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on January 1, 2006
This book postulates a relationship between creativity and autism. This is a potentially interesting idea. There have been suggestions and some evidence that creativity is linked to tendencies to a variety of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia (see the work of Gordon Claridge) and bipolar disorder (see the work of Kay Jamison). The hypothesis that it might also be related to autistic tendencies is certainly worth examining.

However, this book has several serious flaws that ruin it. The first is that it seems to ignore the notion of a personality spectrum, which is central to most theories of a relationship between creativity and psychiatric or neurological abnormality. Those who suggest a relationship between creativity and schizophrenia, for example, do not suggest that most creative people actually have schizophrenia, but that there is a continuous spectrum of liability to schizophrenia and that highly creative people tend to be further than most people along this spectrum. It is quite possible, and at least worth testing, that they also tend to be further than most people along the spectrum of liability to autism. However, Fitzgerald is not suggesting this. He is suggesting that many creative people actually had autism or Asperger syndrome as a definite diagnostic category. While it's possible that some did, extending the diagnosis to so many people is very questionable, unless one is to make the definition of 'autism' far more elastic than it usually is. If any eccentricity or social awkwardness is to be classed as 'autism' - as it sometimes seems to be here - then 'autism' begins to lose its meaning.

Secondly, just as the definition of autism is fudged, so is the definition of creativity. While it is probably impossible to get a definition that everyone will agree on, this book seems at times to equate it with eminence: a serious problem. For example, it is questionable whether even strong political supporters of Sir Keith Joseph would have described him as exceptionally creative in any of the usual senses.

Thirdly, the author ignores the difficulty of diagnosing people whom he has never met, and about whom the evidence is often imperfect. He selects biographical items that fit his theory, and ignores other aspects of the situation. For example, his discussion of the mathematician Ramanujan totally ignores the cultural differences that could have made this Indian mathematician behave unusually in the context of Cambridge University norms of the 1930s.

Fourthly, and most seriously, the author's zeal for a diagnostic category often lead him simply to try to portray his chosen characters in as pathological a light as possible: sometimes with very little relation to the characteristics of Asperger syndrome. This results in a very gossippy, 'tabloid science' style, which has quite negative implications both for the subjects of his biography, and indeed for people with Asperger syndrome. The references to Hitler are particularly offensive in this context. Hitler, who was able to mesmerize and manipulate others with frightening effectiveness, would appear to be at quite the opposite end of the spectrum from what is usually diagnosed as autism/ Asperger syndrome. These references, and the generally negative tone of the biographies, run contrary to what may have been the author's aim to portray the positive side of autism and eccentricity.
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on January 21, 2006
I have read a wide variety of web-pages, academic papers and books about Asperger's Syndrome/High Functioning Autism (AS/HFA) over the years. Even if one is politically opposed to diagnosing the dead, the opening 3 chapters of Prof. Fitzgerald's book contains the clearest and most insightful description of the psychology of adult AS/HFA available. Prof. Fitzgerald's book is a very welcome contribution in this area, as psychologists are predominantly preoccupied with children and adolescents with AS/HFA.

If one excepts the idea of post-mortem diagnoses, the later chapters act to reiterate and ingrain the description of AS/HFA contained in the opening 3 chapters, by example. In this light, the book is less about diagnosing the dead, on the contrary the book continues to brilliantly elucidate the nature of adult AS/HFA. On this bases, I would highly recommend the book to professionals and university students who wish to gain insight into the minds of adults with AS/HFA.

Finally, as a person with AS/HFA, I found the book particularly encouraging and helpful. I felt I understood myself better. I also recommend the book to people with AS/HFA. Historical people with AS/HFA are not just an inspiration to others with the condition, they demonstrate how to be successful, not despite of AS/HFA but because of it.
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on February 29, 2004
Professor Fitzgerald's book is a wonderful, important book. For once, HFA/AS individuals can be recognized for their singular genius. The question remains, however, whether or not educators and educational institutions will invest in the appropriate education of kids with HFA/AS so that they may have the opportunity to realize their full potential. _Autism and Creativity_ provides support for justifying making the investment. Fail to do so, and we risk losing some of the greatest minds of our future.
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on September 6, 2005
This book is highly recommendable for any person who wishes to know more about adulthood amongst a variety of personalities in various ways impacted by the lighter forms of ASD. Far from being simply a case of "diagnosing the past" it simply; Dr Fitzgerald documenting the fact that many highly creative people of the past unquestionably would have been regarded as ASD had they still been alive today! The book here, as well as his previous works in this respect, is both thought provoking and a highly valuable tool for professionals as well as people who are themselves classified ASD. It allows people to see these forms of autism in adults from a position of strength as well as severe impairment! Indeed it is worth noting that many of these great minds were indeed very severely impaired and unhappy, yet creativity still shone! It equally prepares the ground for some rethinking and consideration for people who are professionally involved in assisting affected children in growing up and reach their full potential.

ROJ M.Soc.Sc. & historian
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on October 11, 2012
I haven't yet read the book, but autism is a deficit of intuitive abilities, abd the ability to think "out of the box" is an advantage for creativity.
Berthajane Vandegrift
A Few Autistic Questions about Frued Marx and Darwin
[...]
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on April 12, 2004
...unfortunately, its cost is prohibitive for a mental health professional working with special needs children. I'm not sure who set the price, but whoever did it, must have not been in touch with realities of the mental health profession in the U.S. My earnest attempts to find the book in local (and not so local) libraries failed--it turns out none of the libraries in my state has the book (two months after it came out). And, well, the local library will not buy it ("too specialized and too expensive," according to the librarian); while the library of the nearest college "may consider" it, but only in six or more months, since they are currently out of funds for new purchases.
Sorry to disappoint you with my off-topic complaints. I've looked forward to reading Fitzgerald's book for several months now, after reading its brief pre-publication review and an interview with the author in one of the on-line British newspapers. And I would love to review it here, I really would, but... Well.
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