Ido in Autismland : Book Review


Ido in Autismland by Ido KedarIdo_in_Autismland_Cover_for_Kindle

Although I am not an expert in this area, I believe that this will be a landmark book for families, educators and any professionals who work with young people with autism. It is a book of short essays written by a 15 year old about his experience with his condition starting with some pieces written when he was 12 years old.

What is unusual, unique and very important about this author is that he cannot speak and only when he was about 11 years old did he begin to communicate by pointing to letters on a letter board. Up to that point no one had any idea that he was an above average intelligent kid who began to read when he was about three years old. He was terribly frustrated by being treated by well meaning experts in autism and education by drilling him on simple exercises meant for a three year old child who was having trouble learning. He was asked to point to his nose which he often could not do and was judged accordingly.  Even when he began to point to letters and make intelligent sentences, just about everyone thought that his mother was guiding his hand since she had to steady it for him to point. It took his father, who is a scientist, two more years before he was convinced that his son was truly communicating fully formed intelligent sentences. The problem would seem to be that he could not control his body. He often would have great difficulty even signaling that he could make even  simple calculations or understood basic concepts.  This was further complicated by his arm flapping which would occur when he was anxious which he referred to as “stims” . Other times he would do unexplainable pieces of behavior such as pulling his Mom’s hair or that of beloved aide when he was frustrated or embarrassed. This pattern of behavior is common in many children who fall under the rubric of autism except they are usually not recognized to understand things and mainly have trouble in controlling their bodies to communicate. Instead they are often deemed “retarded” and/or  “developmentally handicapped.”

Ido believes that he is not “one in a million” and that he has had indication that many of his friends with non verbal autism are as frustrated as he used to be. Once Ido proved he could communicate with a letter board and then on the keys of a computer, a new world opened up to him. He was put in mainstream classes which he would attend with an aide and has entered high school with the aspiration to go to college. It is a constant uphill battle, as while the administrators of his middle school were very supportive, he found that was not the case of the first high school which he entered. Obviously, it did takes a great deal of resources and some special accommodation to allow him to function in a regular high school environment. After transferring to a second high school he seemed to be quite adjusted as he continues forth.

This book traces his progress as well as clarifying many of his characteristics and experiences. For example he sees people in different colors such as red blue, yellow etc. which are related to their emotional state perhaps in relationship to himself. He is also very sensitive to sound and appears to have very keen hearing . He therefore at times gets overwhelmed by loud noises, certain music. being in the presence of multiple people talking . These and other situations can cause him to have what would appear to be overwhelming panic attacks. This is not only experienced as severe anxiety but it intensifies uncontrolled movements of his body. Over the years he has found that various types of physical training and exercise actually improved his self control, something that was not initially recognized as it was neglected in any attempts to assist him.

I found it interesting, as a psychiatrist,  that he did not mention whether or not he was given a trial on any anti-anxiety and anti-panic medications which are believed to directly  effect various pathways in the brain which are involved when people have such overwhelming emotions. I would imagine that the medical experts in this field have evaluated the  effect of such drugs as an adjunct to his treatment program but if they have not, it certainly should be done.

Ido frequently mentions that he knows that he has an illness that places many limitations on him but he prefers to focus on what he can do and what he hopes to be able to do in the future. He also is dedicated to teaching the public as well as families of children with autism and experts about the potential of people like himself.   Ido would probably say “so called experts” since he has a sense of humor and he is keenly aware of how so many experts have misinterpreted his abilities). Not only is he becoming an advocate but he must be also considered to be a hero for so many people who are locked in the land of autism. 

For a view of brief video clip of Ido at a meeting as one of his speeches is read go to:

 (This book can be purchased through AMAZON by clicking the AMAZON link in the right hand column)

The Broderick Curse- Book Review

The Broderick Curse, the second novel by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst David Peretz is reviewed. The storyline continues to follow New York City detective Ross Cortese who was introduced in the author’s first novel, The Mosel Legacy. The discovery of a skeleton in a car underwater in the Berkshires leads to some international intrigue in a fast moving suspenseful plot in the tradition of great detective novels.

