Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tracing History and Politics of Autism

We worked with John Donvan and Caren Zucker years ago for a piece on autism and love. They came to follow one of the individuals we support at our National Institute for People with Disabilities of New Jersey. 
In their book published this month, In a Different Key: The Story Of Autism, journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker delve into the history of the good and bad intentions, sometimes wrong-headed science, and shifting definitions that can cloud our understanding of what has come to be called the autism spectrum.

In their Tuesday conversation with NPR's Robert Siegel, host of All Things Considered, Donvan and Zucker tell of a particularly dark period in the 1940s when psychiatrists blamed autistic behavior on "refrigerator mothers" — emotionally distant women who, supposedly, didn't love their children enough. "This was a very, very poisonous idea," says Donvan. And it wasn't the last flawed notion about autism's roots.

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