Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Interview with "Unstrange Minds" author

Here's a highly interesting interview with Roy Richard Grinker, the author of Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism, on the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website. The interview was conducted by Benjamin Radford.
Some excerpts:
"I wrote Unstrange Minds so that people can see that autism is universal and that autism awareness is increasing everywhere in the world. But the most important reason for writing the book—though this was not my original intention—was to tell the world a simple message: the increase in autism diagnoses is not a crisis but rather evidence that we’re finally beginning to address a kind of human difference that has for too long been misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mismanaged. More than six decades after autism was first described by Leo Kanner, we’re finally getting it right, and counting it right."
"I thought I could articulate some of the cultural and scientific reasons behind the increase in rates and give a positive message: the higher rates are due to positive changes in the way we understand and treat neurological and psychiatric disorders."
"The reality is that (1) the higher rates mean that autism is a bigger public health issue than we ever realized; and (2) there is nothing mutually exclusive about saying there’s no epidemic and at the same saying that we’ve finally figured out what’s going on with people on the autism spectrum, and we need more research and services. I recently received an e-mail from a parent who decried my stance: “How can you say there is no epidemic of autism?” she wrote. “When I was in school, there were no kids with special needs in my school. Today, in my daughter’s school there are dozens.” Actually, that is my point. In the past autistic people were not included in our schools. Today they are. And that’s a very good thing.
Another big misconception is that autism is somehow new. I am frequently asked: If there is no epidemic, then where are all the adults with autism? The answer is easy, but also complicated. Finding adults with autism is very hard, not because they do not exist but because they are dispersed in our society. Some live in group homes, others in institutions, others are living and working among us in our everyday lives. Kids are easy to count because they are all in school, neatly recorded in school records. But adults are a different story."

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