One of the best things that shines through the book is Ido’s capacity for love. For so many years, autism experts have thought that autistic people have no emotional life. Ido kills that belief forever. Not only is Ido’s a very rich emotional world, it is both an astute and a loving one. Ido’s book essentially takes a sledge hammer to theories that autistic people have no empathy, no ability to read people (which may be true for some people with Asperger’s, but is manifestly untrue for Ido), no theory of mind, and no feelings or that they suffer from cognitive delays, receptive language processing problems, and other learning disabilities.
For me, reading the book was especially eye-opening because it explained so many previously mystifying behaviors I’d seen Ido display. Ido talks about the drug-like pleasure and tranquility he realizes from his stims. For a brain that, rather than being insensible, is hyper-sensitive, stims are a way for the autistic person to control his environment. I also now understand why Ido cannot resist the lure of a swimming pool. The pressure of the water surrounding him makes him connect with his body, so that he is no longer physically lost in space. He absents himself from social gatherings, not because he is not connecting emotionally or intellectually with the people around him, but because the noisy, busy environment overwhelms him. (Imagine constantly wearing a hearing aid turned on full blast.)
Lest you get the idea that the book reads like a pedantic textbook, it doesn’t. In addition to explaining a previously mysterious disability, Ido also writes with a wealth of humor and insight, both about his own condition and about the ordinary adolescent mind. Many people who have read the book will name as their favorite chapter “Austism and the Bossy Women,” which is a microcosm of his world, his wit, and his intelligence:
Women who think they know it all have filled my life.
Wow, do I sound sexist? Not meant to be sexist. It’s another rant.
From my home programs as a little kid, to my OT therapists, to my speech therapists, to my teachers, to many of my evaluators, I have been bombarded with experts who have talked about me with such conviction, who assumed they were right, and who, in many cases, were not. They have almost always been women, for some reason.