I’m an autistic parent of autistic kids. I feel sorry for Gus, not because he is autistic, but because his primary caregiver is a dangerous and poisonous person who dehumanizes and demeans him. This book is deeply ableist and eugenicist. It is full of ableism and emotional abuse. It is the toxic distillation of autism warrior parent pathologies. Gus is treated like a project, not a person. No one should treat a kid like this, autistic or otherwise. Reading without retching and crying is hard.
This book is harmful. It compromises the safety and security of autistic people. It contributes to social biases that prevent autistic people from getting the support they need. Almost everything it advocates is contrary to the recommendations made by autistic people themselves.
Autistic people, like all people, need acceptance, patience, and love. We don’t need to be fixed. We need to be accepted. First and foremost, we need to be accepted by our own families. We need to feel loved and safe in our own homes. We need respect for our stims, our special interests, and our privacy. This book is devoid of such respect.
That this book has gotten so many good reviews betrays a societal lack of empathy and critical capacity. A pernicious stereotype about autism is that autistic people lack empathy. To be openly autistic is to encounter and endure this supremely harmful trope. One of the cruel ironies of autistic life is that autistic folks are likely to be hyper-empathic. Another irony is that neurotypicals and NT society are really, really bad at empathy and reciprocity. When your neurotype is the default, you have little motivation to grow critical capacity. Marginalization develops critical distance and empathic imagination. The truly empathically impoverished are those who think treating any human being the way Gus is treated by his own family is acceptable. This book disturbingly illustrates the double empathy problem.
I recommend the piece “How ‘Autism Warrior Parents’ Harm Autistic Kids” on The Establishment. It has the number of this author. It describes the stereotypical Autism Warrior Parent that is all too familiar to autistic people. This book is peak Autism Warrior Parent. Do not be like the author. Seek instead the actually autistic community. We are the ones best equipped to help. Find us in the #ActuallyAutistic and #AskingAutistics hashtags on Twitter and other social media. Read our impressions of this book in #BoycottToSiri.
I’ll conclude with some relevant quotes from “How ‘Autism Warrior Parents’ Harm Autistic Kids”.
Autism Warrior Parents (AWPs) insist on supporting their autistic kids either by trying to cure them, or by imposing non-autistic-oriented goals on them — rather than by trying to understand how their kids are wired, and how that wiring affects their life experience. Ironically, an AWP’s choices not only interfere with their own kid’s happiness and security, but contribute to social biases that prevent autistic people of all ages from getting the supports they need. Worst of all, by publicly rejecting their own children’s autism and agency, and by tending to hog the autism spotlight, AWPs are partially responsible for the public’s tendency to sympathize with parents rather than autistic kids — which, at its most extreme, can mean excusing parents and caretakers who murder their autistic charges.
Autism Warrior Parents are those who, for whatever reason, refuse to accept their autistic child’s actual reality and needs, and instead put their energies into absolute change or control of that child.
I suspect the main problem with Autism Warrior Parents is that, in treating autism as something to “fight” or “defeat,” they commit themselves to battle with an important part of their own child’s life.
Enmeshed in fear and loathing toward autism, they (AWPs) condition themselves to forget that their children are fully human, and that humans respond best to compassion.
For more pull-quotes, see this thread.
I often write on neurodiversity and the social model of disability. The social model is the antidote to the AWP mindset. Neurotypical parents, life for you and your autistic loved ones will get better once you accept the social model.
- Education, Neurodiversity, the Social Model of Disability, and Real Life
- I’m Autistic. Here’s what I’d like you to know.
- Presume Competence: A Hippocratic Oath for Education
- Autistic Burnout: The Cost of Coping and Passing
- Autistic Empathy
- The Double Empathy Problem: Developing Empathy and Reciprocity in Neurotypical Adults
- Atypical and Autism Representation
- Eye Contact and Neurodiversity
- Navigating Autism Acceptance Month and Autism Myths
- The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed
- Identity First
- Neurodiversity Library
- Interaction Badges
- Ben Foss on Dyslexia and Shame
- Compassion is not coddling
- Neurodiversity and Gender Non-conformity, Dysphoria and Fluidity
- Bathroom Bills, Neurodiversity, and Disability
- Neurodiversity and Cognition Representation
- Rules of Thumb for Human Systems
- Mindset Marketing, Behaviorism, and Deficit Ideology
- Inspiration Porn, Growth Mindset, and Deficit Ideology
- When Grit Isn’t Enough
- The Effects of Authority, Compliance, and Pathologizing Students
- Communication is Oxygen
I posted this review on Goodreads and Amazon.
Reviews by other autistic folks:
- TO SIRI WITH LOVE: The Oppression of Neurodivergent and Marginalized Points of View – elizabethroderick
- Why I Believe ‘To Siri With Love’ By Judith Newman Is A Book That Does Incredible Damage To The Autistic Community
- Dear Judith Newman, I’m Writing this For You because You Didn’t Write For Me | crippledscholar
- Why To Siri With Love Is a Wrecking Ball of a Book
- Why we must #BoycottToSiri / An open letter to Judith Newman
- Judith Newman | Stop The BS and Evolve into an Actual Autistic Ally #boycotttosiri
- Review of TO SIRI WITH LOVE by Judith Newman
- #BoycottToSiri Needed To Happen Because Ableist Autism Parenting Memoirs Need to Stop Happening
- Autistic Moments: Autistics Should Be Sterilized
- Thoughts on To Siri With Love
- To Judith With Love…or maybe not.
- book analysis: To Siri with love by Judith Newman
- Review of TO SIRI WITH LOVE by Judith Newman
- #Autistics and #AutisticCulture Mocked by Judith Newman & Friends
- THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: The Toxicity of “Autism Parent” Memoirs
Tweets and threads by autistic folks:
“Arguing with an autism mom about autism is like arguing with an astronaut about what it’s like to walk on the moon.”
“No, it’s like arguing with an astronaut’s mom about what it’s like to walk on the moon.”
10 thoughts on “An Actually Autistic Review of “To Siri with Love””
Reblogged this on American Badass Activists.
ty ty ty for writing this and all the other articles you do. would love to chat with you more about these things. soon as I can get over my awkward shyness of your elite coder status. damn, i love wordpress since back in the day. 🙂
I read this before I read about the boycott and thought, “Wow, this is really mean-spirited”.
She describes him like he’s an annoying piece of toilet paper on her shoe. I don’t have kids on the spectrum but I hope I’d be kinder to them than she is.
Thank you for linking my The Naming of Names blog post. While it’s relevant to To Siri With Love, it’s not actually a review of it.
This one, however, is my response to Judith: