A 13-year-old boy with nonverbal autism who can’t follow basic directions learns how to communicate, upending his life.
Kedar (Ido in Autismland, 2012) is an autism advocate who communicates and writes by typing on an iPad or keyboard and pointing to letters on a board. This book is one of the few novels by an author with nonverbal autism. The tale’s teenage protagonist, Anthony, lives in two worlds: the “Autismland” of his mind, where he can escape for a sensory high afforded him because of his condition, and the realm where everyone else resides—full of baby talk and repetitive drills that specialists employ for his so-called therapy. When Anthony reaches adolescence, a family friend tells his mom about a woman who claims to teach autistic kids to communicate by typing. Anthony’s parents are skeptical, but his older brother, Mark, who has always suspected that his sibling is more intelligent than he gets credit for, insists they give him a letter board. Even though the book’s title contrasts the world of autism to the neurotypical one, this story deftly explores two other realms, offering rich details: Anthony’s frustrating existence before he can communicate and his intriguing life after he gets the letter board. His life pre-board is full of 40 hours of tedious behavioral analysis and therapy every week. His condition causes him to “stim,” or self-stimulate utilizing a repetitive behavior like hand-flapping. Once he starts using the board to express himself, he can order from a menu, write in full sentences, and even make jokes at the expense of his therapists, who continue to doubt his abilities. The engrossing and highly informative tale is smoothly told in the third person from Anthony’s point of view except for a few chapters that switch abruptly. For example, the story shifts to the perspective of Natasha, one of his supervisors, in “Skeptical,” despite Anthony’s not being physically present during this part of the novel.
A must-read for those with nonverbal autism, their caregivers, and anyone wishing to learn more about the condition.