Ido’s book begins by comprehensively documenting the painful boredom that came with spending every single day of his life, starting at three, doing repetitive drills aimed at teaching him to identify simple objects, put names to emotions, and know the alphabet. Because he was non-verbal, Ido was unable to explain that he had already taught himself to read, that he could do basic math, and that he perfectly understood, although he couldn’t express, a full range of emotions. Nor could Ido explain that, in addition to understanding everything around him, he lived in a physical and emotional environment much richer than that which non-autistic people experience. Instead, he was stuck doing, not just toddler drills, but boring toddler drills, eight hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year:
With ever-increasing despair, Ido writes about his realization that institutional myopia condemned him to a lifetime of monotonous drills, unfulfilled intellectual dreams, and intense loneliness. The early part of Ido’s book makes for painful reading, but it is necessary to understand (a) the wonder of what happened when Ido was able to break out of his silent prison and (b) the incredible gift this book is to those who are related to or care for such a person.
One of the ways Ido tried to deal with his almost untenable existence was targeted anger — against the drills and against his parents. Ido’s mother, Tracy Kedar, kept hearing from the experts that Ido’s hostile behavior was just a random outgrowth of a damaged brain. The experts, however, could not drown out her gut instinct that Ido’s rebellious acts were powered by a focused, logical intelligence, rather than mindless acting-out. Once Tracy became convinced that Ido had a fully functioning brain locked into a recalcitrant body, she and her husband sought out someone who could break through Ido’s frustrating physical and verbal barriers. They found that person in Soma Mukhopadhyay, who had taught her own autistic son how to communicate and who believed that she could do the same for Ido.