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NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
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NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  9,703 ratings  ·  1,374 reviews
Going back to the earliest days of autism research and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle, while mapping out a path for our society toward a more humane world in which people with learning differences and those who love them have access to the reso ...more
Hardcover, First Edition (U.S.), 477 pages
Published August 25th 2015 by Avery/Penguin Random House LLC (first published August 2015)
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Sarah I think all human beings have value, period. No one deserves to be abused or dehumanized. If Silberman (like Asperger before him) sometimes overemphas…moreI think all human beings have value, period. No one deserves to be abused or dehumanized. If Silberman (like Asperger before him) sometimes overemphasizes our contributions to art and science, it's because he knows how much hate, and greed, and fear-mongering are (still) out there.

I'm not a tech genius, but I'm glad to have autistic role models. I'm glad to see children given a chance. I'm glad to see parents who truly love and accept their children for who they are (not hurting and shaming them for who they aren't) and who respect the input of autistic adults.

Every time I see a functioning label, it breaks my heart. Just imagine being objectified that way. As of right now, that's the rule, not the exception. But since society doesn't value me, no parent will listen.(less)
Lars The book as a whole covers the history and discovery of Autism. It also focuses on the main contributors and their mistakes. It's not a book on diagno…moreThe book as a whole covers the history and discovery of Autism. It also focuses on the main contributors and their mistakes. It's not a book on diagnostics. It's more of a deep story and manifesto on how many parents and doctors have fought to reduce the stigma, misconceptions and general malaise surrounding and associated with autism. It's a plea for more focus on Neurodiversity. Seeing all people as having traits that can be associated with any of the main psychological disorders. Being that we as humans are all on a continuum of one sort or the other. (less)

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Todd N
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: parents, people who work in the valley
Recommended to Todd by: NYTimes review
First of all, I thought that this book really needed a timeline in addition to its thorough notes and index, so I spent an afternoon going through the book making one myself. Command or Shift click here to read it in a new tab. (Commenting permission is open on it if you find any mistakes.)

Quick story from when I worked at Google: James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, was speaking at a Google event. He talked about a wide variety of topics on genetics, and I remember he lumped in autism and As
Petra-X Off having adventures
Finished. Very long review. Apologies. Skip to paragraph 3 ** for a horror story. The book was hard to rate. Some of it is as bad as a 1-star: excreble writing when he's giving far too much detail about the irrelevant (to the book) discoveries of the 18thC scientist Henry Cavendish whom he confidently diagnoses as Aspergers. 3 stars for most of it where the research is general too narrowly focused on too few people but quite in depth for them and 5 stars for giving away such appalling things as ...more
Beth Cato
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program, and I'm very glad I did. As the mother of an autistic child, the subject matter of autism is very personal for me.

NeuroTribes was educational and affirming. I was genuinely astonished at how enjoyable the book was, long-winded though it is at times (my early reviewer copy is just under 500 pages). Silberman writes about subjects that are horrible, but they are necessary matters to address: Hans Asperger's insights made withi
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, audiobook
This is a fascinating book about autism. The first part of the book focuses on the history of research into the syndrome. It describes how early researchers tried to formulate the causes of autism, including the pitifully sidetracked idea that cold parents are responsible for the syndrome. The book gives brief biographies of a few historical figures, including Henry Cavendish, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla and Mozart who are suspected of being autistic. Just try Googling "famous autistic people in hi ...more
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is a breath of fresh air. As someone on the autism spectrum, it is nice to hear from someone that isn’t on the autism spectrum make the argument that I’m not an accident and that people with autism have been around for centuries. I’ve been to a conference where the author spoke and I’m glad I got this book years after hearing it. I hope many parents read this to get rid of the stigma surrounding autism!
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'd never penalize a well-written book just because it wasn't something I expected to read but once you get past the techno-babble-y faux-portmanteau worded title NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and The Future of Neurodiversity you kinda expect more than just a comprehensive history of autism. But that's essentially what this is. I knew from the get-go, when Steve Silberman (a tech journalist by trade) divulged his motive for writing the book (when two of his interviewees for a tech article bo ...more
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently by Steve Silberman provides a comprehensive (and very moving) history of autism from its original diagnostic criteria by Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger to parent-run organizations up to today's self-advocacy groups, in which people with autism are speaking for themselves and advocating for a focus on services not cures.

