Embracing Neurodiversity

Steve Silberman upends conventional thinking about autism, and puts forward a broader model for acceptance and understanding.
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TED Talk: Decades ago, few pediatricians had heard of autism. In 1975, 1 in 5,000 kids was estimated to have it. Today, 1 in 68 is on the autism spectrum. What caused this steep rise? Steve Silberman points to “a perfect storm of autism awareness” — a pair of psychologists with an accepting view, an unexpected pop culture moment and a new clinical test. But to really understand, we have to go back further to an Austrian doctor by the name of Hans Asperger, who published a pioneering paper in 1944. Because it was buried in time, autism has been shrouded in misunderstanding ever since.

Program Topics

  • On Neurodiversity

    In this lecture, Steve Silberman discusses his belief in Neurodiversity, or the growing movement to frame autism and other conditions such as dyslexia and ADHD as natural human variations rather than disorders. Silberman advocates that neurological differences are authentic forms of human diversity and that often atypical forms of brain wiring also convey unusual skills and aptitudes. He argues that society should honor and nurture neurodiversity and help individuals make the most of their native strengths and special interests, rather than focusing on trying to correct their deficits or normalize their behavior.


The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
by Steve Silberman

This New York Times–bestselling book upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently.

What is autism? A lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more—and the future of our society depends on our understanding it. Wired reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became famous for discovering it, and finds surprising answers to the crucial question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years. Going back to the earliest days of autism research, Silberman offers a gripping narrative of Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger, the research pioneers who defined the scope of autism in profoundly different ways; he then goes on to explore the game-changing concept of neurodiversity. NeuroTribes considers the idea that neurological differences such as autism, dyslexia, and ADHD are not errors of nature or products of the toxic modern world, but the result of natural variations in the human genome. This groundbreaking book will reshape our understanding of the history, meaning, function, and implications of neurodiversity in our world.

Available in paperback and eBook
August 30, 2016; 560 pages


Ambitious, meticulous and largehearted history…NeuroTribes is beautifully told, humanizing, important.

The New York Times Book Review

Essential reading for anyone interested in psychology.

—Temple Grandin

A lively, readable book… To read NeuroTribes is to realize how much autistic people have enriched the scope of human knowledge and diversity, and how impoverished the world would be without them.

The San Francisco Chronicle
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