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Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism Hardcover – January 1, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Autism is no longer considered a rare, stigmatized disorder; it's one that touches the lives of an increasing number of individuals worldwide. Grinker, director of the George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research, is one example of this phenomenon. Driven by the 1994 autism diagnosis his daughter, Isabel, received, Grinker endeavors to collect the myriad scientific, historical and cultural components of autism into an accessible primer. The book is divided into two parts—academic and anecdotal—throughout which the author illustrates his daughter's development and how his family has coped and developed alongside her. The first section recounts the history of autism, from the illness's initial description in 1943, its once taboo status and the erroneously cited causes of autism. Special attention is given to the evolving diagnostic criteria and the increase in prevalence rates. In the emotionally powerful second portion, Grinker details the experiences of parents of autistic children in South Africa, South Korea and India, how their respective societies view the disorder (often negatively) and the obstacles surmounted to increase awareness of autism, its treatment and management. While this grounds the book, the lengths to which Grinker goes to prove to the parents of autistic children they are not alone needn't have been so extensive. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Anthropologist Grinker, whose daughter was diagnosed with autism in 1994, asks whether there is a sudden epidemic of autism and whether that would be such a bad thing. While the media is quick to point to a recent explosion of autism (from 1-in-10,000 children to an estimated 1-in-158 in little more than a decade) and call it a crisis, many question that depiction's accuracy. Since autism was first described in the 1940s, and nearly 40 years passed before the American Psychiatric Association accepted it as a developmental disorder, the so-called epidemic may only reflect more refined diagnostics and better reporting. Epidemic or no, Grinker is grateful for the attention, for he feels that the more autism, which actually now covers a spectrum of disorders, is put in the spotlights of public, medical, and political scrutiny, the more help and support will become available to diagnosed children and their families. Grinker's worldwide scope embraces the personal experiences of families with autistic children from the U.S. to Africa and adds dimension and power to his position. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465027636
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465027637
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #871,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dr. Grinker has written a book that is quite educational and simultaneously compelling and touching. This work helps us understand this phenomenon we call Autism today and how it came to be. I have spent the past twenty years treating individuals with Autism and teaching others to care for them as well, and this book is one that is truly a "must read!".

No doubt that Dr. Grinker will come under fire for his position that the increase in Autism diagnoses is more a reflection of improved awareness on the part of the public, and the medical and educational communities, and not primarily the result of unknown or evil forces in our world. The argument he makes is scientifically sound, and is really only one aspect of this wonderful book, that holds so many other treats for the reader. I recommend it to all and will make it required reading in my classes
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Format: Hardcover
This book had three main topics. One is the author's own daughter, Isabel, who is autistic. The second is addressing what many see to be an epidemic of autism, and deciding if that really is the case. The third is taking a look at how other cultures treat those with autism. All three topics were covered well, and were very interesting to read about.

I especially enjoyed hearing about Isabel's fascination with the book Linnea in Monet's Garden, and how the family used that interest to expand her horizons, rather than discouraging it. It reminded me of a time when my son was extremely taken with a certain episode of Mister Rogers, where Mister Rogers visits a trolley museum. We took a trip to the same trolley museum, and my son was just stunned and thrilled to be able to see and do the same things he saw in the episode. I think it's important to USE special interests to engage kids, rather than discourage them as often we are told to do.

I had often wondered if the uptick in autism diagnoses could be simply that it's more accepted as a diagnosis now. I am now convinced that is the case. In many cases, according to this book, it wasn't even AVAILABLE to use as a diagnosis until recently, so OF COURSE it's diagnosed more now!

I think my favorite part of the book was the chance to see how other cultures deal with autism today. It mostly makes me happy I live here and not in India or South Korea, although everyplace seems to be improving in the attitudes and care. I would love to hear about more countries and autism---what about China?

I want to thank the author for this thoughtful, well researched and very interesting book.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an extraodinarily good book that works on many levels. It's a history of psychiatry's attempts to understand autism, a hard look at the idea that there is an autism "epidemic", and a genuinely compelling story of one man's journey to understand and deal with his autistic daughter. It is extremely well written, honest when honesty is called for and passionate and eloquent when simple honesty isn't enough. Grinker manages to treat autistic people with respect without romanticizing them or the struggles of autistic people and their caregivers to "fit in" to a social world that simply isn't put together the way they'd like it to be. If you are only going to read one book about autism, I strongly recommend this one.
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Format: Paperback
The perfect counterpoint to the emotional hysteria propagated by conspiracy theorists that are panicking parents into fear of vaccines inducing autism.

The author is an anthropologist and father of a daughter with autism. At times it is clear he is a professor; particularly in part one. Rational explanations of how individuals in the past would either have no diagnosis or improper ones are presented through his detailed history of the progression of the field of psychiatry. The information is both fascinating and eye opening.

Part two is even more eye opening as he reveals how cultural biases affect diagnosis (or lack thereof) and the quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families around the globe.

As a parent and an author of a novel about autism, I appreciate his presentation of the world view of this disorder. Books by other authors that focus narrowly on one individual limit the possibility for true understanding. Mr Grinker has done a remarkable service for the autism community.
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Format: Hardcover
Unstrange Minds investigates how autism has become a widely diagnosed and prevalent disorder in the United States during the last 15 years. Dr. Grinker persuasively argues that with broad criteria now used to make diagnoses, more children are being counted as autistic even though they present with milder cases such as Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Asberger's Syndrome, leading to what seems like an "epidemic." Dr. Grinker traveled throughout Africa, South Korea and India to examine how other societies integrate autism into their cultural frameworks. It is fascinating to read how each culture treats autism differently, from the Navajo who embrace their children as blessed to the South Koreans who hide their autistic children to protect siblings from being considered tainted and unmarriageable. It is books like Dr. Grinker's, which courageously explore autism and fearlessly take a position, that are helping to make readers of this disorder aware and better informed.
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