Saturday, November 17, 2007

Our future is in the hands of the young Aspergians, and today you'll hear from one . . . in his own words * And a reminder about tomorrow's appearance

Yesterday, I wrote about the young Aspergians who graced my Tattered Cover appearance. One of them, at least, has a family blog, which I encourage all of you to visit.

When I arrived at the TC, there were two moms with Aspergian kids waiting in the front row. Alex is eight, Brice is 10. Alex blogs here:
http://www.youbelong.net/pages/htmlos/3764.1.988421257014413439

Both kids have the Aspergian look that I've come to recognize. I'll write more on that in the future; for now I'll just say I could have picked both out of a crowd.

Alex is a smart young fellow, a student of history in general and ancient Egypt in particular. We talked about some of my own childhood interests (which were the same as his), and I suggested Alex learn more about the wonderful temple complex at Abu Simbel, which was dismantled and moved block by block to protect it from flooding when Nasser built the Aswan High Dam. Interestingly enough, the temple was moved back in the 1960s, when I was the age Alex is today.

Here's a link for Abu Simbel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Simbel

This is the Aswan High Dam http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aswan_High_Dam

I hope all of you will welcome young Alex and his family to our community. The Tattered Cover staff took some photos of the event, and I'll put them up as soon as I get them so you can see the whole spectacle.

* * *

Prior to arrival, Alex's mom was discouraged from attending my event because other moms thought there might be inappropriate content. Don't be scared away . . . I am a PG rated writer and speaker.

I get more kids with every speaking engagement. Bring 'em on. I'm good with kids, and if I'm not, I have a small folding Kid Cage in my book bag.

I'll certainly concede that Look Me in the Eye contains some pranks and antics that will make moms cringe, but consider this: In those pranks, I found an essentially harmless outlet for the frustrations of being a young Aspergian - the torment, ridicule, and bullying. That stands in sharp contrast to the violence we see in schools today.

There is some "four letter" language in my book too, but just enough to capture the reality of certain scenes. There is no graphic sex, and no gratuitous violence. The real world is considerably rougher than my writing.

I encourage any of you with children to bring them to my talks. . . it's great for kids to see Aspergians like themselves, grown up and successful. Don't worry, I won't act too bizarre. Just bizarre enough to be interesting.

* * *

And with that said, all of you in driving distance of Hadley, MA; Holyoke, MA; and Enfield CT should come see me tomorrow as I talk and sign books at Barnes and Noble stores as part of Public Television's book fair. Read more at http://www.wgby.org/

* * *

Short answers to questions the world ponders: Alex's mom asked why I call myself an Aspergian, and not an Aspie. The answer is simple. The sound of the word Aspie kind of grates on me, and it makes me think of poisionous snakes. Not good.

Aspergian, on the other hand, sounds urbane, and cultured.

I hope the difference is as obvious to you as it is to me, now that I've pointed it out. Feel free to use Aspie in your own life, but it's Free Range Aspergians Forever for me.


* * *

And in closing . . . I've said this before but it bears repeating. Just as I recognized Brice and Alex as young Aspergians they surely see themselves in me, though they may be too young to articulate it. That's why I encourage moms with young Aspergians to get my abridged audio book. I read it, and many kids find my voice familiar. And moms . . . if you don't like certain parts, you can skip them on the CD player.

34 comments:

kristen said...

I'm not sure how many times I should keep coming back here and saying the same thing, but Thank You, John, for all you do to promote awareness and understanding. It means a lot to a lot of us moms. And someday, when our kids are just a wee bit older, it will mean a lot to them too.

RxMichelle said...

I love your book, my son is Aspergian...It is refreshing to see that he is not alone. He was only 4 when he decided that he wanted to "see electricity".He may have not SEEN it that day but I know that he FELT it.We have come a long way since then . He is now 10 & there are times where life is such a struggle for him. Your book helps me to see how he thinks. Anyway , thank-you. I have also read all of Augusten's books & I LOVE him too!! You are quite a family for sure!!

RxMichelle said...

