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Uniquely Human

Uniquely Human 2022-05-21


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Satal submitted a new resource:

Uniquely Human - A Different Way of Seeing Autism

A groundbreaking book on autism, by one of the world's leading experts, who portrays autism as a unique way of being human--this is "required reading....Breathtakingly simple and profoundly positive" (Chicago Tribune).

Autism therapy typically focuses on ridding individuals of "autistic" symptoms such as difficulties interacting socially, problems in communicating, sensory challenges, and repetitive behavior patterns. Now Dr. Barry M. Prizant offers a new and compelling paradigm: the most...

Read more about this resource...
Barry M. Prizant, PhD is an adjunct professor at Brown University, and has served on its medical school faculty. He was founding director of Bradley Hospital’s communication disorders department and serve on two State of the Science in Autism committees for the National Institutes for Health (NIH). He has a private practise, performs consultations for school boards, is the lead author of the SCERTS (Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, and Transactional Support) model, which this book draws from.

Simon & Schuster

Contents List

Author’s Note
Introduction: A Different Way of Seeing Autism

PART ONE: Understanding Autism
1) Ask “Why?”
2) Listen
3) Enthusiasms
4) Trust, Fear, and Control
5) Emotional Memory
6) Social Understanding

PART TWO: Living with Autism
7) What It Takes to “Get It”
8) Wisdom from the Circle
9) The Real Experts
10) The Long View
11) Energize the Spirit
12) The Big Questions

A Guide to Resources
Review #25

I had been hoping by now to have done more reviews this summer, but as with many interests and special interests (or enthusiasms, as the author of the reviewed book prefers to call them), taking a time out can make it challenging to break back into things. I’ll try to get at least a couple more in this summer.

Most books on the spectrum are written by individuals on the spectrum, psychologists, and counselors. It’s seldom that we have books written by others, and this is one such example, as the author’s background is speech and language pathology.

This background, combined with his early work with the Buffalo Children’s Hospital Autism program starting in 1975 (!!) lead him to view autism from a rather unique lens – that there’s nothing wrong with autistic individuals, but that they simply communicate in different ways, and that others (e.g. family, teachers, professionals), rather than trying to make them conform, should endeavor to try to identify what the individual is trying to communicate.

Drawing from his many decades of work in the field, he richly illustrates his points, using four individuals as primary examples, and introducing many one-off examples as well. He ably argues that echolalia is not meaningless babble, but a form of communication – one where being able to identify the intended meaning of a word or phrase will allow us to better understand an individual and their needs.

He also points out that stimming is not so much unusual or wrong, but rather, simply reflect that autistic individuals are more easily excited - he introduces an example where someone asks whether people would consider the celebratory actions of game show winners to be stimming, and let's be honest, we've all seen many of them engage in yelling, arm flapping, jumping, and other expressions of excitement.

Several other takeaways, many of which autistic individuals will not find surprising, include the need to recognize each person and their communication styles as unique, that all parties (teachers, principals, counselors, parents, etc.) need to work together as a team, that it’s much more important to find and work with someone with compassion and understanding who “gets it” (and that degrees, credentials, and training may not mean anything), that we should not force individuals to conform, though we wish to gently find substitutes for interests and/or behaviors which may be inappropriate and to be wary of those that claim that they can guarantee success, for everyone is unique and what works for one autistic individual may not work for another. (He has an interesting commentary on ABA on his website)

The resource guide at the back includes a number of books that I haven’t heard of before (of course, there are tons of autism books, and increasingly more and more), for which Liane Holiday-Wiley’s Pretending to be Normal is the only one that I’ve read – so lots of “food for thought” for potential future readings.

As I’ve noted in other posts, I’m a soft grader and I’m willing to give bonus points for unusual viewpoints, strong story telling, originality, and solid editing. This book, thus far is unique in that it actually hits all of those points, and therefore deserves more than my existing 5.5/5.0 top score. As such, I’ll award it a 6.0 / 5.0.

This book, in my opinion, pairs well with Tony Attwood's Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome in that Attwood's work takes a traditional and technical medical model approach of autism as deficits, and Prizant's work here reframes things in a a very different, but much more compassionate model that's more aligned with the social model - that people are disabled by their environments and the failure of many to adapt things or try to see things from a different lens.


I’d like to note that looking back, if I get around to it, many of my earlier reviews would have to be regraded.- some deserve a 5.25 or 5.50, whereas other books, after having the benefit of reading additional books, are not as good as I initially thought and would need to be scored lower – I can think of at least two that would drop into a 3.0-ish range.
It is on my bookshelf at home and is one of my top recommendations for parents/guardians/caregivers dealing with an autism diagnosis. There is still a lot of stigmata and fear associated with autism. This book helps reframe the perspective of the neurotype.

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