Journalist Judith Newman’s New York Times article about her autistic son’s connection with the Apple virtual assistant Siri went viral. An accomplished essayist, Newman enlarges on her entertaining, candid tale about the joys and concerns of raising her son. She covers meals, bedtime, playmates and school – all made more challenging by an autistic child. Newman finds the humor in big and small events, and when she’s worn out she asks every mom’s question: “Am I to blame?” The book received glowing reviews, but some in the autism community criticized it. Controversy aside, Newman’s slice-of-life will engage you and open your eyes.
“To Siri, With Love”
For one week, the most viewed, shared and talked-about article in The New York Times was Judith Newman’s report about her autistic son Gus and his beloved companion, Apple’s virtual assistant Siri. The AI device helped her communication-impaired child comprehend nuances of conversation, as it willingly and patiently discussed his favorite subjects and answered his repetitive questions over and over. Readers responded and the story went viral.
One in 68 children in the United States is autistic; one in 42 of those diagnosed are boys. In the 1980s, only one in 2,000 children was diagnosed as autistic, but the diagnosis is growing faster than any other developmental disability. In 2015, the cost of care for people with autism in the United States hovered around $461 billion.
Disabilities occur on a continuum. People associate autism with traits at either ends of the spectrum; a genius savant versus a barely functioning, damaged soul. But most autistic or neurodivergent people, like Gus, fall somewhere in between. The continuum of “autism...
Judith Newman, the author of You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman, contributes to The New York Times, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue and Redbook.