I love your book, my son is Aspergian...It is refreshing to see that he is not alone. He was only 4 when he decided that he wanted to "see electricity".He may have not SEEN it that day but I know that he FELT it.We have come a long way since then . He is now 10 & there are times where life is such a struggle for him. Your book helps me to see how he thinks. Anyway , thank-you. I have also read all of Augusten's books & I LOVE him too!! You are quite a family for sure!!

Azucar said...

John,
Thank you for being so patient with my son Brice at the Thursday night book signing. He does have a lot of energy, and can seem as if he is misbehaving to others, but to parents with kids on the spectrum & those with AS who actually UNDERSTAND the AUTISTIC part of Aspergers, this kind of behavior can be expected in some Aspies. You are an inspiration to me; you give me hope that my son will be successful as he grows into his adult life as an Aspie. It has been a long hard road for us since he was diagnosed in June of this year. The school system has been the hardest, it has been very difficult to get the services he needs, as you know each child with Aspergers has a unique learning style and sometimes behaviors get in the way.
Thanks again.
Dawn Thomas

A quick note to everyone who attended the Denver book signing. Those of you who saw Brice in action and completely understood his behavior, thank you! You all obviously understand Autism/ Aspergers. For those of you, who where offended or thought Brice was just an out of control kid, PLEASE read John's book again and then research AUTISM AND ASPERGERS. Thank you. : )

StubbyJo said...

A Note for Dawn

I just read your comment, and see that some of the words chosen in my earlier comments must have been offensive and/or hurtful for you. I really feel terrible. I should have been more careful in choosing my language.

We have been researching/eating/sleeping/treating Aspergers since Alex was diagnosed 3 years ago. He has had OT, social skills training, Neurofeedback, emotional/social therapy, sensory integration treatment, attended a special school for the past two years and we've used RDI.

It seems that my "pride" in how well he's doing after trooping through all this treatment over the past years served to make you feel that we were criticizing Brice, and that was not on my mind at all. In fact, I can sooooo empathize with you. I was sweating it out the entire time Alex was "on stage", wondering if he would "catch the excitement", get overstimulated, and try to steal the show from Brice. (He used to do this in Kindergarten, trying to entertain and move his peers' focus from the teacher to himself. He was kicked out of Kindergarten, 4 months post-diagnosis.)

Again, this is a strange forum to apologize in, but I know of no other way to contact you and only hope that you come back to John's blog and read my comment. Brice is clearly a well-loved, intelligent, and creative boy. I wish you all the best in the months and years ahead. It can be a very challenging journey, but such a worthy one.

Again, my apologies.

Debbie, Mom to Alex in Colorado Springs

John Elder Robison said...

Both the kids were great. They were certainly one of the high points of the show.

I thought they were cousins or buddies. I did not realize you all met that very night.

Woof!

Dawn and Debbie . . . perhaps you could get together in a support group. Out here, we have the Asperger Association of New England. www.aane.org Perhaps you can get something going there. Is there a group already?

kevathens said...

Seeing the pictures from that event is really heartening. I'm 29 and I still feel a bit like those kids - I wish I had someone to look up to from an autistic perspective who could answer my questions and provide emotional support. (I squirm as I write the word 'emotional.')

I've met a couple younger autistic kids recently, both deeper on the spectrum, and I was totally parenting these kids on a level their own parents could not, simply because I understand what they're going through from an autistic perspective.

I really hope autistic issues continue to be brought to the forefront and that the latest wave of books doesn't end the conversation we're having.

John Elder Robison said...

Kev, why would "the latest wave of books end the conversation?"

For me at least, my book started the conversation, and I'm keeping going, working on my next book right now.

Kim said...

Hi John,
Kim #2 from yesterday's comments.

Debbie & I know each other from the Colorado Springs Asperger Support group. Alex is a great kid.

Anyone looking for more information on CO Springs can go to:
http://www.geocities.com/jrhsmum/CSAspergerSupportGroup

That's my boy on the website. Neither picture is from CO. The one on top is in FL where my family was briefly stationed and the second pic is my son "fishing" in the river behind my sister's house in PA. He was 7 when those photos were taken, he is 10 now. We are now retired military happily living in CO. Anyone wanting more information on the CO Springs group, just check out the link above and follow that to our yahoo group.

