Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism

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I read this right after reading Steve Silberman’s NeuroTribes, which I also highly recommend. In short, Prizant takes his 40 years of experience and presents his insights gained from the numerous cases he’s been exposed to or worked with. Two main themes that run in this book is first to ask “Why?” when it comes to any behaviour that an autistic child exhibits, and second to always have high expectations.

Asking “Why?” is about investigating the reason behind actions. Rather than dismissing a behaviour as “autistic”, Prizant emphasizes the point that autism is a condition of normal human behaviour taken to an extreme. Whether it’s due to hypersensitivity or hyporeactivity, any behaviour that an autistic child displays is in reaction to the environment they’re in. For example, if they’re acting out, the parents or teachers need to play detective and figure out what it is that has set the child off. This part requires keen observation and patience.

Setting high exceptions relates to the reactions of parents and teachers to the autism diagnosis. Prizant points out that while being autistic means challenges of various types depending on the individual, this does not mean not challenging the child to learn to be social, to speak, and to perform academically. What makes this book very practical is how Prizant wove in different cases to show how this can be effectively done.

Uniquely Human is a book that doesn’t only make a case for treating autistic children as whole human beings with talents, strengths and challenges who are just wired neurologically differently than the norm, it also includes numerous cases and practical counsels for parents and teachers of autistic children. This makes it not only a great read, but also a useful reference to come back to from time to time.

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