Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes

Book Reviews: Different Like Me Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes
 Jennifer Elder,
 Jessica Kingsley Publishers
 ISBN 1843108151, £11.99


The current vogue for depicting people with autism as merely “interestingly different” does no favours to families affected by this condition, writes Michael Fitzpatrick.

Jennifer Elder introduces Quinn as a boy of “eight and threequarters” with autism, “which means he is a bit different from most other children”. She presents Quinn – and us – with quirky
biographies, accompanied by full-page portraits, of 20 mainly historical celebrities. Some of these, like Andy Warhol, have been widely identified as autistic, and others, like Isaac Newton and
Albert Einstein, have long been regarded as eccentric geniuses.

These figures, who “excel in their own particular fields” but “often found it difficult to fit in”, are offered as role models for Quinn and other children with autism.

But autism is not simply a different – and more exotic – way of being that causes minor problems of adjustment. It is a profound disorder of development that creates enormous difficulties
for affected individuals throughout their lives, even if they are among the rare few blessed with special talents.

Though well-intentioned, the sentimental depiction of autism as a higher form of individuality risks demeaning the suffering experienced by people with autism and their families, while
downplaying their need for specialised services and support.

Michael Fitzpatrick is a GP, parent of an autistic child and the author of MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know

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