Journalist & Author
Judith Newman is the author of the bestseller To Siri With Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines, a collection of illuminating stories about life with a fourteen-year-old boy with autism. The New York Times called it “an uncommonly riotous and moving book…with whipsaws of brilliant zingers and heart punches.” The Washington Post called Newman “a gifted personal essayist, her warmth and wit recalling Nora Ephron’s.” Previous books include You Make Me Feel Like An Unnatural Woman: Diary of a New (Old) Mother, about her adventures in the world of infertility. Read More >
Every day, we rely more and more on Artificial Intelligence for information. But can AI robots teach us manners? Bring us friendship? Can technology be kind? They can do all of the above, at least if you’re an ‘average’ kid on the autism spectrum. When Judith wrote about her son’s relationship with Siri, she never expected the story to go viral as it did – but when it did, she never expected to be having long conversations with strangers about our future robot overlords. This talk is about the genesis of the book, but it’s also about looking at technology as a source of beauty and joy in our lives.
Hopping. Hand-flapping. Meltdowns. Hugging total strangers. How do you deal with public displays of autism? Judith is here to say that amid all the craziness are many teachable moments – for your child, for you, and for that annoyed woman in Aisle 10 at Walmart. This talk will allow parents and educators to share their frustrations and joys, and perhaps we will come to better understand what we need to do to make our loved ones embraced by our communities.
Everyone hates to be embarrassed. Or at least, we generally don’t think of embarrassment as a useful emotion. That is – until you have a kid who is incapable of being embarrassed. That is the case with Judith’s son, and many others on the spectrum. In this interactive keynote, Judith talks about embarrassment from a social, psychological and historical perspective. Working on the theory that sharing embarrassment is cathartic (not to mention funny), she will discuss and celebrate the toe-curling moments of audience members with their spectrum loved ones.
With all the attention we pay to our autistic loved ones, sometimes their neurotypical siblings can get lost in the shuffle. Today, the neurotypicals are the stars. Here, Judith focuses on the challenges and frustrations of the siblings. Her own story of twin sons, one autistic and just a regular 16 year old dude, is the jumping off point for what she hope will be a wide-ranging discussion for family, friends and educators on the, challenges, frustrations and sometimes crazy pleasures of being the “normal” kid.
There is one word that is more beautiful to the parent of an autistic person than any other – and that word is ‘job’. It is something we think about, every day – our kids being at least partially independent, and having a place at the table. Judith will talk not only about her own thoughts regarding work and autism, but also about what the US and other countries are doing to incorporate our growing autistic populations into the work force. Not everyone can work, of course. But there are some great skills among our autistic peeps and sometimes, with just a few adjustments, we can put them to splendid use.