David Peretz’s second novel comes out about nine years after the first one and picks up the story of NYC Police Detective Ross Cortese about 15 months after we last met him. Broderick CurseHe is now chief of Major Crimes . He is living with his Viennese girl friend Willi whom he met in the first novel.

A skeleton of the driver behind the wheel of a Mercedes found under an iced over pond in the Berkshire becomes a warmed up cold case for Sally McDevitt, Chief of Detectives of the Massachusetts State Police who previously worked for the NYPD and is an old friend of Ross. The identity of the body appears to be the former CEO of a multinational conglomerate in New York City so Sal and Ross team up together on this case, which involves international finance, romance and murder.

Peretz has grown as a mystery writer with this novel. The 324 page soft covered edition which I read has 96 chapters plus a preface and an epilogue. The average chapter is about three and a half pages and some of them are only a single page. This literary device of many brief chapters allows the reader to move back and forth to locations on the east coast and Europe and be privy to various events many of which are taking place simultaneously. The author combines this approach with a technique of frequently sharing the character’s inner thoughts as well as the words he or she utters. This adds up to a fast moving story line but with a  rich development of the characters.

The author’s knowledge of psychiatry is brought into play in several ways in this book. Not only were there complicated characters who were anxious and depressed at various times but some of them spoke of their dreams. There was also an important person who had been a high functioning secretary or a key assistant in today’s parlance. Due to a series of events she became a bag lady living in the streets and appeared to have a speech pattern indicating a thought disorder of a major psychiatric disorder. She then began to show a flight into mental health all related to the plot of the story. Another important character in the story had a consultation with a psychiatrist. This encounter included issues of countertransference and even hypnosis. Needless to say there were also some complicated interpersonal issues.

The author also appeared to have good insight into how smart detectives think and work. He was able to weave their approach to the case at hand with their personal lives. Similarly suspects and the other people that we met in the story came to life as real people. This was topped off this with good pacing which turned into a page turner at the end of the book complete with suspense and unpredictability. He has put himself into the major leagues of detective novels . If Dr. Peretz decides to spend more time away from behind the couch in order to turn out a few more of these novels, I think he should find a ready and grateful audience.

Take Five with the Author

Peretz, David 225_portrait_-1The following are five questions which the author was kind enough to answer for me and I would like to share with you.

Q-  How did you decide to write detective novels?

In the early 1990’s, I wrote a pilot for a television series, “Dan Bruce”, based on the exploits of    colleague and dear friend, the late Bruce Danto, M.D.  (Fullerton, CA). Bruce was a forensic psychiatrist.  The teleplay was optioned twice, but not produced.  When I read about the rise of neo-Nazism in Germany and Austria, as someone who had come of age during World War II, with my mother’s family perishing in the Holocaust, I said to my wife, “I’ve got to do something about this.” I wrote a screenplay, “A Legacy of Vienna” which was not sold. My wife suggested that I write it as a novel, and it became  “The Mosel Legacy.”

Q- Do you research the subject matter of your books and if so , how do you go about doing this?

I did library research on Vienna and the rise of Nazism. After completing the   novel, we visited Vienna and I checked out the accuracy of locations. (This refers to his first novel The Mosel Legacy previously reviewed in this blog.-MB)

Q- In your second novel The Broderick Curse you appear to bring in  your psychiatric background ie dreams, visit to a psychiatrist and even hypnosis. Do you plan to do more of this in future novels?

My psychiatric background helps me to develop character and conflict.  I’m currently working on the third in the series of Ross Cortese novels titled “Revenge.” There will be a psychiatrist consultant brought in by the Major Case squad.

Q- One of the characters in The Broderick Curse is shown to have been a high functioning secretary who then becomes a bag lady with examples of thought disorders but yet this change seems to have occurred because of circumstances in her life rather than her being schizophrenic. Would you care to comment if you meant for this character to have a specific major psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia?

I did not mean for Helen to suffer from schizophrenia; if anything,  depression and paranoid fantasies.

Q- Will you be devoting more time to producing more novels in a shorter period of time and will they continue to follow your NYC detective?

