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The Politics of Autism

Navigating The Contested Spectrum

John J. Pitney Jr.

In the first book devoted exclusively to the contentious politics of autism, noted political scientist and public policy expert John J. Pitney, Jr., explains how autism has evolved into a heated political issue disputed by scientists, educators, social workers, and families. Nearly everything about autism is subject to debate and struggle, including its measurement and definition. Organizational attempts to deal with autism have resulted in not a single “autism policy,” but a vast array of policies at the federal, state, and local levels, which often leave people with autism and their families frustrated and confused.

Americans with autism are citizens, friends, coworkers, sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers. No longer simply the objects of public policy, they are active participants in current policy debates. Pitney’s fascinating look at how public policy is made and implemented offers networks of concerned parents, educators, and researchers a compass to navigate the current systems and hope for a path towards more regularized and effective policies for America’s autism community.

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 180Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4422-4960-8 • Hardback • August 2015 • $38.00 • (£24.95)
978-1-4422-4961-5 • eBook • August 2015 • $36.00 • (£24.95)
John J. Pitney, Jr., is the Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College. He received his B.A. from Union College and his Ph.D. in political science at Yale. He is the author of The Art of Political Warfare and the coauthor of several books, including Epic Journey: The 2008 Elections and American Politics and After Hope and Change: The 2012 Elections and American Politics. In addition to his scholarly work, he has held staff positions in the U.S. Congress and the New York State Legislature. He has written articles for many publications, such as The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, and Politico. He is a frequent commentator on politics and public policy for National Public Radio and American Public Radio. He maintains several blogs, including Autism Policy and Politics.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: A Short History of Autism
Chapter 3: Medicine, Science, and Math
Chapter 4: Education
Chapter 5: Before, Outside, and After the Classroom
Chapter 6: The Future
Appendix: A Timeline of Autism Policy and Politics

The content of this book is more compelling than the title would suggest. Pitney looks at every aspect of autism, dissecting it in intriguing ways. After a brief history of the politics of the disorder, the author examines the dynamic forces that pull discussion of it in myriad directions. These forces includebut are not limited tothe communities of science, medicine, education, and government. Questions about autism are never fully answered because it is almost impossible to do so, given the complexity of the condition: What causes it? How is it defined? What does it mean to have this disorder? What are the implications for society, now and in the future? The author views autism as a political football, and in this book he kicks that football around from one field to another. In doing so, he draws the reader into the book and the enigma of autism spectrum disorders. A fascinating read. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, professionals; general readers.

The Politics of Autism ... achieves something important in setting out and summarizing some current authoritative political discourses surrounding autism, and [provides] a springboard for future discussion and debate.
Disability & Society

Pitneys research presents a picture of a bureaucratic and political disaster, a potential 'tsunami'(p. 108) for families living with autism as these children get older and struggle to secure appropriate employment and housing services. He suggests that while the politics of autism is defined by the uncertainty of the condition, and while autism is also defined by various discourses surrounding the condition, what is missing is the 'voice of the rank and file'(p. 122)autistic individuals themselves. For those who are concerned about the life chances of autistic individuals and want to understand the difficulties of attaining equal life chances for autistic individuals, this book is of great benefit.
Political Science Quarterly

Among the hundreds of autism books now being published each year, this book stands out. It should be the starting point for anyone interested in knowing the dynamics of autism today: the science, the education initiatives, the policy responses. A must for any layperson or practitioner in the field.
Michael Bernick, former director of the California Employment Development Department and fellow at the Milken Institute

Autism matters to everyone. Pitney leaves his reader understanding why this is true and why solutions have proven elusive. The Politics of Autism expertly maps the complex terrain of policy designed to address society’s challenges attributed to autism and provides a solid foundation from which to move forward.
Dana Lee Baker, School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Washington State University