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Be Different

Cover of Be Different

Be Different

Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers
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"I believe those of us with Asperger's are here for a reason, and we have much to offer. This book will help you bring out those gifts."In his bestselling memoir, Look Me in the Eye, John Elder Robison...
"I believe those of us with Asperger's are here for a reason, and we have much to offer. This book will help you bring out those gifts."In his bestselling memoir, Look Me in the Eye, John Elder Robison...
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Description-
  • "I believe those of us with Asperger's are here for a reason, and we have much to offer. This book will help you bring out those gifts."

    In his bestselling memoir, Look Me in the Eye, John Elder Robison described growing up with Asperger's syndrome at a time when the diagnosis didn't exist. He was intelligent but socially isolated; his talents won him jobs with toy makers and rock bands but did little to endear him to authority figures and classmates, who were put off by his inclination to blurt out non sequiturs and avoid eye contact.

    By the time he was diagnosed at age forty, John had already developed a myriad of coping strategies that helped him achieve a seemingly normal, even highly successful, life. In Be Different, Robison shares a new batch of endearing stories
    about his childhood, adolescence, and young adult years, giving the reader a rare window into the Aspergian mind.

    In each story, he offers practical advice--for Aspergians and indeed for anyone who feels "different"--on how to improve the weak communication and social skills that keep so many people from taking full advantage of their often remarkable gifts. With his trademark honesty and unapologetic eccentricity, Robison addresses questions like:

    • How to read others and follow their behaviors when in uncertain social situations
    • Why manners matter
    • How to harness your powers of concentration to master difficult skills
    • How to deal with bullies
    • How to identify special gifts and use them to your advantage

    Every person, Aspergian or not, has something unique to offer the world, and every person has the capacity to create strong, loving bonds with their friends and family. Be Different will help readers and those they love find their path to success.

Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    The one shred of reassurance I got that first day was the knowledge that Asperger's isn't a terminal illness. "You're not getting sicker," they told me, "and it won't kill you. You're actually not sick at all; you're just different." Great, I thought. Very comforting.
    All of a sudden, the concept of "people like me" took on a whole new meaning. Moments before, I'd have de­scribed myself as a middle-aged white male. I was a suc­cessful business owner, a husband, and a father. Now I was a guy with Asperger's. I was autistic. Everything else seemed secondary to that new facet of me. This must be how it feels when you find you have cancer, I thought. I was still the same guy I had been the day before. I didn't feel sick. Yet somehow, in a matter of seconds, my diagnosis had come to dominate my self- image.

    In the weeks that followed, I read everything I could about the diagnosis, and I began to relax. When I thought back on my life, Asperger's explained so many things. School had been hard for me, and I'd done some pretty unusual stuff after dropping out. My new knowledge of Asperger's brought those memories into focus, and I saw how the differences in my brain had shaped the course of my life in countless subtle ways. Yet I also realized that the success I enjoyed as an adult was real, and it wasn't going away. In fact, as I moved forward with new knowl­edge and confidence, I started to see my life get better every day.

    Later, with the benefit of this new knowledge, I stud­ied my Aspergian son, now twenty-one years old, and thought about how he too used to struggle in school and in social settings. He was diagnosed when he was sixteen, twenty-four years earlier than me. I look at him today, and I see how much he's benefited from understanding how and why his brain is different from other folks'. In many ways, he's the young man I could have been if only I had known what I had. I made it through life the hard way; he has the benefit of knowledge to rely on. That will make his path easier, and it can make yours easier, too.

    Observed from the outside, Asperger's is a series of quirks and behavioral aberrations. Aspergians are not physically disabled, though an observant person might pick us out of a crowd by our unusual gait or even by our expressions. Most Aspergians possess all the body parts and basic abilities for the full range of human functions. We're also complete on the inside. When today's brain scientists talk Asperger's, there's no mention of damage-- just difference. Neurologists have not identifi ed any­thing that's missing or ruined in the Asperger brain. That's a very important fact. We are not like the unfortunate people who've lost millions of neurons through strokes, drinking, lead poisoning, or accidental injury. Our brains are complete; it's just the interconnections that are dif­ferent.

    All people with autism have some kind of communica­tion impairment. "Traditional" autistic people have trouble understanding or speaking language. If you can't talk, or understand others, you are indeed going to be disabled in our society. The degree of impairment can vary greatly, with some autistic people totally devoid of speech and oth­ers affected in less substantial ways.

    Autistic people can also have impairment in the ability to read nonverbal signals from others. That's the kind of autism I have; it's what most people with Asperger's are touched with. The stories in this book describe the ways in which I minimized the harm my communication impair­ment caused me, while finding the gifts it conferred.
    Autism in its many forms is...

About the Author-

  • JOHN ELDER ROBISON
    is an author and frequent lecturer about his life with Asperger's. He blogs for Psychology Today and is an adjunct faculty member at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts. John serves on committees and review boards for the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health. He is currently involved in autism research and therapy programs at Harvard's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital. John also sits on the science and treatment boards of Autism Speaks. His previous book, Look Me in the Eye, was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into ten languages. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. Visit him at www.johnrobison.com.

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    "For anyone who has difficulty fitting in, this book is fantastic." --Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures "In a love poem to his wife, Pedro Salinas, the Spanish poet, wrote, 'Glory to the differences / between you and me.' John Robison teaches us to celebrate differences like Salinas did, but also offers clear insight and valuable advice on how to cope with the challenges that being different can create. This book transcends the specific case of Asperger's syndrome and is a lesson in humanity and the human condition." --Alvaro Pascual-Leone, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center "Anyone with Asperger's, if not everyone else, will derive knowledge and pleasure from the wonderful stories told in John Elder Robison's newest book, Be Different. Clearly, John is one of our community's leading voices." --Michael John Carley, author of Asperger's from the Inside Out and executive director of GRASP and ASTEP "Be Different is a fascinating and unique guide for young people who may be struggling with autism and feel 'out of sync' with the world around them. John shares personal insights about growing up, feeling apart from his peers, and learning to modify his socializing skills and harness his gifts to discover his path to a successful life." --Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks "Robison offers down-to-earth life advice for his "Aspie" peers and their friends, families, and teachers...recommended reading for anyone seeking to understand Aspergian children and adults"

  • Booklist " ...provides incredibly helpful advice to families learning to live with these challenges. Robison's clear writing provides substantial insight into the mind of someone whose disorder makes clarity very, very difficult...a valuable read."
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Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers
John Elder Robison
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John Elder Robison
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