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Look Me in the Eye

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Look Me in the Eye

My Life with Asperger's
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER "As sweet and funny and sad and true and heartfelt a memoir as one could find." --from the foreword by Augusten Burroughs Ever since he was young, John Robison longed to...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER "As sweet and funny and sad and true and heartfelt a memoir as one could find." --from the foreword by Augusten Burroughs Ever since he was young, John Robison longed to...
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  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

    "As sweet and funny and sad and true and heartfelt a memoir as one could find." --from the foreword by Augusten Burroughs

    Ever since he was young, John Robison longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits--an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother, Augusten Burroughs, in them)--had earned him the label "social deviant." It was not until he was forty that he was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome. That understanding transformed the way he saw himself--and the world. A born storyteller, Robison has written a moving, darkly funny memoir about a life that has taken him from developing exploding guitars for KISS to building a family of his own. It's a strange, sly, indelible account--sometimes alien yet always deeply human.

Excerpts-
  • Chapter One A Little Misfit

    It was inconceivable to me that there could be more than one way to play in the dirt, but there it was. Doug couldn't get it right. And that's why I whacked him. Bang! On both ears, just like I saw on The Three Stooges. Being three years old was no excuse for disorderly play habits.

    For example, I would use my mother's kitchen spoon to scoop out a ditch. Then, I would carefully lay out a line of blue blocks. I never mixed my food, and I never mixed my blocks. Blue blocks went with blue blocks, and red blocks with red ones. But Doug would lean over and put a red block on top of the blue ones.

    Couldn't he see how wrong that was?

    After I had whacked him, I sat back down and played. Correctly.

    Sometimes, when I got frustrated with Doug, my mother would walk over and yell at me. I don't think she ever saw the terrible things he did. She just saw me whack him. I could usually ignore her, but if my father was there, too, he would get really mad and shake me, and then I would cry.

    Most of the time, I liked Doug. He was my first friend. But some of the things he did were just too much for me to handle. I would park my truck by a log, and he would kick dirt on it. Our moms would give us blocks, and he would heap his in a sloppy pile and then giggle about it. It drove me wild.

    Our playdates came to an abrupt end the following spring. Doug's father graduated from medical school and they moved far, far away to an Indian reservation in Billings, Montana. I didn't really understand that he could leave despite my wishes to the contrary. Even if he didn't know how to play correctly, he was my only regular playmate. I was sad.

    I asked my mother about him each time we went to the park, where I now played alone. "I'm sure he'll send you a postcard," my mother said, but she had a funny look on her face, and I didn't know what to make of it. It was troubling.

    I did hear the mothers whispering, but I never knew what they meant.

    ". . . drowned in an irrigation ditch . . ."

    ". . . the water was only six inches deep . . ."

    ". . . must have fallen on his face . . ."

    ". . . his mother couldn't see him, so she went outside and found him there . . ."

    What is an irrigation ditch? I wondered. All I could figure out was, they weren't talking about me. I had no idea Doug was dead until years later.

    Looking back, maybe my friendship with Doug wasn't the best omen. But at least I stopped whacking other kids. Somehow I figured out that whacking does not foster lasting friendship.

    That fall, my mother enrolled me at Philadelphia's Mulberry Tree Nursery School. It was a small building with kids' drawings on the walls and a dusty playground enclosed with a chain-link fence. It was the first place where I was thrown together with children I didn't know. It didn't go well.

    At first, I was excited. As soon as I saw the other kids, I wanted to meet them. I wanted them to like me. But they didn't. I could not figure out why. What was wrong with me? I particularly wanted to make friends with a little girl named Chuckie. She seemed to like trucks and trains, just like me. I knew we must have a lot in common.

    At recess, I walked over to Chuckie and patted her on the head. My mother had shown me how to pet my poodle on the head to make friends with him. And my mother petted me sometimes, too, especially when I couldn't sleep. So as far as I could tell, petting worked. All the dogs my mother told me to pet had wagged their tails. They liked it. I figured Chuckie would like it, too.

    Smack! She hit me!

    Startled, I ran away. That didn't work, I said to myself. Maybe I have to...
About the Author-
  • John Elder Robison grew up in the 1960s, before the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome existed. Today he has claimed his spot on the autism spectrum; he blogs for Psychology Today and is an adjunct professor at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts. John serves on the Science Board of Autism Speaks and on the Public Review Board for the National Institutes of Health, where he considers research to improve the lives of autistic people and their families. He is also currently involved in autism research and programs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Mass General Hospital, two teaching hospitals of the Harvard Medical School.

    When he's not writing, speaking, or involved in studies, John can be found at Robison Service, the automobile company he founded twenty-five years ago. Robison Service has established a reputation as a leading independent restorer and customizer of BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, and Bentley automobiles. Visit John's company at www.robisonservice.com.

    John lives in western Massachusetts among family, friends, animals, and machines.



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Look Me in the Eye
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My Life with Asperger's
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