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Geeks, Genes, and the Evolution of Asperger Syndrome

U of New Mexico | English | 2018
by Dean Falk (Author), Eve Penelope Schofield (Author)

In this unusual book an evolutionary anthropologist and her coauthor/granddaughter, who has Asperger syndrome, examine the emergence and spread of Asperger syndrome and other forms of high-functioning autism. The authors speak to readers with autism, parents, teachers, clinicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, other health-care providers, autism researchers, evolutionary biologists, geneticists, paleoanthropologists, and people who simply enjoy reading about science.

Using the latest findings regarding brain evolution and the neurological, genetic, and cognitive underpinnings of autistic individuals at the high end of the spectrum, Falk theorizes that many characteristics associated with Asperger syndrome are by-products of the evolution of advanced mental processing. She explores the origins of autism, whether it is currently evolving, how it differs in males and females, and whether it is a global phenomenon. Additionally, Eve Schofield, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome as a child, provides firsthand accounts of what it is like to grow up as an “Aspie.”

Review
“In this wonderfully engaging book, Falk and Schofield lead the reader through the history of research on autism and Asperger syndrome with discussions of current thinking about these forms of brain functioning, debates about terminology, and links to brain evolution. The authors argue that, rather than seeing high-functioning autism and Asperger syndrome as neurological disorders, they are better perceived as illustrations of the high degree of variability in human brain function and as examples of neurodiversity. Each chapter begins with a scholarly examination of literature and research written by Falk, who is known for her work in paleoneurology, followed by personal reactions written by Schofield, who is herself an Aspie. This is an entertaining and educational book that should appeal to anyone who knows people with autism or Asperger syndrome and professionals from a variety of fields, including those who enjoy reading about science in general.” CWenda Trevathan, author of Ancient Bodies, Modern Lives: How Evolution Has Shaped Women’s Health

“A fresh consideration of autism in the context of human evolution and our strong social brains.” CFred R. Volkmar, coauthor of A Practical Guide to Autism: What Every Parent, Family Member, and Teacher Needs to Know

“This exciting interplay of an evolutionary perspective from a distinguished scientist and grandmother and an autobiographical perspective from her Aspie granddaughter contributes immensely to our understanding of Asperger syndrome as a valuable natural human variation.” CPier Jaarsma, Link?ping University

About the Author
Dean Falk is a Distinguished Research Professor and the Hale G. Smith Professor of Anthropology at Florida State University and a Senior Scholar at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Among her earlier books are Finding Our Tongues: Mothers, Infants, and the Origins of Language and The Fossil Chronicles: How Two Controversial Discoveries Changed Our View of Human Evolution.

Geeks, Genes, and the Evolution of Asperger Syndrome.pdf

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