Autism Spectrum Disorders Through the Lifespan, by Digby Tantam

Second paragraph of third chapter:

A variety of brain areas implicated in ASD were considered in Chapters 1 and 2, but no focus in the brain emerged as commonly causing ASD. There is no autism producing lesion. The lesion approach to communication disorders had already been challenged by Geschwind2 who resurrected the connectionist approaches of the nineteenth century. He argued that symptoms occurred not because of an area of brain damage, but because brain areas were disconnected. A connectionist, or network, approach to ASD is now widely accepted, as is the brain’s interaction with the environment. This new network model, and the evidence for it, is considered in the second part of this chapter.
2 Geschwind, 1970

This is a hefty volume on autism spectrum disorders, meant for a more expert and knowledgeable audience than me, but which I’m glad we have as a convenient reference point.

(Incidentally, I was stunned and appalled a couple of years ago when I received an email from a person who had put as part of their signature that they knew the cause of autism: “aged sperm”. My daughters were born when I was 30 and 35; my sperm was not all that aged, I think. This person was just casually putting out offensive misinformation in their email signature, to friends and strangers alike! Mind-blowingly inappropriate!)

The book is pretty comprehensive, looking at the rather slim information we have on physical neurological changes in autistic people – this research is very much a work in progress – and in much more detail at the developmental phenomena and educational and health support that are needed; biased of course towards the US system, but with due note being taken of experiences from elsewhere.

The one topic I would have liked to se a bit more on is autistic regression. Our oldest was developing normally until about 2 years old, then lost much of her ability including her speech. One can speculate that in such a case, the brain is somehow overwhelmed – and permanently damaged – by the need to process all the stimuli that a developing child becomes aware of. But it is mere speculation.

On the other hand, I felt very comfortable with the description of the vast amount of research activity that is going on. As consumers, if I can put it that way, we see only the outputs and the occasional tests that we are invited to participate in ourselves. It’s helpful to know that there is a big academic infrastructure behind it all.

One interesting point that I will have to ponder: do we talk to ourselves mentally when we think? And what does this mean for the cognitive abilities of people who don’t have language?

Anyway, you can get it here.

This was the very last book acquired in 2016 that I got around to reading, and I actually finished it last month, nine months after I finished the last book that I acquired in 2015, so I am speeding up.

Last book acquired in 2016, read in August 2023 (Autism Spectrum Disorders Through the Lifespan)
Last book acquired in 2015, read in November 2022 (Rauf Denktaş, a Private Portrait)
Last books acquired in 2014, read in October 2021 (The Empire of Time and Crashland)
Last book acquired in 2013, read in October 2020 (Helen Waddell)
Last book acquired in 2012, read in May 2020 (A Sacred Cause: The Inter-Congolese dialogue 2000-2003)
Last book acquired in 2011, read in October 2019 (Luck and the Irish)
Last book acquired in 2010, read in January 2019 (Heartspell)
Last book acquired in 2009, read in December 2016 (Last Exit to Babylon)

The unread pile from 2017 is a lot smaller than the 2016 unread pile was last November, so I’ll hope to be expanding the above list again before too long.

That opens up the 2017 books:

  • Shortest unread book acquired in 2017: A Rumor of Angels, by Dale Bailey
  • Non-genre longest on the unread shelf: The Various Lives of Keats and Chapman: Including the Brother, by Flann O’Brien
  • Non-fiction longest on the unread shelf: Will We Ever Speak Dolphin?, ed. Mick O’Hare
  • SF longest on the unread shelf: Major Matt Mason: Moon Mission, by George S. Elrick
  • Top unread book acquired in 2017: Dawn of the New Everything: A Journey Through Virtual Reality, by Jaron Lanier