I practice full-time (Monday-Thursday)–  and write on the weekends, aiming for about fifteen hours between Friday and Sunday ( see also question #3)

Mosel Legacy:Review of Psychiatrist’s 1st Novel

This a book review of psychiatrist Dr. David Peretz’s first novel. It is a suspense thriller which tells the story of New York City detective Ross Corese as he travels to Vienna to learn about the history of some antique furniture which has been given to him by his father. He discovers more than he would imagine he would find about the origin of the furniture and about himself. The rise of the Nazi’s in Europe in 1938 and well as the modern rise of neo Nazism in Austria are all weaved into the story. There is romance, mystery and politics which adds up to a very good first nove.

The Mosel Legacy, novel by David Peretz,  Disc-Us Books,  p 199

Mosel Legacy

        David Peretz, M.D.
David Peretz, M.D.

When David Peretz sent me an email and asked  if I would be interested in reviewing his two novels, I was thrilled with the prospect of doing so. I don’t believe that I have met him previously although we shared several professional interests. When I opened to the first page of the book and saw that it was set in Vienna in March 1938 , which was few months before Sigmund Freud escaped from that city with his daughter Anna. I thought for sure that this psychiatrist and psychoanalyst  author was  going to include the father of psychoanalysis  somehow in his story. For the first part of the book, I kept waiting for my fantasy to turn out to be true but actually the word Freud was only mentioned once in the book in passing and that was as in a description of Vienna, noting  the great minds that lived and worked in this once vibrant city.

Instead, Peretz presented in his first published  novel a  suspense thriller which led a modern day New York City detective to travel to Vienna on a personal quest and an odyssey in which he discovered more than he ever imagined he would find. Ross Cortese is an Italian –American recent widower who has a great relationship with his grown kids and his parents. He is need of some cash and decides to find out if some antique furniture given to him by his father  has any value. After a visit to a prominent NYC  auction house he realizes it is quite valuable . Word gets back to  Erich Hanfnagel, a wealthy  Viennese business man collector who learns that these items of furniture made by Kirmen Mosel, a famed furniture maker,  have surfaced and would complete his collection of these great pieces . He sends his beautiful daughter Willi to visit Cortese and the web of  intrigue, romance and danger  begins to spin.

The novel was published in 1999 and has some important events happening in 1938 but mostly takes place in 1990. The political setting depicted in Vienna reflects the real rise of neo Nazism taking place in Austria at that time. While not mentioned by name in the book The Freedom party led by Austrian politician Jorg Haider was appealing to a still present anti-Semitism and nostalgia for the Third Reich which was an undercurrent in the city. Peretz personalizes this ferment in the plot of his  story as his hero Ross Cortese while trying to find out the true story about the furniture and his family history encounters the Hanfnagel family and their cronies.

In the early part of the novel I was reminded of the more or less stereotyped detective stories that we all read which in this case  had a touch of everyday  dialog, some sex, violence, mystery and politics. In Peretz’s novel poverty  was described as “You didn’t have two nickels to rub together.” When things heated up we read “ She kissed him ardently one more time, then stood and began to undress” ( and much more ). Then we had “It will appear as if the Minister and the driver were in the wrong place at the wrong time…No one will feel safe with a gang of murderous immigrants roaming the streets of Vienna .”

The author seemed to get his writer’s legs as the story progressed. I focused less on the dialog which was now flowing easily  and I was carried into the plot. I could see the characters and felt the emotion of the story which could not help but have some personal meaning to me as it obviously did to Peretz. The rise of the Nazis in Europe was being retold by the storyline which dramatically demonstrated how this impacted on one Jewish family  living in Vienna in 1938 which could have been a distant relatives of so many of us. It was also very personal to  Ross Cortese who was aware of sinister events which were about to happen  in present day Vienna. Would justice triumph ? Would there be retribution and would there be forgivenenss ? It was all very well thought out . The past related to the present and the here and now related to the past. Good psychiatric thinking and a very good story.  Not bad at at all for a first novel. It was well worth reading.

I am looking forward to reading Dr. Peretz’s second novel which came out nine years later and which I will review in a few weeks.