Fascinating Yet Complicated. I seem to be the first Autistic person to be reading this book, at least from reading the available English language reviews on Goodreads after finishing the book yet prior to writing my own review.
Overall, the story is about Henry Markam, his relationship with his son Kai, and how that led to one of the most revolutionary “discoveries” in modern neuroscience: Intense World.
I personally refuse to call this a “theory” because it is fact – a fact which pretty well any Autistic Adult that can communicate can tell anyone who asks. And through this section of the book, roughly the first 2/3 of the text, this is a SHOUT FROM THE ROOFTOPS level AMAZING book. SOOO many times I wanted to literally go to skyscrapers and shout to the world “READ THIS BOOK AND UNDERSTAND ME AND MY PEOPLE!!!!!”. And even with this being something like book 135 or so on the year for me, those level of reactions are indeed rare.
But then we realize that Markram isn’t just trying to *understand* Autistics. He wants to “cure” us. Which is genocide. The text tries to couch this and make Markram and his second wife (and research partner) seem more benevolent, but at the end of the day their research is focused on the eradication of my people.
Along these veins, the recommendations the Markrams make about how Autistic children are to be treated is horrible bordering on monstrous – they want a world devoid of any stimuli other than carefully screened, carefully controlled ones, as they believe that to do otherwise is to “trigger” the development of Autism in young children.
I’m not a neuroscientist, but neither am I neurotypical. I may not be able to point to the exact chemical processes within my brain the way the Markrams can, but I can explain what I understand to be happening within my own skull better than most of my fellow Autistics (though there are some far better than even myself at this).
So I have to say, regarding the back 1/3 or so of this book, to take it with about a boulder of salt. The relationsip aspects amongst the Markrams seem genuine, and the overall goals of creating a legitimate simulation of the mammalian – and specifically human – brain are commendable and needed. But the post-Intense World proscriptions on how parents should raise their children? Take it about as you would any random stranger offering you advice – do some independent research before you commit to an action, and in this particular case… *ask an Autistic adult*, or better yet: several of us.
Overall a highly recommended yet ultimately flawed book, the front 2/3 of it are simply too good not to recommend the book as a whole.
This review of The Boy Who Felt Too Much by Lorenz Wagner was originally published on September 29, 2019.