Book Review: Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism

Prizant bookIf you’re looking for a great book to further your understanding of Autism, look no further than Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, by Barry M. Prizant, Ph.D. This book is an excellent read and equally as informative for those new to autism as though who’ve worked in the field for years.

Dr.Prizant shares stories and theories of autism from over 40 years of experience in the field. He has a Ph.D. in communication and child and human development, and he is a professor at Brown University. He co-authored another book, The SCERTS Model: A Comprehensive Educational Approach.  Dr. Prizant’s insights into the motivations and drives of those with autism are as informative and enlightening as one would expect from such an accomplished expert. In this book, readers should expect to walk away with a fresh lens through which to see children with autism. Dr. Prizant stresses that we should focus not only on understanding their struggles but also recognizing and empowering their strengths. As noted in his intro, Dr. Prizant strives to take readers from “classifying autistic behaviors as signs of pathology, to seeing them as strategies to cope with a world that feels chaotic and overwhelming.” He argues that “instead of curbing these behaviors parents and treatment providers should enhance abilities, build on strengths and offer supports that will lead to a better quality of life.” I loved his empathy and understanding of children as much as I did his appreciation and respect for the experience of parents.

My only qualm was Prizant’s brief discussion about diagnoses early on in the book. It seemed to lack in conceptual understanding of diagnosis and his views seemed to contradict with those espoused later in the book. Beyond that, however, I found myself excited to read such a clear, thorough and positive look at autism. I loved that he empowers parents as the “real experts,” and the chapter on what it takes to “get it” will be especially validating to those who are frustrated by the lack of support and understanding of children with autism.

Overall,  I fall in-line with the many generous endorsements Uniquely Human has received, such as Temple Grandin’s, who said “I love this approach” and Tony Atwood, who said, “It will change our perception and understanding of autism.”  This is one of the best books on autism I’ve read in a long time.

I strongly recommend it for parents and professionals.

Reviewed and Written by:  Adam H. Benton, PhD, Licensed Psychologist at Arkansas Families First, LLC, a child behavioral and mental health clinic in Central Arkansas.