Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism
Roy Richard Grinker,
STAR RATING: 5/5
A social anthropologist with an autistic daughter, Roy Grinker provides a welcome critique of the notion of an “autism epidemic” that has become an article of faith among some parents, writes Michael Fitzpatrick.
Through a review of the history and epidemiology of autism, Grinker shows how a greater awareness of autism among parents and professionals, together with a widening concept of autism, have led to a dramatic increase in the recognition of cases, rather than a true increase in numbers.
Hence the quest for environmental causes is misconceived: “If there is no real epidemic, we might just have to admit that no one is to blame”.
For Grinker, the increased recognition of autism in Western society is a welcome sign “that we are finally seeing and appreciating a kind of human difference that we once turned away from”. With insights derived from his studies in India, South Korea, South Africa, and Europe, he shows how in other cultures autism is only beginning to emerge from being hidden, stigmatised and denigrated.
While Grinker describes the struggles involved in securing appropriate schooling for his daughter in the US, he readily acknowledges that “it’s a better time than ever to be autistic”.
Michael Fitzpatrick is a GP, parent of an autistic child and the author of MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know