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on 30 September 1998
There are many books about autism and Asperger's syndrome, but they are all superficial. This is the only one that goes to the source of the problem itself: The brain at the hardware level.
What our consciousness 'sees' is not reality itself, but the output of battalions of highly specialized neurone co-processors that interpret reality in a distorted way engineered by Natural Selection to maximize our chances of surviving and reproducing.
We are blind to the existence of these unconscious perception mechanisms, and we confuse their perception of reality with reality itself. This is the reason why autism has been a mystery for so long, because it is not possible to understand autism without even knowing that these perception instincts exist.
Everything about this book is superlative. Autism is *very* *difficult* to understand even for us autistics, let alone Neurologically Typicals. This guy has the ability to explain autism with concepts that make things rather easy to visualize. Concepts so befitting that leave me wondering how he manages to invent them.
Let me give one example: As a kid, I didn't see people like objects, but I didn't quite see them as people either. They were there, but they were not very important. That is as far as I can go explaining how it was for me. The only thing I can add is that I am not giving you anything more than a faint idea of how it really was.
What does Simon Baron-Cohen do? He introduces the concept of "skinbags." Bags of skin that move and talk like people but that are not quite people.
"Skinbags" is precisely what people were for me. They moved and talked, but they had no feelings. It was not that I believed that they had no feelings; it was that it never crossed my mind to consider the possibility.
The book makes you realize right from the start that nothing really exists as we imagine it. Not even color exists. Color is only an invention of Natural Selection... "that allows us to identify and interact with objects and the world far more richly that we otherwise could." Bats could very well use colors to "see" ultrasound reflections the same way we use colors to "see" electromagnetic waves.
The warmth of a smile and the anger of a stare do not exist either. You feel them only because your unconscious perception mechanisms interpret a smile as "warm" and a stare as "angry" and feed the appropriate feelings into your consciousness.
It must be really wonderful to be able to look at a girl and *feel* the warmth of her smile. When I look at a girl smiling I feel nothing. No warmth, no nothing. Those perception mechanisms are burned out in us autistics, or for some reason they do not reach our consciousness, maybe because of a faulty wire someplace.
I read almost every book there was in the Library system, and I began to really understand autism *only* after I read "Mindblindness."
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on 20 March 2017
Great book, not the typical book that a parent would assume would be able to help their child but mind blindness is something that can affect a lot of children on the spectrum and this is a great introduction it is a subject that is not often discussed however understanding a little bit about it can explain some of the many behaviours associated with autism
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on 10 February 2014
Extremely valuable ideas. There are holes in them but a massive contribution. It is good to see someone distinguishing between underlying causes and the ultimate symptoms
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on 18 December 2011
I bought this book as the parent of a child with autism. I was having difficulty understanding his language problems when his vocabulary and syntax are above average for his age. I also have a background in mental health and some experience of reading psychological texts. I found this book quite a challenge at times as it is not targetted at the lay reader. However it was ultimately very helpful in understanding some of the fundamental difficulties people with autism have. I would recommend it for parents of a child with autism. It is worth persevering with.
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on 26 January 2015
good book but complicated read
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on 5 February 2018
Too dated.
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on 20 July 2014
A lot of science and theory in this book. I got bored very quickly and stopped reading it. You might like it.
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on 20 May 1999
This book takes recent cognitive research findings and aligns it with the problems that autistics and other people with non-verbal learning disabilities have in correctly interpreting and responding to social situations. It was a fast read for me and very helpful in assisting me to understand that there is a physical cause for inability to respond appropriately to social situations by learning disabled people. The book actually gave me the intellectual key to forming an appropriate emotional response to LD individuals and in assisting them in learning how to respond appropriately to social situations.
Excellent discussion on eye contact and interpreting actions. Author also provides some interesting observations on intra species communication and how it relates to the evolution of human response in social situations.
Well worth the read if you work with people who have non-verbal learning disabilities or have a child with learning disabilities that encompass the spectrum of autistic disorders. Good tie in to language disabilities and discussion of temporal and frontal region of the brain.
Aimed at both professionals and the lay person, the author has managed to do a good job of straddling both worlds.
Recommended for those people who have managed to finally catch their breath and are over grieving from discovering the consequences of living with an LD individual, and who have managed to proceed to formulating a program of education, personal and familial response to non-verbal disabilities.
While the author made good points about eye contact and subsequent social knowledge, he did fail to discuss those social situations where eye contact would be considered to be aggressive rather than a bonding or friendly situation. Nor was there adequate discussion of social groups where the types of eye contact he discusses works opposite the general norm in the United States (ie: Native American Tribal culture).
Good material that serves as a starting point in putting together an education program for those individuals who haven't been able to absorb all those unwritten social rules which can make any learning disabled person an outcast.
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on 5 July 2002
This book succincntly presents the Theory of Mind (ToM) explanation of autism, i.e. autistic people do not have a theory of mind hence they can't attribute emotions, intentions and beliefs to others. Having a 'theory of mind' largely reduces to a capacity to take another peron's perspective. While the authors are clinical psychologists, this ToM account of the underlying deficit that is autism, raises many provocative philosophical implications about self consciousness and consciousness of others, and pragmatics. Another text by Baron-Cohen and Howlin Teaching Children with Autism to Mind Read operationalises the central ideas in a ToM teaching programme and is worth exploring as a follow on text.
Obviously the primary audience for this book are those working in the field of autism research. However, if you have any interest in cognition and self consciousness whatsoever, whether philosophically or psychologically, don't pass over this book.
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on 5 December 2014
Terribly big headed opinion about autism, when he does not live with a child who has autism and shows no concern for the dramatic increase in autism rates.
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