I recently finished Dr. Barry Prizant’s wonderful Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism. In the first chapter – entitled “Ask Why?” – Prizant details the “behavioral-assessment approach” to autism. He describes this approach as “using a checklist of deficits” and “treat[ing] the person as a problem to be solved rather than an individual to be understood.” Prizant does not consider this approach effective, instead offering the following recommendation:
What’s more helpful is to dig deeper: to ask what is motivating these behaviors, what is underlying these patterns.
For Prizant, only by first understanding a person with autism can you begin to help that person. Uniquely Human offers a great overview of the challenges that people with autism face and how to support them through these challenges, but Prizant never treats autism as something to be overcome. Instead, Prizant shows incredible respect and love for the people with autism that he’s known and shares so many examples of amazing individuals who have thrived as much because of their autism as in spite of it. This is a powerful book, and I strongly recommend you check it out.