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The Autistic Spectrum: All That Matters (2013)

af Lorna Selfe

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NEUROLOGY & CLINICAL NEUROPHYSIOLOGY. In Th Autistic Spectrum: All That Matters, Lorna Selfe explains that research over recent years has shown that there is not one such thing as autism but in fact a variety of autistic spectrum disorders. The causes of these, or the reasons for their apparently increasing prevalence in the UK and North America while in many other perts of the world they are hardly recognised at all, remain the subject of intensive research and debate. Dr Selfe strips away the many myths around autism, focusing instead on what we really know about its varieties, causes and treatments. As such, it is the ideal introduction to autistic spectrum disorders for psychology students, health practitioners, and the parents, carers and friends of people with autism. This accessible and readable book gives a fascinating introduction to the autistic spectrum - and what matters most about it.… (mere)
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Given how much news there is about autism these days, I was surprised to find that I was the first person on LibraryThing to have this book. Having read it, I can safely say that I'm glad.

For those who don't know much about autism, it's hard to describe just what is wrong with this book. There are a few factual errors, some of them quite bad. But it's the whole feeling that really made me dislike it.

A random sampling of factual errors: "People with ASD typically have a particular strength with spatial/visual intelligence" (pp. 30-31). No; that's Temple Grandin. Yes, it is common to find people with ASD who have high spatial/visual skills -- but it is not typical, since "typical" implies that a large majority have such skills. It's only a minority, although a substantial one -- I, for instance, am autistic and am deficient in such skills.

Page 100 may have the biggest goof of all: "Faulty genes are called mutations." No, mutations are changes in genes -- genes which were mis-copied while being replicated. Often the results are faulty genes, but sometimes these incorrect copies are improvements. "Mutation" and "defect" are not synonyms!

Page 85 contends "The emotional development of children with ASD tends to proceed at a slower pace" than typical children. No, it doesn't; it proceeds in a different direction! People with autism often have emotional makeups that simply aren't like the neurotypical population, in multiple ways -- many don't tell lies, are exceptionally loyal, don't exploit others, and take rejection very much to heart. Imagine what Washington, DC would be like if politicians had those first three traits....

Page 29 claims that a majority of people with ASD have intellectual disability. Again, author Selfe confuses something that is common (current estimates say that at most one in three people with ASD also have ID) with something that is found in the majority -- and Selfe also ignores the number of people with extraordinary talents.

And that is what is wrong with this book. Selfe has clearly treated a lot of people with ASD -- and, I suspect, has made a lot of their problems worse, because she evidently regards autism as something she wants to fix. I don't want to be fixed, thank you very much! I have no desire to give up my exceptional skills in music and mathematics and data visualization and, frankly, language just so that I can tell lies and write unsympathetic books about people I'm pretending to try to help.

Dr. Selfe, stop talking down to us, and ask yourself, are you actually making people with ASD happier -- or are you just making them behave the way you want them to behave? We have a term for the latter. It's not "psychologist." It's "dictator."

I have genuine sympathy for the parents and caregivers who have autistic children who are very problematic. But this sort of intellectual "beat them until they obey" approach is both cruel and unlikely to work.

Anyone reading this review, if you do read Selfe's book, please, ignore its whole discussion of autism severity. Yes, this is in the DSM-5, so it's official -- but it's not helpful for therapy. There is an old quote along the lines of, "Calling someone low-functioning means ignoring their strengths; calling them high-functioning means ignoring their weaknesses." The true nature of autism -- which Dr. Selfe clearly fails to appreciate -- is that some abilities are far in excess of other abilities. A person who can do calculus in his head and can't tie his shoes. A person who can play back a piano concerto after hearing it played once but who can't order from a menu. A person who can take one look at a cityscape and draw it in detail but who can't talk. Those are extreme cases, but that is autism. The "splinter skills" of mixed strengths and weaknesses. Any one-size-fits-all therapy is going to mishandle most people with autism, because it will assume a non-splintered functional ability.

I'm autistic. I tend to drone on when I have a lot of evidence about a particular point. So I'll stop now. But, trust me, there are a lot of reasons for a person with ASD to dislike this book -- and that, I think, is more than enough reason for those who care about people with ASD to dislike it also. ( )
4 stem waltzmn | Dec 2, 2018 |
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NEUROLOGY & CLINICAL NEUROPHYSIOLOGY. In Th Autistic Spectrum: All That Matters, Lorna Selfe explains that research over recent years has shown that there is not one such thing as autism but in fact a variety of autistic spectrum disorders. The causes of these, or the reasons for their apparently increasing prevalence in the UK and North America while in many other perts of the world they are hardly recognised at all, remain the subject of intensive research and debate. Dr Selfe strips away the many myths around autism, focusing instead on what we really know about its varieties, causes and treatments. As such, it is the ideal introduction to autistic spectrum disorders for psychology students, health practitioners, and the parents, carers and friends of people with autism. This accessible and readable book gives a fascinating introduction to the autistic spectrum - and what matters most about it.

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