Grandin (Animal Science/Colorado State Univ.; Different…Not Less: Inspiring Stories of Achievement and Successful Employment from Adults with Autism, Asperger's, and ADHD, 2012, etc.), whose life has been an inspiration to millions, warns parents, teachers and therapists of the danger of getting locked into diagnostic labels.
With the assistance of science writer Panek (The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality, 2011, etc.), Grandin applies her experience and interviews with others on the autistic spectrum to the latest neuroscientific research. Describing the labels given to autism and other developmental disorders as “a clumsy system of behavioral profiling” that shifts with every new edition, she is critical of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and its revised diagnosis of “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” She reviews how understanding of autism has developed since 1947, when she was born and so-called refrigerator moms were targeted for blame. Today, “observable neurological and genetic evidence” is beginning to reveal how a multiplicity of causes, including environmental factors, may be responsible for particular symptoms. Readers of Grandin’s previous books and viewers of the award-winning 2010 biopic will be familiar with the details of her life and career as a high-functioning autistic. She has been a volunteer experimental subject since 1987, in the early days of MRIs, and scans of her brain reveal structural differences that appear to correlate with her disabilities and her extraordinary visual memory. Grandin is optimistic that future progress will improve diagnosis and education for non-neurotypicals who have many important gifts to contribute.
An illuminating look at how neuroscience opens a window into the mind.