Shalom DJ.

I’m a father and I write in an Israeli blog (in Hebrew) about autism from points of view of human rights, ethics and parenting.

I would like to ask for you permission to translate your letter to former teachers post to Hebrew, so Israeli parents will be exposed to the message. It will be a honor to have your permission. And needless to say, I will accept it with honor also if it will not be given. And of course, the Hebrew version (if permitted) will refer to you as the writer and will display a link to the original post.

Many thanks for your insights. Wish you all the best.

from S.G.

I just watched 360 last night — we taped it, as it was a bit late for the Lutz’s. I am very happy that the special focused on the individuals, rather than their parents. I had never heard of Amanda previously. In listening to her talk, though, it pains me to ask the question of how many individuals with autism are not recognized for their potential and not given the chance to communicate and express themselves. I loved seeing DJ, he was such a cute curly headed kindergarten boy, and how he’s so . . . grown, just like Julia’s other buddies from those days. I love seeing that smile, and am continued to be amazed at his insight: again, not because of the autism, but that as a 15 year old, he expresses himself so concisely and eloquently.

I passed the message onto our friends who live in Miami with David, their 6 year old son. They emailed back and were thankful for a “non ‘generic’ special on autism, one that actually gives hope.”

from R.L.

Thanks for your book, for your courage. I am a school psychologist in texas – awaiting your wife’s writings on how to include nonverbal children with autism in the regular school setting.

from A.A.

Dear Prof. Savarese,

I just finished your book, tucked in between trips to therapists, construction of syllabi for teaching next year, teaching a summer course for extra money, writing my own journal, doing floortime, and teaching my sons to read. It was a gift. Thank you.

It’s rare to find a book written in language that seems designed for me, another academic, about the questions and political concerns right at the center of my current intellectual and personal life (and you cite many of my favorite novelists, too). My son is verbal, and compared with DJ has fewer obstacles (he is diagnosed with PDD-NOS), but we too had to struggle to get him into a NT classroom, had to negotiate competing strategies for communication and socialization, had to negotiate career and family and marriage.

I’ve been writing about him and this struggle for four years, a short journal/essay a week to his therapists and my family and friends, and I’ve spoken about it publicly at Sarah, and written a dozen (unpublished) essays just out of anguish, but I’m increasingly unsure about trying to make it into a book for many of the same reasons I believed you struggled with. I have other children, too, and one of my colleagues urged me to expand my “letter” to include their lives (which I have, for the last two years), and the balancing act between my aspirations as a writer, and their privacy needs as a family seems hard to master. And yet you offered me so much with this glimpse into your family.

Again, thank you.

from L.C.Z.

hi, my name is desi, i’m a 26 year old aspie. and i wanted to express some thoughts to you. i finally got around to listening to the interview you did for Diane Rehm, and i want to thank you. not just for writing the book, and for doing the interview, but for what you’ve done for DJ and most of all for the fact that you get it. that you understand that autism is not something that needs to be cured, although there are times that it needs to be compensated for. and this, to me is what you’re doing for DJ. because of my age, and some other factors, i was unfortunate enough not to be diagnosed until i was 23, and this resulted in me not getting a lot of the help i needed. i only just managed to complete hight school, and was unable to complete college… sadly this was partially due to a lack of self understanding that an earlier diagnosis may well have given me. it makes me very happy to hear about cases where others on the spectrum do get the right support and help and are able to be themselves… but in the best way that they can.

once again, thank you.

from D.K.

Mr. Savarese:

Just finished your book and found it incredible. I laughed and cried so much I had no emotions left when I was done. You three are the very essence of what love is. I was profoundly moved by the fact that none of you ever gave up, and it was clearly hell so much of the time. What amazing hearts you have.

I wish you all the best in the future. I was so encouraged to see the news about D.J. and his test results on your website. The only somewhat parallel experience I’ve ever had is in seeing my very premature grandson, now 6, be moved to the gifted program in kindergarten this past year. We were all terrified he would never be able to attend regular school! You just never know, and can never give up.

Please keep us all in the loop on your website as to how you’re all doing. I’d really like to see pictures. I wasn’t sure if the boy on the cover of your book was DJ or not.

Cheers and thank you for writing,

from K.B.

Hi DJ and Mr. Savarese,

I met Mr. Savarese at the Vibe coffee house giving a reading from the book and I had to buy it. I have now finished reading the book and I just wanted to give praise for it. I have many pages tagged and highlighted because what you had to say was something I want to remember. I cited DJ in a school response paper to standardized testing. I am so proud of DJ! Thank you for writing such a powerful book. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

from E.D.

So here we were, my Grinnell freshman and I driving to his tonsillectomy, discussing in the car how to address you in an email. Jacob had given me a signed copy of your book and I had read it, practically in one sitting. He recommended “Professor Savarese” I voted for “Dear Colleague”, Ralph seemed too informal, and before we knew it we were at the hospital.