At first, I was overwhelmed by the amount of detail Silberman gives. It seemed as thoug
Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)

Thanks to Penguin House/Avery via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I admit that I was excited, really excited, when I heard about this book. After reading all 544 pages, I found myself more than a little let down. I was expecting to read about new research, treatment/therapy options, and ways for families to support one another and the autistic person they help care for. The book was largely about the history of au
Aaron Hook
Sep 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
As a history of autism and its diagnosis, treatment, and social acceptance, this is a solid book. Could have used some more editing (the author often provides way too much detail on various players' bios and historical background. For example there's a good 30 pages devoted to a summary of the Nazi occupation of Austria, which was only tangentially related to the topic).

The blurbs on the jacket about it being "groundbreaking" and "radically alter[ing] the societal conversation" are hyperbolic at
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As someone interested in autism, its theories and its future, after reading some reviews of this book, I was hoping this would be a good, comprehensive introduction to the details of the subject. Instead, it was a long-winded, yet surface level history that could have been much deeper had the author not tried to shoehorn traditional narratives into a nontraditional story.

The books started out great, talking about various historical figures that would likely have been diagnosed with autism today.
Kerry Kenney
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This heartbreaking book came highly recommended. As an autistic adult with an autistic son I was sickened by the book, the therapies, the history. I thought of my own childhood and how grateful I am that I was born verbal and in an intact family that raised me, accepting me where I was and allowing me to do the best that I can.

As a member of the autism community reading this book is like getting punched in the face over and over again, until you get to the last chapter about neurodiversity, whe
Abigail Duran
Dec 23, 2015 rated it liked it
I read this book a couple of months ago, but only got around to reviewing it now. As a parent of multiple kids with autism I had been very eager to get hold of copy, especially as from the reviews I had read it seemed the author must have read my mind before he set out to read the book. The premise that autism has always been with us, that vaccines do not cause autism, there is no epidemic and that the rise in the number of diagnoses is a direct result of changes in diagnostic criteria, is one I ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
'NeuroTribes' is a well-written, deeply-researched book of history which describes the centuries of effort that has gone into developing a psychological outline of autism (still incomplete). The author, Steve Silberman, includes short biographies of likely autistic-spectrum scientists as well. In telling the story of discovery about autism and about people with autism, he also shows us readers how psychological research is generally done and that it is in its infancy. He gives valid arguments an ...more
Nice history about autism and Aspergers. Wished it had more general information and not just data about a few cases. A bit dragged on, but informative.

Glad I listened to the audiobook.

4 out of 5 stars.
If you have any interest in autism or the history of psychiatry, this book is for you. I've taught toddlers and preschoolers for over 20 years and have had students with autism in my classes; some were diagnosed while in my class while others were diagnosed later. I remember my team and I fighting to get one particular boy diagnosed and provided with services who was clearly Asperger's while another was later diagnosed and we went, "Oh, that explains a lot." The information has changed a lot ove ...more
Clif Hostetler
This book provides a thorough account of the troubled history of the psychiatric understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (this includes Asperger's syndrome). Unfortunately, most of this history in hindsight was incredibly blind to what now seems apparent as to the nature of the condition. Consequently, this long book spends most of its historical account describing what is now understood to be incorrect and spurious theories and treatments. The reader who makes it all the way through the book ...more
My husband and I read this book together. We have a grandson who is autistic and we wanted to learn about the condition.

The book gives many examples of those who are autistic and functioning. There is also a lot on the history of autism and the autism movements those with autism have started.

My main lesson from this book was learning that the families of autists should not pray for a cure as much as they should find and encourage the strengths of the child.

My grandson is 4 years old and whether
As a parent of a child who is on the spectrum and has many challenges, I try to devour any book or information that comes my way about ASD. Anything new or old that will help me in assisting my child to develop and grow. So, when I stumbled upon NeuroTribes, I was very excited to say the least.

I appreciate the fact that this author took the utmost time and care to thoroughly research and put forth a book that is quite informative. It broke my heart and I was sick to my stomach upon reading abou
Faith Justice
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc-early-reader
As a parent who raised an autistic daughter through much of the later history Silverman describes, I loved this book. The early history of diagnosis and treatment was fascinating. Each time he delved into the background or quoted a leading expert from the field, I felt like I was saying hello to an old friend. Like many desperate parents, I met these people at conferences, read their books, tried some of their techniques, and took hope from the smallest "improvements" in my child's behavior. The ...more
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Neurotribes is a groundbreaking book that for the first time gathers all the historical development of the discovery, theories, “treatment” and finally, an acceptance of autism as a neurological difference that is not a condition to be treated, but a state of being to be accepted and supported.

