis, Asperger’s lost tribe was putting its autistic intelligence to work by building the foundations of a society better suited to its needs and interests” (Silberman 222).

The Rain Man Effect (Ch. 9)

“Rather than Raymond becoming human by being cured of his disability, Charlie would learn what was truly important by interacting with him” (Silberman 366).

“The character of Raymond Babbitt made Autism recognizable and familiar, even to those who ha no personal connection to the subject” (Silberman 378).

Building the Enterprise: Designs For A Neurodiverse World (Ch. 12)

“Most researchers now believe that autism is not a single unified entity, but a cluster of underlying conditions” (Silberman 469).

“In fact, given current estimates of prevalence, autistic people constitute one of the largest minorities in the world” (Silberman 469).

“In recent years, researchers have determined that most cases in autism are not rooted in rare de novo mutations but in very old genes that are shared widely in the general population while being concentrated more in certain families than others” (Silberman 471).

“One way to understand neurodiversity is to think in terms of human operating systems instead of diagnostic labels like dyslexia or ADHD” (Silberman 471).

Silberman, Steve. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. Penguin, 2016.

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