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Sunday 15th September 2019

Unstrange Minds

20th September 2006

"This is a wise and compassionate book, informed by academic rigor, deep personal feeling, and a sensitivity not only to the difference that is autism but also to the variety of human experience across cultures and classes. Grinker’s research is as wide-ranging as it is open-minded, bringing together the precision of social science and the artistry of memoir, balancing the academic and the anecdotal to build polemical arguments about the nature and prevalence of autism. He speaks of how people have responded to the illness, and of how else we might respond, and in doing so challenges us to make a better world."

Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon, winner of the National Book Award.

This global exploration of autism by an anthropologist -- and father of a child with autism -- is the first book to show that the autism "epidemic" holds surprising new promise for better diagnosis and treatment. Unstrange Minds documents Grinker's quest to find out why autism is so much more common today, and to uncover the implications of the increase. His search took him to Africa, India, and East Asia, to the National Institutes of Mental Health, and to the mountains of Appalachia . What he discovered is both surprising and controversial: the high rates of autism may not be proof of an epidemic.

Grinker shows that the identification and treatment of autism everywhere depends on culture just as much as on science. With the rise of parent advocacy, mainstreaming in education, public awareness, and the decline of the stigma of brain-based disorders, there are more people in the world today with a diagnosis of autism today than at any time in history. Doctors are describing and treating the disorder better, epidemiologists are counting it better, school systems are coding it better -- and children are benefiting. There is more research, more special education, more philanthropy, more understanding of how families struggle to cope. Finally, after all these years, we’ve realized that autism is a major public health concern.

Filled with moving stories from throughout the world, and informed by the latest science and Grinker’s own experience raising a daughter with autism, Unstrange Minds is unlike any other book on autism. It is a powerful testament to a father's quest for the truth, and is urgently relevant to anyone whose life is touched by one of history's most puzzling disorders.


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