A new book by Yuval Levental, “The Pursuit of Knowledge”, deals with the down-to-earth realities of being autistic. Born to an academically oriented family, Yuval pursued a career in engineering. Contrary to the exaggerated embellishments of the Neurodiversity movement, a career in science proved difficult to him, especially as he compared himself to other neurotypicals. Although recognizing that he is better off than many other autistic individuals, Yuval is still severely impaired in attentiveness, organization skills, and socializing. Unfortunately, career educators were not able to recognize his deficits, nor to provide for remedial actions. Autism proved to be a severe disability not a different way of being.
A painful college career was compounded by Yuval’s search for meaning in reading literature accounts of autistic individuals. Indeed, retrospective accounts of historical figures labelled as autistic provided grotesque caricatures aimed at exaggerating fictional cognitive advantages. A case in point is Yuval’s poignant criticism of the recent book Neurotribes by Steve Silberman. The latter book minimizes the plight of autistic individuals while providing a somewhat allegorical narrative aimed at misleading the reader. Unsurprisingly, a better and more realistic perspective to historical figures was provided by Jonathan Mitchell. Jonathan has suffused a great amount of the medical literature with his personal experiences as an autistic individual. Telling the truth of their experience has gained both Jonathan and Yuval grief from a Neurodiversity community that sharply divides the world into friends and enemies.
Despite Neurodiversity’s demonization of the word “cure”, Yuval’s inquisitiveness is displayed as he tried to make sense of his own disabilities. His search has allowed him to ricochet between craniofacial dimorphisms, vitamin supplements, and dietary changes. Tweaking lifestyle changes has allowed him to gain stability and control over his physical and mental health. Now he stands as a self-assured spokesperson, not to be bullied, who is active in social circles using his computer knowledge to publicize his personal perspective on autism. His work has led him to correct articles in Wikipedia, debate the moral value of Autism Speaks, and publish the present book.
This book is a short read with 127 pages and a large font size that is easy on the eyes. The book is organized in chronological order, leading from Yuval’s childhood experiences, to his university struggles and later on to his personal fight with autism. The autobiographical account builds trust with the reader who is left wondering about Yuval’s future but at the same time reassured in a shared feeling that we can always make our lives better. I highly recommend reading this book.