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Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism

Monday, December 19, 2022

Uniquely Human: Updated and Expanded: A Different Way of Seeing Autism (2015) Barry M. Prizant

Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism I get why this was the first book the doctor recommended to me. Really, I do. The diagnoses were a lot to take in (at any age, but especially this late in ones life) and there is always stigma attached to any mental diagnosis, and this book specifically seeks to dismiss stigma and any negative feelings one might have about a diagnosis, which is a very good thing.

But it is written for parents, so a great deal of it didn’t feel relevant. But it was good to see things laid out in black and white.

The terms neurodiverse and neurodivergent have also come into common use, though their meanings vary. In some cases, they’re used to acknowledge that every mind is unique, and there is no “normal” mind. We use these terms to refer to those who are autistic or have other differences, which may include conditions such as ADHD, learning disabilities, and mental health conditions as well as autism. In most cases, when the term “autistic child” or “autistic person” is used, the comment is relevant for those other neurodivergent individuals who do not have a specific autism spectrum diagnosis. We use the term “neurotypical” for those who are not autistic, neurodiverse, or neurodivergent.

Including the central tenet of the book.

The behavior of autistic children and adults isn’t random, deviant, or bizarre, as many professionals have called it for decades. These people don’t come from Mars. The things they say aren’t— as many professionals still maintain— meaningless or “nonfunctional.”

Autism isn’t an illness. It’s a different way of being human.

There is so much other-ism in the world, and so much doubt and shame about differences it is good to have this repeated.

And it did go over some concepts that were extremely helpful.

When some autistic people encounter strong emotions in other people— happiness, sadness, excitement, nervousness— they become confused and even dysregulated themselves. It’s as if they are absorbing the intensity of the emotions, without understanding why they feel as they do.

(M)asking is an effort to hide one’s authentic identity to avoid being seen as different. Repressing your natural reactions in this way can cause great stress and anxiety, sometimes leading to emotional and physical exhaustion some people on the spectrum call “autistic burnout.”

So it was probably a good place to start, but not extremely helpful for a newly diagnosed adult, although it would be excellent for parents.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Rating: 6/10

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