Anne Carpenter’s Book Review

TITLE: Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism-Updated and Expanded Edition (Kindle Edition)

AUTHOR: Prizant, Barry M., Ph.D.

SUBJECT AREA: Autism-General

PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster



This book is the new expanded edition that was first published in 2015. It is divided into two main sections, the first part is Understanding Autism and the second part is devoted to exploring Living with Autism. The author tells a story about a world renowned musician and his wife who had an autistic daughter who was responding well to therapy, but he wanted a second opinion. The musician showed Dr. Prizant a vibrating ball that he wanted to give to his daughter, but was concerned, because the therapist felt it would make her “more autistic”. This starts the author’s discussion of the continuing negativity, fear and bewilderment surrounding autism to this day and his approach to ASD, which is to see it in a different light.

Each chapter includes a description of one specific individual and how his behavior or her responses to what is going on appears willful, defiant or reflective of a much more serious cognitive impairment; instead, the author takes apart what is actually going on and analyzes the situation.  What has been found out is that what appears to be challenging behavior is actually communication or a response to overwhelming sensory stimuli or a need for more sensory input. For example, I used to flick my fingers in front of my eyes to create a cool stroboscopic effect and I was doing that because I needed more visual input.

Throughout the book, everything we thought we knew about autism is turned on its head and there are some fascinating aspects that really grabbed my attention, such as that of emotional memory. A person with ASD will have an emotional memory of something that happened ages ago. A person’s challenging behavior may in fact, be a response to some traumatic event that happened a long time ago. For example, I cannot look at the camera lens arrangement on the newer iPhones because the triangular arrangement looks like the operating room lights when I had surgery when I was a baby! This never goes away and teachers and parents need to take this into account.

The second part of the book delves into the experiences of autism by the “true experts”- people with autism themselves. Many more people need to come to the forefront and describe their experiences in any way they can! As I read the book, I became more and more convinced that autism may actually be a neurological variation rather than a disability per se. In reading the case studies in each chapter, I see people struggling to be heard and to be recognized, only to meet with frustration and disapproval by teachers and professionals who still don’t have an adequate understanding of the sheer complexity and wonder of autism. This book can help light the way and I am so glad I read this valuable work. It is a fascinating book with easy-to-understand language. I wish every teacher, parent and professional had a copy, as you never know when you’ll encounter that absolutely brilliant person with autism who you don’t understand at first.

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