Amazing, Edifying, Entertaining, but even the funny parts are heart wrenching. These are the words that came to mind when I reluctantly read the last page of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison. It is one of those books that you hate to turn the last page because you thirst to read more of the story. I knew the author’s words had left a mark on me and had changed my perception of those with Asperger’s syndrome (AS). I held that book in awe, almost hugging it as you would a friend that was leaving. Look Me in the Eye had “Shook Me in the Heart”! You too must read his beautifully told memoir from his troubled, lonely childhood in a dysfunctional household, through his unbelievable teen and young adult years working for one of the most influential rock and roll bands of all-time, and finally to his productive life as a husband, father, and successful small business owner—repairing his beloved high-end automobiles.
Having been published in 2007, Look Me in the Eye must be influencing teachers, parents, family, friends, and employers to have an open-mind and be more accommodating to individuals who are unique and march with a different beat. John’s easy-to-read, poignant story should comfort and point the way to a hopeful, successful life for parents with a child with Asperger’s, or for individuals with AS themselves. Robison sets a fine example of finding his niche and using his main interest to earn a living and be happy.
On his site we read Robison’s words, “Readers who work with autistic children saw my book as a window into the minds of their own non-verbal kids. Without realizing it, I had brought something new to the world simply by being what I am: I am autistic enough to know how it feels, but at the same time, I am articulate enough to be able to express my autistic/Aspergian feelings in written form.”
“John Robison’s book is an immensely affecting account of a life lived according to his gifts rather than his limitations. His story provides ample evidence for my belief that individuals on the autistic spectrum are just as capable of rich and productive lives as anyone else.”
While reading Look Me in the Eye, I would get so excited as I raced from page to page that I had to stop and share the astounding developments that unfurled in each chapter. In the end, my husband was waiting for another recap of this intriguing story. Here are some tidbits that will entice you to reach for this book.
- His parents were both brilliant but suffered from mental illness.
- His mother, the poet Margaret Robison, was often a patient at The Northampton State Hospital.
- His childhood was punctuated by his father’s drunken and abusive behavior.
- He grew up as a misfit in the 1960s, at a time when the Asperger syndrome diagnosis did not exist in the United States.
- He wrote, “I never sat still; I bobbed and weaved and bounced… It was a lonely and painful way to grow up.”
- Robison had difficulty in school, was made to see at least a dozen mental health professionals before he was sixteen.
- Robison quit school and wandered off on his own at the ripe age of 15.
- He was a troubled teenage prankster who found successful employment in electronics.
- For some years he was designing special effects systems that allowed him to work first for Pink Floyd and then later for KISS.
- He also found work designing electronic games and toys for Mattel.
- Robison finally learned about Asperger syndrome in 1996, at age 39.
All the above work experiences sound very interesting and seem to be enough to satisfy any man; however, what the bullet points do not show is HOW this man felt. His gift as a story teller will make you feel his pain as he struggled through his “first” life in the corporate world desperately trying to connect with others with his poor social skills. It was a world, he decided, he did not fit in.
You must read the book to see how having a diagnosis of Asperger’s finally gave him salvation and allowed him to rebuild his life.
You will love his closing remarks,
“I may look and act pretty strange at times, but deep down I just want to be loved and understood for who and what I am. I want to be accepted as part of society, not an outcast or outsider. I don’t want to be a genius or a freak or something on display. I wish for empathy and compassion from those around me, and I appreciate sincerity, clarity, and logicality in other people. I believe most people–autistic or not–share this wish.”
“a loser kid became a winner adult”
On John Elder Robison’s site we learn, “My Asperger’s — still un-diagnosed but alive and well in me — kept me from fitting into the corporate world.
I quit my job. I began fixing Mercedes and Land Rover cars in my driveway. I never had to worry about fitting in with the world of machines. Soon, I was immersed in them.”
John now lives with his wife and son in Amherst, Massachusetts. His company, J E Robison Service, repairs and restores fine European automobiles. Robison’s company has grown into one of the most successful independent repair businesses in New England. They specialize in Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Rolls Royce and Bentley motor car work.
In addition, John has started working with Elms College to develop their graduate program in autism and Asperger’s. His many speaking engagements in 2011 and 2012 that will take him throughout the United States and Canada.
Follow John Elder Robison:
- Finally, I encourage teachers, students, and anyone else to follow his blogs and Psychology Today
- Twitter @johnrobison
- Facebook (Johnelderrobison)
Buy the book from Future Horizons and get 15% off PLUS free delivery in continental USA! Add the coupon code KIDCOMPANIONS when you checkout of the store for discounts!
Update, Nov. 2012, two more books:
Amazing! From his site I learned:
John Elder Robison’s stories are available in the following languages and foreign editions:
US – English
British/Australian/New Zealand – English
Japan – Japanese
Brazil – Portuguese
Portugal – Portuguese
Italy – Italian
The Netherlands – Dutch
Korea – Korean
China – Chinese Complex
China – Mandarin
Indonesia – Indonesian