For the past few years or so, Wired magazine journalist Steve Silberman has been writing a book about autism and neurodiversity. His claim to fame in the field of autism is a magazine article he published about eleven years ago or so with the somewhat offensive title The Geek Syndrome in which he spoke of the rise of autism in the silicon valley and at the very least implied that math, science and computer genes were the culprit. I've already written about the fact that according to State Regional Center data, the rise of autism in the Silicon Valley has been no greater or less than the rise in diagnoses in other parts of the state. This magazine article was apparently so popular that Silberman has decided to write a much longer book length manuscript with neurodiversity being one of the main themes. I've had dialogues with Mr. Silberman, worried that he might trivialize my horrible disability. He explained to me that was not his intent and convinced me not to judge his book by its figurative cover.
I've awaited publication of Silberman's book with bated breath. For some reason, it's taken him a rather long time to write it in spite of the fact he apparently has a publishing contract and has undoubtedly been paid an advance. Originally, it was supposed to be published in 2013 but apparently it has been postponed until 2014. Judging from the company he keeps with Ari Ne'eman and other sterling individuals from the ND movement, I'm utterly curious as to what he'll write.
Recently Silberman authored a piece in wired magazine nearly a month ago which apparently I regrettably missed. Had I known about it, I would have written a blog about it sooner. Of course, there's the old saying better late than never.
If Silberman's future book is anything like this article my worrying certainly wasn't for naught.
I'd like to dissect certain talking points of the author.
First he quotes the person who coined the word 'neurodiversity' Judith Singer:
By autistic standards, the “normal” human brain is easily distractible,
is obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit of attention to
detail. “I was interested in the liberatory, activist aspects of it,”
Singer explained to journalist Andrew Solomon in 2008, “to do for
neurologically different people what feminism and gay rights had done
for their constituencies.”
My autism distracts me and impairs my concentration far beyond what a nonhandicapped person is capable of. I suspect it's the same in a lot of other people. I wish I could have improved social life and I suspect wanting to have friends and romance is not being obsessively social. Again, there is the offensive comparisons between women's and gay rights, when these people are not disabled and autistic people are.
One reason that the vast majority of autistic adults are chronically
unemployed or underemployed, consigned to make-work jobs like assembling
keychains in sheltered workshops, is because HR departments are
hesitant to hire workers who look, act, or communicate in
non-neurotypical ways—say, by using a keyboard and text-to-speech
software to express themselves, rather than by chattering around the
The reason the vast majority of autistics are unemployed are underemployed is because they have disabilities that impairs them from learning marketable skills such as plumbing, computer programming, going to law school etc. Also, because they have loud voices and poor social skills which most people find offensive. This is certainly true of people on the spectrum perfectly capable of speaking who have no need for keyboards or text to speech software, which certainly includes most members of the ND movement. I'm curious as to what autistic persons Silberman has even met besides Ari Ne'eman and Alex Plank and John Robison who are certainly outliers.
One way to understand neurodiversity is to remember that just because a
PC is not running Windows doesn’t mean that it’s broken.
I suppose this statement is true if the computer is a Macintosh or is running Linux. But a PC is certainly broken if there is a blue screen of death, there are not enough memory chips or the hard drive crashes. This is a better analogy, in my opinion, for autism. A Mac or a Linux computer is certainly functional, but a person with autism is impaired.
Silberman then goes on to give examples of persons with divergent thinking who went on to make great inventions or societal contributions. All of these individuals had dyslexia, not autism, which apparently is the subject of Silberman's forthcoming book. I suppose he could have mentioned Temple Grandin, but examples such as these are the exceptions and not the rule.
I was intrigued to find out that Ari Ne'eman and ASAN are working with the department of labor to develop jobs for autistic people. It's odd that as far as I can tell ASAN has not written about this on their web page or anywhere else. As I've repeatedly said, Ne'eman has never worked a day in his life or filled out a job application or had a job interview. I suspect the same is true for the bulk of graduate students and post doctoral fellows who populate ASAN's memberships and executive board. What the hell do Scott Robertson or Steve Kapp or Sarah Prippas know about employment? I will have to learn more about this if it is true and possibly write a blog post about it in the future.
Glad I encountered this article. I am even more piqued to read a copy of Silberman's book, possibly an advanced copy if I'm ever so fortunate. Sounds like this book if it is ever published must be a doozy.