Book Review: “Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity”
Today, we celebrate International Tolerance Day. Along with the establishment of this day, the Declaration of Principles of Tolerance was also adopted, beautifully defining tolerance as “harmony in diversity.” To achieve this harmony, in addition to openness towards others, we often need knowledge and a deeper understanding of how the other person functions in the world. That’s why today we want to recommend a book that sheds light on the perspective and situation of neurodivergent individuals. Despite the increasing attention to neurodiversity, neuroatypical individuals still frequently encounter misunderstandings.
About the Author
The book was written by Steve Silberman, an American writer and long-time reporter for “Wired” magazine. Silberman has an excellent ability to present scientific facts through engaging narratives, making the book a captivating read.
What the Book is About
The author takes us through the history of autism, starting from the early attempts to describe it by Asperger in the early 20th century. He describes how theories about autism have evolved over the years, as well as society’s reactions. Silberman shows how harmful stereotypes have grown, leading to unjust treatment and a lack of understanding.
He makes us aware of how other ideas (such as eugenics, a theory advocating the improvement of humans and animals through genetic changes, involving the elimination of weaker individuals or depriving them of the ability to reproduce), historical events, and researchers’ personal ambitions have influenced the perception of people with autism. The book also reveals the significant contributions made by individuals on the autism spectrum to the development of new technologies, which served as a strategy for them to function in society with less overwhelm.
What We Can Take Away from This Book
The book leaves us with the sad realization that we wasted nearly a century on cruel practices, profit-oriented therapies, and isolation, while Erwin Lazar and Hans Asperger were well aware of what was needed. The problem is not the different way neurodivergent individuals function but the pressure and demands that society and culture place on them.
Online interactions based on written language have enabled the formation of the autistic community and the opening up of neurodivergent individuals to the world. The question remains whether, in the pursuit of users’ constant attention, we are making this safe online reality equally oppressive for them. We should keep this in mind when designing digital products.
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