Autistic Intelligence

Douglas W. Maynard, Jason Turowetz


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The University of Chicago Pres
8 March 2022
ISBN: 9780226816005
288 pages

From the publisher

An examination of diagnostic processes that questions how we can better understand autism as a category, recognizing its intelligence and uncommon sense.
As autism has become a widely prevalent diagnosis, we have grown increasingly desperate to understand it. Whether by placing unfounded blame on vaccines or seeking a genetic cause, Americans have struggled to understand what autism is and where it comes from. Amid these efforts, however, a key aspect of autism has been largely overlooked: the diagnostic process itself. The authors of Autistic Intelligence ask us to question the norms we use to measure autistic behavior, to probe how autistic behavior can be considered sensible rather than disordered, and to explore how we can better appreciate the individuality of those who receive the diagnosis.
Drawing on hundreds of hours of video recordings and ethnographic observations at a clinic where professionals evaluate children for autism, the authors’ analysis of interactions among clinicians, parents, and children demystifies the categories, tools, and practices involved in the diagnostic process. Autistic Intelligence shows that autism is not a stable category, but the outcome of complex interacting processes involving professionals, children, families, and facets of the social and clinical environments they inhabit. The authors suggest that diagnosis, in addition to carefully classifying children, also can highlight or include unique contributions those with autism make to the world around us.