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4.8 out of 5 stars
Autism: A Very Short Introduction
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 December 2012
On the positive side, here are some gems in a nutshell. I especially like the five different "big ideas" about the underlying problems, and the mismatch of top-down and bottom-up processes as a possible link between these ideas.

On the negative side, I have two remarks:
First, the described Sally-Anne-test on the "theory of mind" might reveal delayed development in young children but has no similarity to the problems older children and adults are facing. The reader might get the wrong impression that autistic people are unable to apply simple logic to situations involving other people. The real problems are at least partly based on the fact that autistic people maintain a one-layer-communication toward obvious goals (as receiver *and* as sender) while NTs communicate also via sound of voice, facial expressions and so on, sometimes toward hidden goals. Thus in communications between autistics and NTs, *both* sides have a theory-of-mind problem: Since even autistics cannot avoid to produce sounds and facial expressions but do not attach meaning to them, the NT is often unable to mask these layers, even when being ask to give attention just to the words, and jumps to wrong conclusions about the state of mind of the autistic person.

Secondly, at the end of the section titled "Asperger syndrome" (pp. 37, 38), the author, after mentioning highly intelligent "Aspies" who are glad not to be NTs, labels the extreme point of view that autism is *generally* not a deficit but a different make-up as "perverse". Well, this is literally true but, the author being an NT, one could look for her hidden goal. Why does she mention an extreme, obviously untenable position in a *very short* introduction? My impression is that she lacks a certain empathy for the "glad aspies". There *are* some reasons why Asperger syndrome should not / could not generally be labelled as a deficit:
1. The sentence "There is a deficit which in rare cases causes an improvement." is paradoxical.
2. It seems to be quite human to respond to the label "disabled" with the announcement of belonging to a different culture; see for example the community of deaf students in Washington, D.C.
3. The highly functioning aspies might fear that somewhen in the future the NT society might find a way to diagnose and to "cure" all autistic children regardless of their specifics.
Here I miss the element of optimistic acceptance which is a key feature of Tony Attwoods book "The complete guide to Asperger's syndrome".

But on the whole I recommend this book as a thought provoking introduction.
(someone glad to be an Aspie ;-)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2011
I bought this book as I was interested
in finding out more about autism,
as well being a student of psychology.

I found it well-written, informative
and plenty of detailed and up-to-date information.

Highly recommended.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 22 January 2009
Mysterious, traumatic, intriguing ... autism is all of these things. Uta Frith sheds welcome light upon a phenomenon which keeps getting bigger year on year but which remains elusive and enigmatic. Many of the questions we might want to ask are dealt with as fully as current understanding allows: What is autism? Why does it affect boys disproportionately? Why does it show in the second year of infancy and not the first? What are the classic indicators of autism? etc.

Frith briefly considers the (short) history of autism as a recognised and well-defined condition. She notes that it has core features (minimal social interaction, communication problems and limited interests coupled with repetitive behaviour). An individual's condition might be anything from slight to severe, which is why it is appropriate to talk of an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), along which continuum sits the rather trendy, genius-inducing Asperger's Syndrome, familiar to millions via Rainman and The Curious Incident of the Dog.

The book is forthright. It runs the risk of offending some sensibilities by preferring to be more honest than p.c. Frith uses the frank language of mental 'deficits', behavioural 'impairment' and autism 'sufferers'. Although there are triumphs, she argues, there are more usually difficulties. Although many autistic individuals can achieve acceptance and find happiness, 'this is not the norm': social impairment is. Carers, meanwhile, face anxiety, frustration and upset. Frith is clear that autism amounts to more than just 'differences' in behaviour and mental make-up.

Although this book is bang up to date, at times speculating about some of the most fruitful current research and intriguing theories, it is being written at too early a date for many of the more vexing questions to be resolved, certainly in terms of the 'hard' science of autistic brains and genes. But we sense that if further experiments confirm promising theories, a true understanding may not be that far away.

Like so many others in this VSI series, Autism manages to be concise, profound and accessible - even to the non-specialist.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2013
If you want an authoratative, easy to read and personable introduction to autistic spectrum disorder I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The research is good quality and up to date and the descriptions are accurate. The writing style is accessible for a lay audience. Everyone should have one of these.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2009
Quite embarrassingly, I didn't know so much about autism itself before I dealt with this tremendous guide. Although it doesn't have so many pages, I found it very informative and useful. Especially, I'm intrigued by Dr. Frith's explanations on the follows:
1. What neurotypical means
2. Weak central coherence
I wasn't quite sure what the prefix, neuro- means though neurotypical (NT) is one of the key words on autism/Asperger's. Sure thing, I couldn't find the word even in my dictionary. I mean, I could manage to guess it might mean the opposite to people with developmental impairments. However, I didn't quite catch why. I felt like I could clear up my haze when I found out Dr. Frith says neuro- definitely means the brain. "I guessed right! Neurotypical shows the brain works normally or typically." - That's what I exactly thought!

I realized central coherence is crucial for neurodevelopment. People with strong central coherence can see the whole point, while those with weak one tend to dwell on parts. So I suppose some autistic people have such weak central coherence that they tend to be perfectionists, which makes life more stressful. Positively, they seem to know the details pretty well. In my case, I was incredibly good at kanji (Chinese characters) in my childhood. But the trouble was that I was horrible at comprehending the whole sentence. And I suspected that slowed communication skills. The thing is people with weak central coherence find it so hard to catch the whole content they often tend to miss what matters most.

Overall, this autism guide is suitable if you would like to know the difference between NT's and people with autism/Asperger's with regard to neurodevelopmental psychology.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 June 2013
A brief overview in plain English real examples used, readable with a few gestalt moments. A must for those who work within any classroom environment as autism is so far reaching - in fact I think that a basic knowledge of autism is would be useful to anyone who works with the public.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 September 2012
A well written and easy to follow book which gives us some insight into the mind of the autistic person. Frith considers the difference in brains between autistic and non autistic by reviewing scientific studies to date. She then introduces somes theories on how the autistic mind may work using case studies to illustrate her point. She also discusses the range of behaviour often seen. An excellent book suitable for parents, professionals, teachers or anyone wanted to learn more about autism.
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on 5 November 2011
It may be short as an introduction, but its treatment of autism explores the difficulties in understanding this baffling condition. From that point of view it can be a demanding read for a layman. Its great virtue is the objectivity born of Professor Frith's experience and compassion that leads the reader to a sounder knowledge of the nature of autistic disorders and through the maze of theories towards an honest and rational view of what is known and how scientific studies are slowly teasing out the underlying causes of autism.

This is an antidote to hocus-pocus theories and the 'cures' of charlatans. It is recommended for those struggling to make sense of an enigmatic condition.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is an excellent pocket sized book. It is very informative, easy to read and very easy to carry around.
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on 11 December 2013
I chose this as my first step to understanding more about Autism and it was exactly what I was looking for.

An overview of the subject is given with compassion from someone who clearly understands their subject. All aspects appear to have been covered including some more controversial ideas inviting alternative views. And I was most intrigued by the apparent separation of mind from brain which features throughout.

It has been a great place to start my learning on the subject.
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