Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Uniquely Human, by Barry Prizant

Dr. Barry Prizant has consulted with countless families and schools who have children with autism, becoming one of the world's experts in the field.  In Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, he wants the reader to see, first of all, that "autism isn't an illness.  It's a different way of being human."  Working with children and adults with autism isn't a matter of healing, changing, or fixing them.  "We need to work to understand them, and then change what we do."

Dr. Prizant draws from his years of experience, telling stories of families and individuals with whom he has worked to illustrate his perspective.  Anyone who works with people with autism, whether in a professional, personal, or social capacity will benefit from Dr. Prizant's insights.  Per his major theme, that autism is not an illness to be cured, he is gently critical of parents who "harbor the belief that somewhere out there is a mecca of autism services.  There's a school or a doctor or a therapist that just might be able to rid their child of all of the challenges associated with autism."  There is no "magical place" or treatment that will "render a child 'normal' so that families can put autism behind them and move on with their lives."

Accordingly, the best thing to do for someone with autism is "get the child out in the world."  I appreciated Dr. Prizant's advocating inclusive education.  One big reason: "Children learn as much from watching and engaging with their classmates as they do from the formal classroom learning experiences."  Every case is different, but children with autism can learn behaviors from their typical classmates, such as "social and language modeling," they can't learn from their autistic classmates.

Parents and teachers of children with autism will especially benefit from reading Uniquely Human.  All of us, especially those among us with an autism diagnosis, will benefit from Dr. Prizant's perspective that autism isn't something to be healed of, but a different way to live.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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