The Forgotten History of Autism: A Brief Review

The Art of Manliness recently published a podcast entitled The Forgotten History of Autism, where Steve Silberman (author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and The Future of Neurodiversity) was interviewed. I had the opportunity to listen to the podcast last night and want to give a brief and informal review.

The podcast details Mr. Silberman’s path to writing his book NeuroTribes and then proceeds to give a quick history of autism spectrum disorder. A comprehensive history was not given (that would have taken all day), but significant time was given to key contributors (e.g., Leo Kanner, Hans Asperger). Misconceptions were mentioned and corrected in brief, such as the myths of dietary change and vaccines. For the time allowed, Mr. Silberman did an excellent job discussing the history of autism; however, there were parts of the podcast that I would have liked expanded discussion or clarification.

The topic of myths was introduced at the start of the podcast but not discussed in detail. It was mentioned that diet can cause improvement for individuals who have digestive or dietary issues, but will not cure autism. It was also mentioned how Mr. Wakefield lied about his study and that no study has shown a link between MMR and autism. However, I would have liked these and other myths to be discussed in greater detail. Mr. Silberman states that children can out grow an autism diagnosis but still have other issues that will remain with the child forever. What he doesn’t tell you is that the real reason children “outgrow” the autism diagnosis is either because the diagnostic criteria has changed and the child now falls under a different disability category, or the diagnosis was wrong and the child has always had a different disability/disabilities instead of autism. And there is always the possibility (much like ADHD) that the child has learned how to manage symptoms and behaviors that people assume the child has “out grown” the disability.

Even though I had some issues with the podcast, I found it to be great overall. I highly recommend listening to it when you have the time. It is a little over an hour long (quite lengthy for a podcast), but well worth every minute of your time. You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and SoundCloud, or on artofmanliness.com. Also, check out the book NeuroTribes (on my To-Read list). Other books you may want to read are Thinking in Pictures by Dr. Temple Grandin and In a Different Key: The Story of Autism by John Donvan and Caren Zucker.

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