The Science and Fiction of Autism

The Science and Fiction of Autism
by Laura Schreibman

The dramatic and baffling upsurge in rates of autism diagnoses has spawned a brisk literary trade. If the incidence of autism has increased more than tenfold in the past decade (the statistics-like everything in the world of autism-are hotly debated), a flood of new books on the subject has more than kept pace. These books represent nearly as many genres as there are theories about autism’s causes and treatments: some seek to expand the boundaries of our understanding with reports of exciting new therapies or narratives of dramatic recoveries, while others offer closely observed dispatches from the autism front, highlighting smaller miracles wrought of constant vigilance and hope. There is also a rapidly expanding literature produced by persons with autism, contradicting longstanding beliefs that such individuals are always impaired in their ability to communicate meaningfully.

Laura Schreibman’s The Science and Fiction of Autism falls into still another category we might term the literature of “containment.” Schreibman, distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Autism Research Program at the University of California at San Diego, is a veteran of the autism wars whose career began in the days when parents were still routinely blamed for their children’s condition and researchers who pointed to autism’s now-obvious neurological roots were shunned by the high priests of medicine and psychiatry....

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