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Autism: A Very Short Introduction Audio Download – Unabridged

4.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
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".
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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