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NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently

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4.3  ·  Rating details ·  6,426 Ratings  ·  997 Reviews
NeuroTribes is a sweeping and penetrating history, presented with a rare sympathy and sensitivity. It will change how you think of autism.' - From the foreword by Oliver Sacks

What is autism: a devastating developmental condition, a lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things
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Paperback, 534 pages
Published September 3rd 2015 by Allen & Unwin (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…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 Schaakt 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…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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Petra X
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
Todd N
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Beth Cato
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
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Snotchocheez
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ellie
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
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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
Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)
www.litwitwineanddine.com

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
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Kerry Kenney
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Aaron Hook
Sep 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Bea  Charmed
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
Abigail Duran
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
Paula Kalin
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.
Jake
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.
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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
Shannon
Oct 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
The day I finished reading Steve Silberman’s NeuroTribes, I saw an image on Facebook that made me want to buy copies of the book for everyone I know. I’m sure you’ve seen something similar: this was a picture of a baby, surrounded by text with skyrocketing rates of autism, learning disabilities, and “chronic illnesses”, lamenting the depressing state of America’s “new childhood”.

NeuroTribes tells a completely different tale, connecting past to present in an incredibly detailed history of autism
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Anna
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
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Faith Justice
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jane
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sylvia
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
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Isil Arican
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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Sarah
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Kate Vane
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Neurotribes opens with a question – why is autism suddenly so visible? From popular culture to the children of the author’s contacts in Silicon Valley, he keeps hearing about autism. He sets out to discover why.

His quest takes in the history of our understanding of autism, the reasons for the increase in the diagnosis and the changing experiences and treatment of autistic people.

Neurotribes is written with the pace of a thriller, and vividly brings to life academic rivalries, tabloid panics and
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Inder
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is extremely good nonfiction. Although other reviewers have noted that it is a very long book, packed full of details, I found it to be extremely engaging, with only a few very short dull parts (it is hard to make changes to DSM criteria riveting, but actually Silberman did better than you could ever imagine). Silberman's writing voice is upbeat and entertaining, and a dense topic is made readable with lots of wonderful and colorful personal details and anecdotes.

I don't know if this would
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Juliette
The last two chapters of the book, which are about the movement for neurodiversity, are exemplary. The rest of the book is about the history of the psychologists who "discovered" autism in the early twentieth century, and the methods that parents and doctors thought would cure autistic people -- electroshock, corporal punishment, severe dietary restrictions (which is still trendy among "leaky gut" proponents). It was horrifying. Indeed, let others praise not-so ancient times, I am glad I was bor ...more
Fernando del Alamo
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Libro que habla sobre el autismo. El autismo tiene un amplio espectro, desde los que no tienen relación alguna con los demás hasta los que llaman "genios idiotas" (de idiotas no tienen nada; el problema es que los "normales" no sabemos cómo debemos tratarlos).

El autor empieza tratando los casos de Cavendish y Dirac (ambos reputados científcos de los que seguramente tenían síndrome de Asperger) y va tratando con diferentes historias de personas autistas, los problemas para relacionarse con los de
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Meepelous
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
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
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Lara
This is definitely more a book about the history of autism than it is a book about autism itself, so if you're looking for the nitty gritty of what it means to be on the spectrum or how the brain works, it's probably better to look elsewhere. NeuroTribes seems to have mainly been written in response to all the hubbub in recent years by the contingent claiming that there is an autism epidemic and that it is being caused by vaccinations.

Silberman looks back at how long autism has existed (probabl
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Joleigh
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Teaching high school for over thirty years made me more than aware of neurodiversity. Any accomplished educator is well aware that no two students are alike. Devising curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of a classroom full of independent thinkers and learners is a challenge to say the least. I was one who lived for that challenge and, in retirement, still teach two classes a semester at a community college. I am most alive in the classroom and thrive on the challenges of diversity. Duri ...more
Rebecca McPhedran
I received this book as an advanced readers copy from NetGalley.

A smart, accessible, comprehensive history of autism. Silberman does an amazing job of giving an in depth history of a medical condition that we only have just learned about within the last 70 years. His chapters run the gamut. From institutionalizations to special schools, from Asperger's initial findings, to Kanners complete appropriation of Asperger's ideas. He talks about the different treatments of Autism from electroshock ther
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Science and Inquiry: * November 2016 - Neurotribes 9 85 Nov 27, 2016 08:47PM  
Goodreads Librari...: This doesn't look right -- maybe combine? 3 32 Aug 26, 2015 10:44PM  
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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
“By autistic standards, the “normal” brain is easily distractible, is obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit of attention to detail and routine. Thus people on the spectrum experience the neurotypical world as relentlessly unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually turned up too loud, and full of people who have little respect for personal space.” 19 likes
“Our therapeutic goal must be to teach the person how to bear their difficulties. Not to eliminate them for him, but to train the person to cope with special challenges with special strategies; to make the person aware not that they are ill, but that they are responsible for their lives.” 10 likes
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