The history of autism ties in with the sordid history of mental illness in general: people institutionalized, bullied, mistreated. Dr. Asperger discovered in the thirties in Vienna that autistic children w
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read ‘Neurotribes’ as I didn’t really understand what autism was. It seems to be mentioned quite frequently in the media, yet never really defined. Silberman’s book explains why this is: the exact nature of autism is poorly understood, which is why the concept of a spectrum was adopted. The concluding chapter summarises this in the same eloquent style that characterises the rest of the book:

Most researchers now believe that autism is not a single unified entity but a cluster of under
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Some nonfiction books are groundbreaking. Some are engaging. This one is both. Using stories of historical figures, modern-day families, medical and psychological specialists, activists and autistic individuals, the book conveys the "history" of autism. What do we know? Is there really an epidemic? What works? Why is searching for a cure perhaps not the best strategy? Above all, though, it keeps the well-being of autistic children and adults at the center and in doing so raises tough questions a ...more
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
3.5 stars

Extremely thorough which was annoying at times but impressive at others.
Isil Arican
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and recommend everyone who is interested in the history of medicine, cognitive science and autism.

A couple of years ago I had the chance to hear Silberman in a conference, he was a great speaker and the excerpts he read from this book intrigued me to read it. It turns out that the book was even better than his talk.

Neurotribes goes into the depths of autistic spectrum disorder, takes the reader to first to the life of well known historical figures, all the
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is a book that cannot decide if it is a polemic or a report about the complex world of Autism and other neurologies. When a polemic, it is snarky and poorly reasoned, taking potshots at psychoanalysis and casting aspersions on researchers motivations without much to back them up. When it is reporting, it is informative and though provoking and has much to recommend it. I came away feeling that there was an axe being ground here, but was not clear what the axe was really. This could have bee ...more
Jennifer Hughes
Perhaps this is not so much of a book review as a life review as a result of this book's powerful affect on me. You decide.

I went to a school concert recently. As the teenagers leisurely tromped onstage, I idly scanned the crowd. My eyes stopped instinctively at one young man—then a second. Who knows, maybe everyone else in the audience was doing the same thing: something about these boys just caught the eye for some reason. Perhaps it's because it's such a strong part of our human nature to not
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
"Parenthood" the TV show shed more light on ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder which includes Asperger) than this very long book did. If your interested in ASD, I would recommend that show instead. Max, the Asperger character on the show, demonstrates more about life on the Spectrum than this book does. I remember the scene where Max is running for class president and his sister tells him why he is so special, along the lines that he is totally focused, sees the world differently and never needs to g ...more
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
A bit of a bummer at times, this book has really helped give me some real reasons to view autism in a more positive light. Probably a bit redudant for people who already have any level of understanding about the history of this diagnosis, I really appreciated all the information in this book - even if it did feel a bit long at times.

In fact, I would really have loved to rate this book even more highly but for two major issue. This book lacks any scientific data (see end notes for update) and it
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To date, this is the most thorough and inclusive history of autism ever compiled. It is, by far, the most respectful written by a non-autistic author. While I wouldn't say it centers autistic experience, exactly, it does honor that experience. That, in itself, is a rarity.

I love this book. At times, it was painful to read. But Silberman writes in a way that made me feel as though he were somehow supporting me through it. He documents dehumanizing practices without ever reinforcing that dehumaniz
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, read-2020, asd
Although it was not clear to me in the title or even in the earliest chapters, Neurotribes is a history of the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. If I had known what I was getting into, I probably wouldn't have read it, at 542 pages. Still, I enjoyed this as a philosophy of science, as the descriptions of varying perceptions of autistics, as they currently like being called, over the course of the almost 100 years that they have been described.

These varying descriptions and t
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Science and Inquiry: * November 2016 - Neurotribes 9 95 Nov 27, 2016 08:47PM  
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Steve Silberman is an award-winning science writer whose articles have appeared in Wired, the New Yorker, the MIT Technology Review, Nature, Salon, Shambhala Sun, and many other publications. He is the author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity (Avery 2015), which Oliver Sacks called a “sweeping and penetrating history…presented with a rare sympathy and sensitivit ...more

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