Autistic boy becomes BFF with Apple’s Siri

Just how bad a mother am I? I wondered, as I watched my 13-year-old son deep in conversation with Siri. Gus has autism, and Siri, Apple’s ‘intelligent personal assistant’ on the iPhone, is currently his BFF,” Judith Newman reports for The New York Times. “Obsessed with weather formations, Gus had spent the hour parsing the difference between isolated and scattered thunderstorms — an hour in which, thank God, I didn’t have to discuss them.”

“This is a love letter to a machine. It’s not quite the love Joaquin Phoenix felt in ‘Her,’ last year’s Spike Jonze film about a lonely man’s romantic relationship with his intelligent operating system (played by the voice of Scarlett Johansson),” Newman reports. “But it’s close. In a world where the commonly held wisdom is that technology isolates us, it’s worth considering another side of the story.”

“It’s not that Gus doesn’t understand Siri’s not human. He does — intellectually. But like many autistic people I know, Gus feels that inanimate objects, while maybe not possessing souls, are worthy of our consideration,” Newman reports. “I realized this when he was 8, and I got him an iPod for his birthday. He listened to it only at home, with one exception. It always came with us on our visits to the Apple Store. Finally, I asked why. ‘So it can visit its friends,’ he said.”

Much more in the full article – very highly recommendedhere.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Lynn Weiler” and “Scott M.” for the heads up.]


  1. An excellent article in the New York Times fro a few days ago, and worth reading.

    The power of Siri for children with developmental problems as is the autistic spectrum is immense. I’m sure Apple is keenly aware and the Siri team is carefully calibrating answers to absurd questions. This is just the beginning.

  2. Please say hi to Gus for me. Autism is a real challenge for families. Perhaps, as Gus gets older and technology evolves in our homes, work place and public lives, Gus and many others will find new ways to get through their day and interface with the real world that they have to live in. Their many IT allies can be there 24/7 for them many years after the parents and family are gone.

  3. I read this in the paper edition of the New York Times yesterday. All the way to the end of the story, I kept expecting negativity to creep into it, claims that iPhones cause bone cancer, or Siri exposing children to adult material, anything bad. But nothing like that appeared…I wonder if the editors were asleep? Or maybe Samsung is economising these days, if you know what I mean…

  4. I wish Apple would put Gus and Siri in iPhone commercials rather than Bono dancing around or that doofus Jimmy Fallon. We’re more powerful than we think, huh? Well this would be a good demonstration of that.

    1. That’s quite tricky; I am very doubtful that Gus’s mother would allow it to go that far. Writing an article about your autistic son is one thing; turning his disability into an advertising vehicle for a commercial product and putting him on national TV is entirely different.

      There are over 300 comments to this article on the NY Times web site. While majority are of the “What a beautiful article!” type, there are quite a few judgemental ones, with angry opinions about a neglectful mother and a child that is denied human interaction in favour of an inanimate object, a robot.

      We may like this story as it showcases just one of the incredible powers of the products of our favourite company, but there are many out there who may have different opinions. And autism is a disorder that affects many people very emotionally (and not just those who are diagnosed with it).

    2. Apple does (or did) make those types of videos when they would introduce the next iPad/iPhone.

      30-60 seconds would’t have the impact as a 2-5 minute video.

      Looked it up, iPad 2 Launch had a 2 minute video in the keynote on Autism and the use of the iPad.
      here it is:

      I thought Apple had others as well, this one was easy to find.

  5. IMO Apple is quietly changing the world for the not so mainstream.
    When I watched the keynote describing the new Apple watch my first thought was, meh not for me. My second thought was this is gonna be a game changer for the blind & possibly the deaf. I imagined a blind person asking Siri for walking directions and then Taptic feedback gives them the physical clues they need to navigate. I do know that some blind people have developed a sort of echo location sense that the AppleWatch could augment.

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