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Publisher's Summary

What is autism: a lifelong disability or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth it is both 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 and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle while mapping out a path for our society toward a more humane world in which people with learning differences and those who love them have access to the resources they need to live happier, healthier, more secure, and more meaningful lives.

Along the way he reveals the untold story of Hans Asperger, the father of Asperger's syndrome, whose "little professors" were targeted by the darkest social-engineering experiment in human history; exposes the covert campaign by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner to suppress knowledge of the autism spectrum for 50 years; and casts light on the growing movement of "neurodiversity" activists seeking respect, support, technological innovation, accommodations in the workplace and in education, and the right to self-determination for those with cognitive differences.

©2015 Steve Silberman (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Good Contrast to "In a Different Key"

I listened to "In a Different Key" a few months ago and then I found out about this book.

In a Different Key looks at the history of Autism through parents and their children with Autism and follows the history of different theories and treatment options (with an in depth look at "refrigerator mothers" and the vaccine controversy) as well as looking at parent advocacy.

Neurotribes looks more at adults with Autism, touching on important psychologists in Autism's history but also looking at the accomplishments of people with Autism. The correlation between giftedness/intelligence and Autism is explored along with advocacy by people with Autism.

As a parent with two children with Autism and a certified teacher for special education, I found both books to be enlightening. "In a Different Key" helped me to see what parents had done before me to get services for their odd children while "Neurotribes" showed me hope for my children's futures.

So read/listen to both in order to get a more complete picture.

29 of 29 people found this review helpful

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The long hard road to proper identity on the Autistic spectrum.

If you are a parent, family member, teacher, clinician, advocate, friend or neighbor of an Autistic person...please read this book. This is the true history of the struggles and horrors and wrong roads taken to bring us to accepting the Spectrum of Autism. The book has many heroes who persevered for dignity and truth for the 1000's or millions affected by Autism. The book also documents the misguided self-serving individuals that took us on the wrong paths which wasted precious lives and valuable time and caused unforgivable heartache and blame. As a mother of a 34 year old Autistic woman, I now see why, in her early years, a clear diagnosis was nearly impossible. The goal is acceptance of these individuals and recognition of the gifts they bring to their friends, families and to our world. I don't need my daughter to be cured...I just need her to be accepted.

76 of 78 people found this review helpful

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Tears well shed

I have lost track of how many times I cried during this book and at times it was all I could do to continue listening. Silberman reveals many heartbreaking truths about the history of autism but still manages to lift you up when you need it. Rather than being a dry historical account NeuroTribes helped me to realise how much "malware" I had unconsciously taken on board by identifying the historical roots of those beliefs. Thoughts I have about being defective and worthless are not my thoughts at all but a part of a twisted ideal of normality and conformity. After reading this book I feel more awake to my innate worthiness as a living being on this planet. Not better or worse than anyone else just different. I also have a new appreciation for role environment plays and in cultivating a world that I fit into rather than trying to fit into a world where I don't belong. NeuroTribes is not just a historical curiosity but a paradigm smashing new understanding of reality. This book gets tough at times but it is totally worth every ache, every tear. Only through understanding the old paradigm can we start creating the new.

49 of 52 people found this review helpful

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This book is a big deal!

What did you love best about NeuroTribes?

I'm a service provider for people with autism, and this book really organized and crystallized the information I've been getting in bits and pieces for years. I felt the community described by this book and I agreed with so much of what Silberman was saying. I appreciated it on different levels- the natural history of autism was a really complicated progression. A lot of the questions and misinformation I frequently hear were addressed if not cleared up by the book. The anecdotes and personal experiences resonated with me, and made me feel like other people have seen and gone through the same kinds of experiences as me and the families I work with.

Who was your favorite character and why?

It's not that kind of book... But I guess Leo was my favorite because I feel like I know kids like him, right down to the straw twirling.

Which scene was your favorite?

