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The Autism Encyclopedia: 500+ Entries for Parents and Professionals Paperback – 15 Jan 2005
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About the Author
John T. Neisworth is Professor of Special Education and Director of the Early Intervention Training Program at Pennsylvania State University. Pamela S. Wolfe is Associate Professor of Education at Pennsylvania State University.
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The third thing to notice is the long list of contributors, that is, the professionals who wrote the entries. Professor Emeritus John Neisworth and Associate Professor Pamela S. Wolfe of The Pennsylvania State University are the editors of the book and the authors of many of the entries. However there are (I counted them) 123 other professionals who penned the mini essays that make up the bulk of the book. They come from all over the world and from a number of relevant disciplines. They are doctors, academics, therapists, teachers, heads of institutions, etc. Clearly this is an authoritative work.
Each entry is focused on how it relates to autism. For example the entry for "depression," signed by Britta Saltonstall, allows that "Study has demonstrated the co-occurrence of depression and autism." Note the careful terminology: "co-occurrence" instead of any other sort of linkage. However in their entry on the "Premack principle," Neisworth and Wolfe don't relate "Grandma's Law" (to do the less agreeable activity before the more agreeable one) directly to autism, noting only that therapists in general might want to require it of their clients.
Some of the language is technical and some of it is highly technical, and almost all of it is carefully hedged and qualified. The influence of mainstream psychology, including behaviorism and cognitive psychology is evident. I wish that, in addition, interpretations from evolutionary psychology were more in evidence. I don't think we can hope to understand disorders like autism outside of an evolutionary perspective.
In this context it is strange to read that "natural environment" refers to home and community and everyday activities like eating and shopping. It's hard to argue with this, but the implication seems to be that other environments might be seen as "contrived." When I think about it, this perspective might be a hint about the cause of the recent dramatic increase in the instance of autism: green fields and forest lands, river beds and ocean beaches, savanna and woodland, may indeed be, for today's people, "contrived" rather than natural environments. And the "natural environment" of concrete streets and homes constructed with manmade materials and artificially made foods is what we are stuck with. Personally I think some types of autism may be better understood as alternative strategies for coping with the world; however, the more severe manifestations are clearly disorders, some of them disabling.
Also apparent in the book is how autism is viewed today. Once thought to be a disease caused by "refrigerator mothers" (Bruno Bettelheim)--women of cold affect who emotionally and mentally isolated their children--autism is now seen as a "spectrum of disorders" whose etiology "is not clear, but accumulating evidence suggests a neurological basis that may relate to inheritable factors" with "environmental stressors" also "implicated." Under "autism spectrum disorder (ASD)" we find that the terminology is synonymous with "pervasive developmental disorder" (PDD) which includes Rhett syndrome, Asperger syndrome and others. There is a "catch all" category called "pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified" (PDD-NOS).
The book has 22 pages of references including ones from all four editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (an evolving compendium). Even Bruno Bettelheim's now infamous The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self is referenced. However nothing appears by Temple Grandin, who is probably the world's most famous, and one of its most accomplished, autistics. By contrast, in another book on autism, Autism Spectrum Disorders (2004) by Chantal Sicile-Kira, there are eight references to Grandin's work. So, even though this book is copyrighted in 2005, it may not be as entirely up to date as might be expected.
There are two excellent appendices, one on "Screening and Assessment Tools and Curricula" and another on research, therapeutic, and informational organizations. Each entry in these appendices is annotated and explained. Addresses, both snail and email, and sometimes phone numbers are included.