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Unstrange Minds

Posted on: 16 September, 08

Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism

by Roy Richard Grinker

This book offers an explanation for the question “Why the sudden ‘epidemic’ of autism?”  Grinker describes how the diagnosis of autism came about.  He proposes that there isn’t suddenly more cases of autism, but simply more cases of children being diagnosed with autism.  Our definition of autism has expanded to include even very high functioning children.  It is Grinker’s opinion that many of these children would not have been considered autistic years ago.  They might have been called eccentric, quirky, or odd. They might have received an entirely different diagnosis such as childhood schizophrenia or mental retardation.  Even the DSM has broadened it criteria for an autism diagnosis. 

Grinker also points out that a diagnosis of autism can get a child services through the public school system and insurance companies.  A doctor sees a child who needs certain services.  The doctor might be tempted to “find” a diagnosis that will allow for these services.  Is it wrong if it gets the child what he needs? 

The second half of the book is devoted to how autism is viewed around the world.  Different cultures respond to mental illness in different ways.  In some cultures, some autistic behaviors are not considered anything to be concerned about.  “That’s just how Joe is.  No big deal.”  In other cultures, any sort of deficiency is shameful for the whole family.  A child who is not “normal” may be kept inside in an attempt to hide the family shame. 

People without an autistic child need to read this book to develop a better understanding of life with autism.  After reading this, one cannot help but being more tolerant and compassionate.  While we should never stop reaching for better services for our children, hearing the stories from other countries should make us appreciate all we do have. 

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