Autistic Intelligence: Interaction, Individuality, and the Challenges of Diagnosis
by Douglas W. Maynard and Jason Turowetz
University of Chicago Press
Cloth: 978-0-226-81598-5 | Paper: 978-0-226-81600-5 | eISBN: 978-0-226-81599-2

Examines the diagnostic process to question how we understand autism as a category and to better recognize its intelligence and uncommon sense.

As autism has become a widely prevalent diagnosis, we have grown increasingly desperate to understand it. Whether by placing baseless blame on vaccinations or seeking a genetic cause, Americans have struggled to understand what autism is and where it comes from. In Autistic Intelligence, Douglas W. Maynard and Jason Turowetz focus on a different origin of autism: the diagnostic process. By looking at how autism is diagnosed, they ask us to question the norms we use to measure autistic behavior against, why we understand autistic behavior as disordered, and how we go about assigning that disorder to particular people.

To do so, the authors take a close look at a clinic in which children are assessed for and diagnosed with autism. Their research draws on hours observing assessment evaluations among psychologists, pediatricians, parents, and children in order to make plain the systems, language, and categories that clinicians rely upon when making their assessments. Those diagnostic tools determine the kind of information doctors can gather about children, and indeed, those assessments affect how children act. Autistic Intelligence shows that autism is not a stable category, but the result of an interpretive act, and in the process of diagnosing children with autism, we often miss all of the unique contributions they make to the world around them.
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