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Send in the Idiots: Stories from the Other Side of Autism Hardcover – April 4, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nazeer, a successful British government policy adviser, was diagnosed early on with autism; he now seeks out the fate of four autistic classmates at his former New York City school. He first encountered the "idiots" (as one of them called the group) more than 20 years ago, in an unnamed private school that has subsequently closed. In addition to interviewing the former pupils, all but one (who committed suicide) enjoying varying degrees of success in the greater world, Nazeer also visits the school's former director and special-needs teacher to learn how teaching autistic students has evolved. Considered a neurobiological disorder, autism largely confines a child to his or her own mental world. André, for example, living in Boston with his sister, became a competent computer researcher and manages to mediate the challenges of ordinary conversation through the use of a puppet. Randall, a courier in Chicago, demonstrates how early "parallel" play led to a satisfying love relationship (developing empathy is difficult for the autistic). Craig became an accomplished speechwriter until his awkward social skills derailed him, while Elizabeth immersed herself in playing the piano before withdrawing completely. Nazeer delicately interweaves his own story of being "cured" for an enlightening journey through the unreachable mind. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

In the early nineteen-eighties, Nazeer was enrolled in a New York school for autistic children, and this innovative examination of autism is structured as a series of encounters with former classmates, through whose stories he sketches various aspects of the condition. Not surprisingly, those who participated are near the high-functioning end of the spectrum, but Nazeer shows that such normalcy is hard-won and precarious, as in the case of a man whose autistic communication habits make him an outstanding political speechwriter but hinder him in job interviews. Nazeer's own accomplishments—he has a Ph.D. and now works in the British civil service—have caused him to question his diagnosis. Nonetheless, his memorable writing style, humorous but stripped of all subjectivity ("Relationships are complex, not susceptible to rule governance or local coherence"), is superbly adapted to convey something of an autistic's world view.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582346194
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582346199
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #656,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on April 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
From ages four to seven Nazeer attended an experimental school in New York City for autistic children. Twenty years later, he decided to interview his fellow students and write a book about "how they have emerged into adulthood." Out of his dozen or so classmates, three agreed to participate as well as the parents of a fourth who had committed suicide.

The result is an insightful and captivating set of portraits, linked by their subjects' autism, of course, and also by the author's thoughtful consideration of each person.

"Autistic individuals find it difficult to develop intuition or empathy," Nazeer states in his introduction. "So much of what animates our lives - conversation, thought, creativity, friendship, politics - draws on understanding the world of other people....I hope to see more clearly not only the substance of their lives but the nature of the world that lies beyond their reach."

From this earnest premise you might expect an interesting but careful sociological approach. And you would not be wrong, just very short of the mark. Nazeer's portraits are anecdotal, sharp, colorful and funny. He works furiously at understanding, and develops illuminating insights valuable because of his autistic perspective, rather than in spite of it. He is not only entertaining and intelligent, but also eye opening.

The three who agreed to participate are, perhaps inevitably, high functioning. Though none had much in the way of language skills at the outset, two (including Nazeer) now have advanced degrees, one works with computers and the fourth had a committed romantic relationship. All came from fairly affluent families.

Each invites Nazeer to stay in his home.
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Format: Hardcover
Our society has seen explosive growth in the number of people identified as autistic and an even larger growth of those identified as having symptoms on the "autistic spectrum". So I expect we'll see more and more books and articles describing these two populations and probably more books like "Send In the Idiots" which tells the story of autistic people as researched and written by an autistic person.

Reading "Send In the Idiots" by Kamran Nazeer is an interesting experience - as much for the writing style as for the content. Indeed, the writing style tells us as much about Nazeer as his book tells us about the four former classmates that he looks up and interviews 20 years later. I initially found myself criticizing the book's editing until I realized how important it was to the book's message.

For those who think an autistic diagnosis is akin to a death sentence or a sentence of life without the normal joys and disappointments, this book should be a revelation. Nazeer, in overly flowery language and excessive attention to detail, shows us how "normal" autistic people can be after (and if) they can manage the extra challenges that autism forces on them. Obsessive compulsive behavior, echolalia, depression, insecurity, paranoia, sensory overload, and other such companion effects of autism make it difficult but not impossible to live an interesting, satisfying life. And the stories of the four classmates show us that it is dangerous indeed to stereotype people with autism. They are each unique, special, human. In fact, we begin to see in them elements of our own personality and being to wonder if each of us is also on the "autism spectrum".

The book is upbeat and shows that autistic people do "get better", not in eliminating the disability but in coping with it and reducing its constraints. This is a must-read book for anyone interested in autism.
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Format: Hardcover
My son has a diagnosis on the autism spectrum and my bookshelf is overflowing with books about autism. Unlike another reviewer I did not find this book discouraging.

This book gave me a wonderful insight into how it is for my son to learn the mechanics of communication that come intuatively to neurotypical people. And many times the mechanics are much more interesting to the author than the content of the conversation. For example he was told that his teacher had been assaulted by a parent. I was waiting for him to ask and share why this assault took place and what had happend to the parent and child but instead he went on about the conversation itself. I had to laugh because clearly very different aspects of that story were interesting to us and I appreciated that as an insight.

This book reminded me of books I have read by people traveling back to their home to find their roots to explain who they are. What does it mean for him and his old classmates to have autism? What has it ment to their lives? Autism has put odds in their way but has also forced them to become deliberate and resourceful.

So I guess if you are looking for a book that makes you see people with autism as overcoming all obstacles or being doomed or savants then this might not be your book. It is not a book offering knowledge on how to raise your autistic child. It is a book about a few people with autism who struggle and succed and fail much in the same and jet a different way as all of humanity.
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