CRF Blog

Interview of the Day: Steve Silberman

by Bill Hayes

In How Autistic People Helped Shape the Modern World, Wired magazine interviews Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.

WIRED: In your book you write about Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, who did early work on autism in the 1930s. Why is he so important?

SILBERMAN: The more that I discovered about Asperger’s conception of autism, the more it struck me as incredibly prescient. He saw autistic people as a subset of humanity that had accelerated the evolution of science and technology. They were a hidden thread in the weave of culture. They had always been here. Asperger conceived of autism as a condition that lasted from birth to death. It was not just a childhood disorder.

And yet he didn’t get credit for discovering autism. This guy Leo Kanner, who wrote a paper that came out in 1943 in English, got nearly all the credit for discovering it, and Asperger was reduced to a footnote. [more]