About the Author
I was born in 1948 in Newark, New Jersey. My family moved to the suburbs of New York City before my second birthday. We moved to Levittown and I vaguely remember the excitement of having a TV already built into the living room of our tiny house. My brother, Donald, and I spent many hours as kids watching that set. I remember that my father disapproved of television, an attitude which I thought at the time was hopelessly provincial and old fashioned.
My father was an attorney who worked for Sperry Rand. He died of a heart attack at home. I was only eight years old. My idea to become a physician, I think, stems from the grief I felt with his death. Although I can hardly remember him, his picture is always by my desk. It gives me some kind of comfort.
My mother, then a widower, quickly finished college and became a teacher, a field open to women at the time. My brother and I became latchkey children, given a lot of leeway and responsibility. We freely roamed the streets of Great Neck, NY, returning home for meals and chores. Mom expected dinner on the table when she returned from work, so I learned to cook meals for the family at a young age.
Great Neck, at that time in the early 1960’s, was an upper middle class, largely Jewish, enclave full of bright and politically active teen agers. I was a mediocre student. My mother considered me an underachiever and had the school test my IQ. After I was tested the school agreed. I understood this was a big thing for my mother, but it did not change my academic ways. Later on, when I got an 800 on my math SAT’s, I got the attention of the whole high school for a day but I continued to be a lackadaisical student.
I was very active in the Civil Rights movement in high school. Marijuana and the whole counterculture were just finding their way into suburbs. My friends and I made many pilgrimages to Greenwich Village to observe and emulate the ‘beatnik’ generation.
After graduating from high school, I went to college at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. I had burnt out on political activism and decided to actually focus on my schoolwork to see if I could qualify to get into medical school. My grades, to my astonishment, actually got quite good and soon enough I was applying to medical school. My dream was to go to medical school at UCSF and after a long wait, my dream came true. I was thrilled to be in medical school and in San Francisco, the most beautiful and interesting city that I have found in the world.
I always wanted to be a family practitioner, on the front lines of helping people, getting to know families for the long run. In a strange way, my career has prepared me for this very book. My experiences getting to know people over time in the context of their families and communities has given me the perspective to understand the importance and the workings of social networks. The links of trust, that tie all social networks together and take us to our collective futures and that are so important for all of us, are the daily work of the family practitioner.
The focus on prevention of health problems is another important part of our work as family practitioners. In the end The Pied Pipers of Autism’s most important message is a message of prevention and is aimed at all the future children who are at risk for this disheartening disorder.
As family practitioners, we have to synthesize the findings from the many medical specialties to form a coherent rational practice for the benefit of our patients. This involves integrating studies drawn from many different fields, weighing the important gems from the overhyped pronouncements. This was another skill which proved essential in the formation of this book.
So, in a very real way, the choice of Family Practice prepared me for The Pied Pipers of Autism. The other aspect of my life that prepared me to be the author of this book was my family life. I married shortly after my training was complete and had a family with my first wife, Caroline. Daniel, Emily, and Alex were born five years apart starting in 1975. They have all become fine people and I am very proud to be their father.
And then in 2009, I became a father once again with Roseli, my current wife. So I have had a special opportunity to observe and be a part of three generations. The first was my own childhood, in the 50’s, the second, my first family, in the 70’s and 80’s, and now again with Giovanna. In between, I have been involved with the lives of my patients and their families.
As a result I have an unusually broad personal experience on the nature and norms of childrearing during this period of time and how they have changed. This is of the same time period that ASD has emerged from being a very rare to a very common disorder. My experience comes not from reading a book or looking at a study, but from being there, not just being an observer but a participant in the beautiful process of development in infants and children.
So in short, while I have not spent my life in academia studying autism, I feel my life has prepared me to be the author of this important book.
- Leonard Oestreicher, MD
Where to find Leonard Oestreicher online
This member has not published any books.