This New York Times–bestselling book upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently.
What is autism? A lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more—and the future of our society depends on our understanding it. Wired reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became famous for discovering it, and finds surprising answers to the crucial question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years. Going back to the earliest days of autism research, Silberman offers a gripping narrative of Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger, the research pioneers who defined the scope of autism in profoundly different ways; he then goes on to explore the game-changing concept of neurodiversity. NeuroTribes considers the idea that neurological differences such as autism, dyslexia, and ADHD are not errors of nature or products of the toxic modern world, but the result of natural variations in the human genome. This groundbreaking book will reshape our understanding of the history, meaning, function, and implications of neurodiversity in our world.
About the Author
Steve Silberman has covered science and cultural affairs for Wired and other national magazines for more than twenty years. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Time, Nature, and Salon. He lives in San Francisco.
Winner of the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction
"Ambitious, meticulous and largehearted history...NeuroTribes is beautifully told, humanizing, important."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Mr. Silberman has surely written the definitive book about [autism’s] past."
“A comprehensive history of the science and culture surrounding autism studies…an essential resource.” –Nature magazine
“NeuroTribes is a sweeping and penetrating history, presented with a rare sympathy and sensitivity. It is fascinating reading; it will change how you think of autism, and it belongs, alongside the works of Temple Grandin and Clara Claiborne Park, on the bookshelf of anyone interested in autism and the workings of the human brain.”
--From the foreword by Oliver Sacks, author of An Anthropologist On Mars and Awakenings
“Breathtaking… as emotionally resonant as any [book] this year." –The Boston Globe
“A lively, readable book… To read NeuroTribes is to realize how much autistic people have enriched the scope of human knowledge and diversity, and how impoverished the world would be without them.” –The San Francisco Chronicle
“It is a beautifully written and thoughtfully crafted book, a historical tour of autism, richly populated with fascinating and engaging characters, and a rallying call to respect difference.” – Science magazine
“Epic and often shocking…Everyone with an interest in the history of science and medicine — how it has failed us, surprised us and benefited us — should read this book.” –Chicago Tribune
“The best book you can read to understand autism" –Gizmodo
“Required reading for every parent, teacher, therapist, and person who wants to know more about autism” –Parents.com
"This is perhaps the most significant history of the discovery, changing conception and public reaction to autism we will see in a generation." –TASH.org
“A well-researched, readable report on the treatment of autism that explores its history and proposes significant changes for its future…In the foreword, Oliver Sacks writes that this 'sweeping and penetrating history…is fascinating reading' that 'will change how you think of autism.' No argument with that assessment." –Kirkus Reviews
“The monks who inscribed beautiful manuscripts during the Middle Ages, Cavendish an 18th century scientist who explained electricity, and many of the geeks in Silicon Valley are all on the autism spectrum. Silberman reviews the history of autism treatments from horrible blaming of parents to the modern positive neurodiversity movement. Essential reading for anyone interested in psychology.”
--Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and The Autistic Brain
“NeuroTribes is remarkable. Silberman has done something unique: he’s taken the dense and detailed history of autism and turned the story into a genuine page-turner. The book is sure to stir considerable discussion.”
--John Elder Robison, Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence at The College of William & Mary and author of Look Me in the Eye
“This gripping and heroic tale is a brilliant addition to the history of autism.”
--Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at University College London
“In this genuine page-turner, Steve Silberman reveals the untold history of autism: from persecution to parent-blaming, from Rain Man to vaccines, of doctors for whom professional ego trumped compassion, to forgotten heroes like Hans Asperger, unfairly tainted by Nazi links. It ends on an optimistic note, with ‘autistics’ reclaiming the narrative and defining autism in their terms — more difference than disability and an essential part of the human condition. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in autism or Asperger’s, or simply a fascination with what makes us tick.”
--Benison O’Reilly, co-author of The Australian Autism Handbook