However, Asperger’s Children is not just the record of one individual’s weak-willed acquiescence in evil. It’s also a chilling indictment of an entire system. ‘The mission to eliminate undesirable children,’ Sheffer writes, ‘mirrored the Reich’s ambition to eliminate undesirable populations’.
Her book is a terrifying expose of how doctors and psychiatrists cruelly abused the powers they had over troubled children.
An Elephant in Rome
" January 1, 2021 Read this issue IN THIS REVIEW AN ELEPHANT IN ROME Bernini, the Pope and the making of the Eternal City 224pp. Pallas Athene. £19.99. Loyd Grossman Acheerful bricolage of biography, art history, trivia and travelogue..."
— Times Literary Supplement
Edith Sheffer argues in Asperger’s Children that, regardless of the science, and regardless of whether autism is one condition or several, it remains steeped in the cultural values of its Nazi origins, and in the idea of a model personality: obedient, animated by collective bonds, socially competent, robust in mind and body... Her book does not offer a univocal message. It explores the various ways in which, over time, cultural ideals shape ‘scientific’ diagnoses, and vice versa... Sheffer is clear: autism in its severe forms is about underlying biology; but what we now call Asperger’s syndrome is a cultural artefact. If the terms ‘autism’ and ‘Asperger’s’ have gained momentum recently, that may be in part because of a rise in environmental triggers, but it’s also because our children’s minds are again under intense scrutiny – though for different reasons. In our era of networking and social media, of ‘ghosting’ and attention-grabbing individuation, we’re anxious about their ability, metaphorically and literally, to get the requisite ‘likes’.