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Perspective from a “mom of” – Neurotribes Part 1

PNG maryanne and steveOn April 13th, I had the opportunity to hear Steve Silberman speak about his book “NeuroTribes; the Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.” It was an inspiring and thought-provoking talk.

  • For those who have read the book, you won’t be surprised to hear that Steve’s optimistic, genuine support of the Autism community resonates even louder in person.
  • For those that haven’t read the book, you really should (and it’s a 600-page book, so I don’t make that recommendation lightly).
  • However, if you’re the parent of a child with autism, someone who works in the field, or most especially, an adult with autism – you must. Autism has been a part of my world for 15 years and I haven’t been this inspired and optimistic in a long, long time.

Silberman’s book struck me personally and as I read the foreword, it closed another loop in our Autism story. In December 2001, my late husband Andrew handed me an article from Wired Magazine entitled “The Geek Syndrome.” Our son had been recently diagnosed, and of course we were scared. We read everything we could find on Autism but couldn’t find any reassurance about our son’s future. Andrew was particularly excited about this article because it was the first piece that we had read which showed a possible connection between Autism and higher intelligence (Rainman excluded but that was clearly not our son!). “The Geek Syndrome” was written by, of course, Steve Silberman. As you read in the foreword of the book, that article was the impetus for years of subsequent research and, ultimately, this fantastic book.

So it has been 15+ years since I read “The Geek Syndrome,” and in the intervening years I have read A LOT about Autism. However, when your child is newly diagnosed, you don’t typically spend time researching the history of a disorder. No matter what it is, most parents focus on the future — the treatments, the possible outcomes, and the “cure.” I was certainly one of those parents. So what would make me recommend 600 more pages about Autism that don’t answer any of those “crystal ball” questions?

Because in order to truly appreciate where we are today in the world of Autism, you have to understand where we’ve been.

We’ve all heard of the horror stories of institutions, refrigerator mothers, electric shock, and negative reinforcement treatments. But do you really know how they all fit into Autism’s story? Silberman’s book puts all the ugly history into context and in between tells the inspiring stories of modern-day families and adults with Autism. Only by understanding and recognizing the legacy of this disorder have I become truly optimistic about my son’s future. Silberman gives countless examples of adults who have struggled with and succeeded to make their way in the “Neurotypical (NT)” world. I know my son can do it too!

by Maryanne Nugent, Autism Community Consultant for AHSS & “Mom of” a son with autism

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