Portia Iversen was an award-winning art director and television writer whose
life changed irrevocably when her son Dov was diagnosed with autism at the
age of two. As she and her husband, Jon Shestack, desperately sought
treatments for Dov and struggled to understand what was happening to him,
they were stunned to learn that almost nothing was known about the disorder
and only a handful of researchers were even studying it.
Faced with little hope of a medical breakthrough in Dov's lifetime, Iversen and
her husband started the foundation Cure Autism Now, knowing that speeding
up the pace of autism research might be the only meaningful thing they could
do to help their son.
While the foundation and autism research took off, Dov remained profoundly
autistic. One day Iversen heard about a severely autistic nonverbal boy in India
whose mother had taught him to read, write, and communicate. Soma
Mukhopadhyay's methods were unorthodox and her tools surprisingly simple
ójust a piece of cardboard with the alphabet written on itó but her
achievement was astonishing: not only could Tito communicate, but he had an
IQ of 185 and wrote beautiful poetry. Iversen realized that Tito could provide
an unrivaled window into autism, and she organized a visit to the United States
for he boy and his mother and arranged for some of the country's top scientists
to study him.
Strange Son is the captivating account of these two families and how their
personal journeys into autism intersected for a time and allowed Tito to explain
to scientists the startling differences in his sensory perception, giving them
insights that reframed the very definition of autism. Iversen writes of her quest
to understand Soma's teaching methods, of her own journey to learn how to
communicate with Dov, and of Soma's success in teaching hundreds of
autistic children, posing the possibility that this could be a new form of
communication as important as sign language or Braille.
Strange Son is the powerful tale of two mothers from opposite sides of the
world who, united by their fierce determination to help their severely autistic
sons, have challenged everything we thought we knew about autism.