It took me a long time to read Judith Newman’s autism parenting memoir To Siri With Love, despite the author herself courteously sending me a copy. I had to nudge myself to keep going, because I don’t like reading books that treat autistic people as inscrutable annoyances. I also dragged my feet due to more personal preferences: books written in breezy airport-bookstore-ready voices are not my thing, plus Newman’s sense of humor put me off: Getting a discount on a hotel room because a kid was recently eaten by an alligator onsite is not amusing to me, for instance.
Others have written extensively about why To Siri With Love is flawed, and you should read what they have to say. But one of the primary problems with the book is that, when it talks about autism, it recycles outdated and stigmatizing cliches. Despite the two years since the award-winning neurodiversity explainer and history NeuroTribes was published, and despite Newman being a journalist, To Siri features common misconceptions, like insisting all autistic people lack theory of mind (long-established research clarifies that the issue is actually one of “double empathy,” in which negative assumptions from non-autistic people about autistic people are most of the problem.)