I really appreciated that the author was sympathetic and gentle in talking about biomedical cures and the antivaccination movement, while also unquestionably calling them nonsense time-wasters.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The content set around WWII was shocking.

Any additional comments?

The only thing I felt I wanted was more discussion of how hard it is for caretakers. There was a huge call to action for families and communities to support children and adults with autism, but the author basically implies that being anything but a stay-at-home parent and full-time autism advocate will put your kid at a disadvantage. This is a pie-in-the-sky sort of sentiment- what are the single parents and lower SES families supposed to do? On the other hand, he does list a ton of community resources, internet listserves, and message boards, so if I wanted to follow up and learn more about what happens in the real world he did provide resources.

72 of 78 people found this review helpful

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Amazing!

Absolutely loved this book! Detailing the history and timeline of Autism brought so many things into focus for me. My beautiful son has always been a joy to me and this book continues to celebrate those on the spectrum. I echo his remarks of "finding your/their tribe" ! I didn't find mine until I was 30 years old and after my son's diagnosis. Now I watch him struggle and grow and I just smile because I love to see the world through his eyes. I get it, because it's the way I always saw it and was taught I was wrong. Just a beautiful book about acceptance and celebration:)

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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best source when learning about autism

this book is very helpful when learning about autism I highly recommend this book for anyone who has autism Asperger's where is simply wanting to learn more about it

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Informative and entertaining!

This book describes the history of autism and how it has been viewed over the last >150 years. It covers the tragic work of Andrew Wakefield (linking autism to the MMR vaccine), the evolving description of the condition in the DSM, the resulting "increase" of cases in Silicon Valley, and finally the emergence of the "Aspie" identity and the desire of the group to self-abdicate.

I'm on the "Spectrum" myself, (so not objective), but I think anyone with the most remote connection to the Syndrome would benefit from reading this book.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • gaillardia
  • Larkspur, Colorado, United States
  • 11-03-15

Paradigm changing

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I have recommended this book to at least 10 people in the last few weeks. The section on the historical treatment of people with autism was difficult and could be hard for a parent to hear, but the rest of the book provides insight into the gifts of the autistic mind. This book changed the way I view the role of neuro-diversity in our society.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Wealth of information

I'm a speech language pathologist who has recently begun working with autistic children . This book gave me good background and insight into autism and what families go through, as well as the different levels of autism . It was easy to understand and very informative . It gave me great ideas in working with this population. I highly recommend it. It was quite interesting and well-written

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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THE HARD WAY

“Neuro Tribes” reminds one of the gambling phrase “the easy way and the hard way”. On a Las Vegas craps table, rolling two die with the same number and repeating it is the hard way. From Steve Silberman’s story, parents successfully raising a child with autism is like rolling the dice the hard way because the odds are stacked against them. This may not be a great analogy but Silberman shows that parents have to work harder to understand and nurture a child who suffers from any one of the many variants of autism.

Silberman tends to name drop famous people who have never been diagnosed as autistic, but exhibit some of the characteristics of autism. Silberman offers brief biographies of Henry Cavendish, Nikola Tesla, Paul Dirac, and others. Not every autistic person is a genius but Silberman’s point is that a person who may have social communication difficulties, obsessive/compulsive behaviors, or attention issues have become incredibly valuable to society. These three men are characterized to have all of those symptoms. To suggest autism implies worthlessness is a slippery slope toward abandonment, psychiatric incarceration, concentration camps, medical castration, and threatened individual or collective extermination.

Silberman implies autistic human beings exist in every society. Symptoms of hyperactivity, singular focus on particular subjects, poor communication skills, antisocial behavior, lack of interest in mutual achievements or interests, and a lack of empathy are symptoms that exist in most human beings, at some level. Silberman implies it is a hard roll of the dice for parents with autistic children. Their rewards can be monumentally greater but the odds are against autism’s cure. Not every autistic child will be a Cavendish, Tesla, or Dirac but one can choose to believe every child is a gift to be treasured for whatever they become.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful