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For parents of autistic children, the realization often comes slowly. A worry, a pang, a sinking feeling when trying to play with the new baby, who seems - uninterested, even unreachable.

What could be wrong? If it is, in fact, autism, it is not the end, but the beginning of a journey.

First seen as a medical oddity, the story of autism is both fascinating and troubling. Autism was first described and named in the 1940s, in the heyday of psychoanalysis. Brilliant and charismatic doctors concluded the disorder was caused by nurture – not nature. In short, it was the parents’ fault. They were branded with the heartless label: “refrigerator mothers.”

Bernice Landry explores how our understanding of autism has taken an about-face in recent years. Scientists and an army of activist parents are beginning to make up for lost time, to shine new light on the darkest secrets of our genes.

In episode 2 we hear the story of Darius McCollum, a serial impersonator whose obsession with trains has lead him to spend much of his life in jail. Darius has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a version of autism.

Listen to Episode 1
(.ram file runs: 54:00)

Listen to Episode 2
(.ram file runs: 54:00)

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Book List

Madness on the Couch: Blaming The Victim In The Heyday of Psychoanalysis
by Edward Dolnick, published by Simon & Schuster, 1998.
Historical analysis that also covers the history of obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.

Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World Of Autism by Roy Richard Grinker published by Basic Books, 2008.
Personal history of an anthropologist whose daughter is autistic, nice overview of issues, also discusses autism worldwide.

Nobody Nowhere: the Extraordinary Autobiography Of An Autistic by Donna Williams published by Avon, 1994.
Beautiful and unusual autobiography—Williams also written other fascinating books on the experience of being autistic.

Autism: Explaining The Enigma by Uta Frith, published by Blackwell Publishing, 1989.
Excellent in-depth overview of the topic.

The Essential Difference: Male And Female Brains And The Truth About Autism
by Simon Baron-Cohen, published by Basic Books, 2004.
Interesting reading on gender and autism.

Different Like Me: My Book Of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder (Author), Marc Thomas (Illustrator), published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006.
Kids’ book on famous people thought to be autistic.

Born On A Blue Day: Inside The Extraordinary Mind Of An Autistic Savant
by Daniel Tammet published by Hodder Paperback, 2007.
Autobiography of a young British man with fascinating gifts.

Not Even Wrong: Adventures In Autism by Paul Collins, published by
Bloomsbury USA, 2005.
Quirky, unusual, highly readable father’s memoir.

Related Websites

Government of Canada Website

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Kennedy Krieger Institute

Autism Speaks

Donna Williams’s Website

Roy Richard Grinker’s Website

Dr. Paul Shattuck

Edward Dolnick's Website


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