Many thanks to the author, Dr. Marlo Payne Thurman, and publisher, Future Horizons, for providing a digital ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis (via NetGalley ) :
In Autism Is the Future, Marlo Thurman reveals how cognitive differences are the constructing pieces in understanding those with autism. Through her findings, she shows how those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) constantly challenge assumptions about intelligence and measuring intelligence. Thurman proposes that sensory and cognitive development have evolved together into a very different form of intelligence in those with ASD, and it should be viewed not as a disability but instead as a difference to be celebrated and followed.
Marlo Payne Thurman began working with children diagnosed with ASD in 1986. With group home management and intensive ABA therapy in her early career, she developed a special interest in meeting the unique needs of those individuals who were asynchronously developed into the realms of the “ASD savant.” Most recently, Marlo completed a landmark study proposing an alternative sensory-cognitive difference theory based on her extensive discussions and interactions with diagnosed adults. This research was the foundation for this book.
I was thrilled to get my hands on this book! The topic of neurodiversity and autism is something very interesting to me from a psychology and neuroscience perspective, and Autism is the Future broaches the subject expertly. As mentioned in the synopsis, I appreciated that this book was written as additional collateral from the author’s recent research publication, which meant there was a wealth of information throughout the text. Though it reads with the essence of those more formal origins, the insights and first person accounts from study participants made the book a balanced read and added a diverse, personal voice.
In the book Marlo first dives into a brief historical background on ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) to provide context for her following research. Without spoiling too much, she then proposes an intermediate theory nestled between concepts in the recent neurodiversity movement and older cognitive behavioral theories. The rest of the book discusses origins of the theory’s primary ideas and is supported via quotes and studies. This lent for a very understandable structure, and was well written. The primary talking points of the book also resonated with me as a neurotypical (NT) reader. While I have only indirect experience with ASD via interactions with others I’ve known on the spectrum, I felt the author did an excellent job conveying various sensations, feelings, and experiences. Here the quotes from study participants were again very helpful.
Aside from the studies, it was also refreshing to read a book on ASD where the author actively advocated for celebrating differences and exploring strengths. As mentioned in the book itself, so many publications on ASD focus on individual’s differences as deficits instead of potential indicators of growth, adaptation, and advancement in other areas not fully explored. These gaps in our collective understanding of intelligence surface as something requiring much greater investigation. As the book discusses, further investment in this area should take place in both theoretical and scientific bodies as well as in areas of practical application such as schools. What some classify as ‘non-typical’ learning/intelligence is an area that traditional education has failed to evolve in, and sorely needs to be addressed if we hope to give individuals with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) the best opportunity to succeed. There are many factors to consider here which may not be immediately obvious to NTs, such as the stimulation of the learning environment itself (lights, sounds, physical objects/touch), learning and memory styles, and types of ‘energy’ people draw from.
Overall I felt this book was nearly on par with another one of my favorite nonfiction neurodiversity books, NeuroTribes (although the comparison is a bit like apples to oranges due to content style). Many of the sections had insightful points on memory, creativity, and intelligence that have broad application, and it was an easy read. I’d recommend Autism is the Future to anyone looking to learn more about ASD and the state of recent findings.