Living on the Spectrum: Autism and Youth in Community by Elizabeth Fein
How youth on the autism spectrum negotiate the contested meanings of neurodiversity
Autism is a deeply contested condition. To some, it is a devastating invader, harming children and isolating them. To others, it is an asset and a distinctive aspect of an individual's identity. How do young people on the spectrum make sense of this conflict, in the context of their own developing identity?
While most of the research on Asperger's and related autism conditions has been conducted with individuals or in settings in which people on the spectrum are in the minority, this book draws on two years of ethnographic work in communities that bring people with Asperger's and related conditions together. It can thus begin to explore a form of autistic culture, through attending to how those on the spectrum make sense of their conditions through shared social practices.
Elizabeth Fein brings her many years of experience in both clinical psychology and psychological anthropology to analyze the connection between neuropsychological difference and culture. She argues that current medical models, which espouse a limited definition, are ill equipped to deal with the challenges of discussing autism-related conditions. Consequently, youths on the autism spectrum reach beyond medicine for their stories of difference and disorder, drawing instead on shared mythologies from popular culture and speculative fiction to conceptualize their experience of changing personhood.
In moving and persuasive prose, Living on the Spectrum illustrates that young people use these stories to pioneer more inclusive understandings of what makes us who we are.