Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism

Essential reading for any parent, teacher, therapist, or caregiver of a person with autism: a groundbreaking book on autism, by one of the world’s leading experts, who portrays autism not as a tragic disability, but as a unique way of being human.

Autism is usually portrayed as a checklist of deficits, including difficulties interacting socially, problems in communicating, sensory challenges, and repetitive behavior patterns. This perspective leads to therapies focused on ridding individuals of “autistic” symptoms. Now Dr. Barry M. Prizant, an internationally renowned autism expert, offers a new and compelling paradigm: the most successful approaches to autism don’t aim at fixing a person by eliminating symptoms, but rather seeking to understand the individual’s experience and what underlies the behavior.

In Uniquely Human, Dr. Prizant suggests a major shift in understanding autism: Instead of classifying “autistic” behaviors as signs of pathology, he sees them as part of a range of strategies to cope with a world that feels chaotic and overwhelming. Rather than curb these behaviors, it’s better to enhance abilities, build on strengths, and offer supports that will naturally lead to more desirable behavior and a better quality of life. In fact, argues Dr. Prizant, attempts to eliminate “autistic” behaviors may actually interfere with important developmental processes.

While it never discounts the difficulties of living with autism, Uniquely Human offers inspiring stories, and practical advice drawn from Dr. Prizant’s four-decade career working in universities, schools, hospitals, and in private practice. It conveys a deep respect for people with autism and the qualities that make them special. Filled with humanity and wisdom, Uniquely Human offers a compassionate and insightful perspective that parents, professionals, and family members will find uplifting and hopeful.

Meet the Author

Barry M. PrizantBARRY M. PRIZANT, PhD, CCC-SLP, is among the world’s leading authorities on autism, with more than forty years of experience as a scholar, researcher, and international consultant. He is an adjunct professor at Brown University and coauthor of The SCERTS Model: A Comprehensive Educational Approach, now being implemented in more than a dozen countries. Dr. Prizant has published more than 120 articles and chapters, and has received many awards including the 2014 Honors of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2005 Princeton University-Eden Foundation Career Award in Autism, and the 2013 “Divine Neurotypical Award” of GRASP. Dr. Prizant lives in Cranston, RI, with his wife, Dr. Elaine Meyer, and their teenage son.

Tom Fields-Meyer is author of the critically acclaimed memoir Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love from His Extraordinary Son, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. A former senior writer for People, he lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. His work has appeared in The New York Times MagazineThe Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.

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