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Anthropologist Grinker (George Washington Univ. Inst. for Ethnographic Research; In the Arms of Africa) beautifully explores autism from three distinct vantage points. First, he probes its impact on the family through his daughter Isabel (b. 1991). While there are relatively standard passages documenting conflicts with school placement and services, he taps a different side of autism by showing her learning the cello. Next, Grinker examines the broader historical context of autism through the work and lives of key figures Leo Kanner (who first identified autistic children) and Bruno Bettleheim (who worked extensively with them). He also addresses the autism epidemic by pointing out that many people with autism were not seen as autistic before. Third, the text addresses autism in a larger global context, explaining how cultures in Africa, India, and South Korea cope with the condition. These three elements combine to create a book that ranks with Uta Frith's Autism: Explaining the Enigma as one of the great general books on autism. Highly recommended.-Corey Seeman, Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
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 2007 Booklist