Re-Thinking Autism: Diagnosis, Identity and Equality -Sami Timimi (Editor), Rebecca Mallett (Editor)

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)


“Autism was not the problem: it was the systems, attitudes, and environments that disable people with autism that should be the focus of any concern.”

Such a simple statement and yet what a profound message it imparts. Autism has become one of those viral entities that everyone wants to talk about in an attempt to spread awareness. But no one really understands the subtle complexities that are involved.

Re-thinking Autism questions the prejudices and assumptions that surround a diagnosis of autism in the 21st century.

“These words – ‘living’ and ‘with’ – are so commonly strung together in relation to autism in everyday life that they appear everywhere from newspaper articles to government reports, from scientific studies to celebrity appeals, from fundraising initiatives to self-help books.”

Each line and each chapter of the book imparts an extensive and well -researched peek into the world of autism. Like the title says, the book talks about how autism has been part of society and how the diagnosis has evolved over the period. While earlier prevalence could be seen as 4 in 10,000 in the 1960s, there has been s 50-fold rise in the number, i.e. 1 in every 50 individuals. And yet, despite the increase in case load, the lack of understanding and the abundance of stigmatisation is still staggering.

“Social oppression theories of disability recognise disability not as an individual, medical problem but as the product of a disabling society that ‘is geared to, built for and by, and controlled by non disabled people’ (Swain, French and Cameron 2003, p.2)”

The authors clearly state from the start that the broad aim of this book is to disabuse people from accepting the current understanding of autism as a biologically based biomedical disorder or brain difference. With this aim, the entire book has been written in 18 chapters which have been divided in three parts. While there is a definite fluency in the entire content, what makes this book more user-friendly is the fact that depending on your area of interest, you can actually skip to any of the sections without suffering any lag in understanding. I will emphasise on this point mainly because some of the chapters are overtly technical and the language of narration can be tough to read and comprehend.

This is an excellent book for those who simply want to understand and gain more insight into Autism. With the abundance of commercialisation that is available, a simple understanding and clarity goes a long way. Please keep in mind that not everyone will find this enjoyable – mainly because of the technical nature of language. But it is a worthy read for those who are interested and who are willing to take time.

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