Two painful (for him) and irritable (for me) weeks later I have still not figured out how to call you. But I have figured out that I better write, regardless, since your book has made an indelible impression. I was struck as a psychologist, a reader, a parent, not necessarily in that order. As a cognitive (not clinical) psychologist I learned a tremendous amount about autism despite the fact that I have close friends with a daughter who has Aspergers, and thought we had been through most if not all of the literature. As a reader I was mesmerized by your ability to teach objective facts, AND allow emotions to run freely, AND make use of wit as well as almost poetic language – all without distancing yourself from the painful and at time almost unbearable subject.
More importantly, as a parent, I can only begin to comprehend what it must be like for you and your wife to be on call and without a real roadmap all the time while consumed by love of and worry for your son.

What haunts me most, I think, is the raw honesty with which you assess your own and your family’s vulnerability and your willingness to take risks. Haunt is the wrong word – I think I want to say admire, or be envious of.

So, your book provided much food for thought both with regard to this seemingly epidemic disease of autism, and with regard to issues of courage, devotion and reason.
Can’t wait to see what you’ll teach my son – eventually.

Cheers, dear colleague, Professor Ralph Savarese.

from F.H.

I was moved by DJ’s story on Anderson 360 Monday night and my heart pours out to this wonderful child. I see in autistics such innocence that I want to reach out and hug them; you must be very proud of your son; you and your wife are so very lucky. I have a condition too; I’m bipolar and gay and feel the world doesn’t understand me at times or rather, that I don’t fit in.

Please tell DJ his story moved me to tears. I feel so sad that he had such a traumatic childhood. I will certainly purchase your book Dr. Savarese.

from J.B.

Your book was phenomenal and I passed it along to a woman I am seeing, a pianist and teacher who has an unusual student that was struck by lightning and then became something of a musical prodigy.

He has been immortalized in a recent book by Oliver Sacks called MUISOCPHILIA… Anyway, Erica loved the book as well and suggested I send a copy to Dr. Sacks. I Just thought you would like to know.

from P.B.

Congratulations on publishing an exceedingly thoughtful and important book. I teach a senior seminar on the Politics of Disability at Michigan State University [a small class of 15]. I assigned your book this semester, and the students are so engaged by the topic that we are planning on driving an hour and a half to see your talk at the Bloomfield Hills Association for Special Education on November 8. Is there any chance that my students would have an opportunity to meet with you and discuss in greater detail some of their questions about the book? I know that you are very busy with the publicity for the book, but we would love to have a chance to personally engage with you on many questions that have arisen in relation to your wonderful book if it is at all possible.

from J.G.

I was researching schools for my son this evening and an image of your book came up on the Potomac School website. That led me to your interview on the Diane Rehm show. God bless you and your wife; you are incredibly good people. I wish you the best with your book and your son.

from E.F.

The most meaningful and memorable reading I did this summer was your book. I have wanted to write you for the past three months or so, but have failed to do so because there was so much to say. Your love and commitment, the interesting information on autism, the additional trauma facing your family, and the way all was presented was done beautifully. The writing and the scholarship were of the highest caliber. I was deeply moved by all I read. Thank you for writing the book.

from G.N.

The article about you in today’s Des Moines Sunday Register touched my heart deeply. What a wonderful service you provided by sharing your lives and selves with others, to help us all learn to understand each other.

One of my grandsons has Asperger’s Syndrome, and like you, DJ, was misdiagnosed — until he was 11. Although he can speak, and does not have to rely on typing, he spent years frustrated and struggling. He was kicked out of regular schools for biting and hitting when he was young, and finally spent a few years in a special school to help him find his focus, and get a fresh start. Now he is attending classes like you are.

Your story helped me understand something of how my grandson Benjamin feels. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and we are in Michellville, Iowa, not far from Grinnell. We are not able to spend much time with him, and I appreciated so much reading about your anxiety, DJ. Thank you.

Benjamin has “meltdowns” which no one understood for years, because he was lost in the crowd of “ordinary (neurotypical) kids. He was not distinctive enough to be identified as someone with a different way of perceiving life, rather than a naughty, undisciplined boy.

I knew that Ben was afraid, but not what to do to help. Your book will certainly be a great inspiration to our whole family. Ben counts on his parents, just as you do, DJ.

Have you read Temple Grandin’s book about herself? She is autistic, with a rare gift for understanding animals and people, and a wonderful writer. In that book (I can’t recall the name of it now), she speaks of her comfort and healing from being touched.

Know that you, DJ, are absolutely on the right track. All of us need to free ourselves — from anxieties, from whatever limits us. Our brains can change, with persistence and focus. A stroke three years ago is teaching me that much of what seemed lost can find new neural pathways.

I look forward to further reading from you both.

from O.W.

I just read your book, Reasonable People, and it’s amazing. I couldn’t put it down; in fact I almost read it through in one sitting.

It’s an incredible life you’ve been living and it was priceless to be able to catch up with you through your book (which was surprisingly revealing and intimate). And the book itself is so masterfully written. You marshal scientific theories, Lacan, a political critique of late capitalism, and much else into such a compelling personal narrative–bravo!

Your book raises a lot of great questions about how we define a family, and how being a parent can radicalize us or make us more conservative.

I’m already composing a mental list of all the folks for whom I plan to buy your book.

I felt horribly when I read about your own health issues.

from A.H.