Send in the Idiots: stories from the other side of autism by Kamran Nazeer, is a new book being discussed on the autism circuit. Nazeer has autism, and he was enrolled in a special school for autistic children when he was young and lived in New York. Twenty years later, Nazeer re-connected with some of his classmates from those early years. This book is a description of their interactions and an analysis of what it’s like to have autism in today’s world.
My first reaction was an immediate aversion to the title. Idiots? Mother of a child with Asperger’s syndrome, cousin of a more severely autistic adult, and friend of many families with children on the autism spectrum, the word “idiots” struck me negatively. Based on two positive reviews, I bought the book anyway. I’m glad I did.
Send in the Idiots takes its title from an echolalia phrase repeated by one of Nazeer’s classmates. Echolalia is “…the constant disconnected use of a particular word or phrase” (p. 3) that has no meaning to others, but helps the autistic person keep order in his or her own mind. It can be repetitive or associational, predictable to those close to the person, but otherwise meaningless. The title phrase Send in the Idiots doesn’t label the children, as I feared, but is itself an example of an autistic behavior and coping skill.
Send in the Idiots is an easy read. Kamran Nazeer explains technical terms in everyday language and uses effective examples of his own or from his classmates’ lives. In fact, I’ve had to force myself to set the book down at times to resist skimming it too quickly. I want to read thoughtfully and digest every word.