Autism: A Very Short Introduction, Paperback

Autism: A Very Short Introduction Paperback

Part of the Very Short Introductions series

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


What causes autism? Is it a genetic disorder, or due to some unknown environmental hazard?

Are we facing an autism epidemic? What are the main symptoms, and how does it relate to Asperger syndrome?

Everyone has heard of autism, but the disorder itself is little understood.

It has captured the public imagination through films and novels portraying individuals with baffling combinations of disability and extraordinary talent, and yet the reality is more often that it places a heavy burden on sufferers and their families. This Very Short Introduction offers a clear statement on what is currently known about autism and Asperger syndrome.

Explaining the vast array of different conditions that hide behind these two labels, and looking at symptoms from the full spectrum of autistic disorders, it explores the possible causes for the apparent rise in autism and also evaluates the links with neuroscience, psychology, brain development, genetics, and environmental causes including MMR and Thimerosal. This short, authoritative, and accessible book also explores the psychology behind social impairment and savantism, and throughout, sheds light on what it is like to live inside the mind of the sufferer.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area.

These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly.

Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 144 pages, 25 B&W halftones
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Clinical psychology
  • ISBN: 9780199207565



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Because autism manifests itself in so many different ways, it is hard to write a general introduction. And to do so in the limited space of "a very short introduction" is probably impossible. This book doesn't really try -- it doesn't attempt to cover all types, and it is in no way a treatment manual. There is no section on strategies, no advice to those on the spectrum, not even much in the way of diagnostic criteria. A person with high-function autism, trying to self-diagnose, would find little help in this book.What the book does well is describe the various hypotheses about the causes and explanations of autism. In this regard it is helpful -- as long as one does not suffer an autism disorder one's self. Ah, but there is the key word -- the "self." After discussing the five "big ideas" that have been put forward to try to explain autism, Frith's conclusion seems to be that the self of the autistic person is damaged or even missing. Perhaps this is not a condemnation -- a robot is a useful thing even though it doesn't have a self. But what JUSTIFIES the existence of a human being who lacks a self? A person with autism may wish to do good -- but is it possible for this self-less (as opposed to selfless) person to do it? I do not know. Here, the lack of strategies is a devastating lack. To me at least, this book offers no sign of hope. The evidence is clear that there is no cure for autism. Must the victims, then, be comfortless as well?

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