Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Review of "Strange Son" by Portia Iverson

Mr. and Mrs. Iverson have set up a foundation to deal with autism in their and many other individuals' chidlren. Mrs. Iverson wrote this book about her experiences with Soma Mukhopadhyay from Bangalore, India. Soma had managed to teach her severely autistic son, Tito to communicate, write poetry on a laptop, and articulate his thoughts and feelings.

Mrs. Iverson persuaded her foundation to bring Soma and 14-year-old Tito to Southern California for what proved to be an exhausting and exhaustive monthslong effort by a network of neuroscientists and well-wishers to anatomize the miracle that was Tito. But few miracles withstand minute dissection, and this one was no exception.

For one thing, the young poet was still an immensely dysfunctional adolescent who could not remain still for most neurological testing, who was besieged by erratic impulses (like trying to jump out of a minivan speeding down a California freeway) and who became unhinged whenever he was separated from his mother.

His mother was a loner and a bit of an oddball, whose method of cajoling intelligent communication from Tito depended on an alphabet board and a frenetic combination of shouts, gestures and taps on the knee.

But, when Soma finally sat down with Mrs. Iversen’s Dov and begins to prod and cajole him just as she does Tito, their frighteningly inaccessible and uncontrollable child began to use an alphabet board to tap out logical human thoughts.

He wanted a Barbie doll and a blue blazer. He identified that he had known how to read English for three years. His favorite color is red. He thinks his little brother is spoiled rotten. After a few weeks he drops Barbie like a shot when he learns that dolls are for girls.

We learn that Soma’s method works better for some autistic children than others, and is nowhere near being a panacea.

I havent read the book, but it may be interesting. Those of you who have, please drop me a line


Anonymous said...

Just a correction...the author's name is Portia Iversen

Anonymous said...

One correction...the author's name is Portia Iversen

Andrew Livanis said...

Thanks - correction made -