PBS sets out to better understand the autism spectrum

PBS Newshour is running a short series on Understanding Autism this week, and if you have 10 minutes to spare, it’s well worth a look. Tuesday’s segment features Steve Silberman, author of
NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.

The rate of diagnosed cases of autism has more than doubled since 2000 and researchers have spent millions looking for causes and cures. In “NeuroTribes,” author Steve Silberman explores the history behind this dramatic increase, arguing it’s just always been much more common than we realized. William Brangham sits down with Silberman to discuss his work.

Silberman also delves into some of the serious harm that has been caused throughout the 20th century by the stigma surrounding autism diagnoses, particularly during the period where it was misdiagnosed as a form of childhood psychosis and otherwise conflated with mental illness.

Wednesday’s segment tells the story of parents and activists who fight for autism acceptance, and the concerns surrounding support for young adults with autism spectrum disorders.

“The story of autism is many stories — from doctors, to parents, to the afflicted themselves. Journalists Caren Zucker and John Donvan examine that history in their new book, “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism.” Jeffrey Brown sits down with the authors to discuss the evolving definition of the diagnosis and the constant of parental love”

Together, the interviews provide a concise look at the history of autism diagnoses, and a glimpse at some of the stories that help define today’s understanding of autism spectrum disorder.

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