Denver has an online group and occassionally moms will get together. Their website is called MASK (Mothers of Asperger Syndrome Kids) and you can follow this link here:
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/maskas99/?yguid=154199420

I should mention that the CO Springs group does meet on a monthly basis and it includes adults on the spectrum as well as family members.

If anyone in CO has a question about these groups they can get in touch with me. If I can't answer it, I will try to find you someone who can. kahether@comcast.net

I hope you don't mind me plugging this. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Thanks again!

Kim Hetherington
Colorado Springs

Kim said...

The link for the CO Springs group was cut off. There should be the word "Group" at the end of the link given above. I'm going to try and put it here one more time. If it doesn't work, add "Group" to the end - no spaces.

http://www.geocities.com/jrhsmum/CSAspergerSupportGroup

Agent M said...

John, I'm reading your book now and loving it.

Any chance you'll make it to South Texas some day?

John Elder Robison said...

Agent M, I may make Texas this winter. I'm going to try and set up readings in warm places this winter. Where are you?

Eyphur said...

I have always refered to myself as an Aspie. After reading your blog and book, however, I am warming up to the term Apergian.

RxMichelle said...

Will you be coming to the Phoenix, AZ. area anytime soon?
It's definitely warm here 8-)
Thanks..

momof3feistykids said...

I have always *hated* the term "Aspie" myself (it sounds too "cute.") Since I read your book, I've adopted the term "Aspergian." It works perfectly. I'll keep an eye on your blog; maybe you'll make it down south of the Mason-Dixon to beautiful central Virginia. ;-)

Holly Kennedy said...

John, I loved this post.

Look Me in the Eye keeps giving readers, and you, wonderful experiences as you go from one event to another! I hope it goes on forever.

Kim Stagliano said...

I love the name Aspergian. Far better than Aspie or the dreaded, "Autie." I think your book and work will do much for the Asperger's kids/young adults and adults who are "invisible" in their diagnosis until their traits bump into the expectations of those us who are not Aspergian. Them's your peeps, John. And I see where you can make a huge difference for them in schools and the workplace. Meanwhile, I'll keep up my work for those with full blown autism, the "flavor" my kids and so many others had thrust upon them.

Woof! my friend. Woof!

K

Drama Mama said...

I love the term Aspergian. I find the words "Autie" and "Aspie" offensive - sort of pushing cute on a way of being that deserves respect and understanding.

I now use your term all the time. Though my daughter is not Aspergian, she's PDD NOS - I wonder if I can come up with an equally cool moniker?

Spectrum Lite? Touched By the Spectrum? Spectrumish? Spectrarian? A Taste of Autism?

Hmmmm.

Agent M said...

I'm in Corpus Christi. :)

Lisa said...

I just started the book this weekend and so far, I love it. I work in the high tech industry as a sales person (read: extrovert, at least on the job), but I work with a small group of brilliant engineers and software developers -- both co-workers and customers -- and because of your book, I'm beginning to understand some of the guys I've just always considered to be introverted and a-social (not in a negative way) a lot better. I suspect the number of Free Range Aspergians (I love that) is proportionately higher in my world than it is in the general population. Whether or not some of the guys I'm thinking of are diagnosed or are even anywhere "on the spectrum", you've given me insight into how differently we all see and process the same world. The education you're providing is important to all of us. By the way, I read Temple Grandin's book, Animals in Translation a year or two ago, and although it was focused on the similarities between how some people with autism process external stimuli and how animals do, it also provided great insight into her experience with autism. The more we know about each other, the better and more tolerant the world becomes.

RxMichelle said...

to drama mama.....How about "Autism Spectrumtacular"
8-)
RxMichelle

Samwick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Elder Robison said...

Samwick, I am not being coy. I am not ready to describe "the look" because the descriptive ideas are not fully formed in my mind.

Essentially, there is a certain "neutral" facial expression that appears in many Aspergians, myself included. I could see that in both kids. I wish I could describe it better. I can see it but not articulaste it well yet.

Drama Mama, for a boy, I would pronounce that PDD NOS description like "Pug Nose" Just say it.

I'm not sure how a girl would feel about being a Pug Nose. As a boy, I could explain it easily.

kevathens said...

Samwick,

I think it's important to distinguish between 'nerd' and 'Aspergian.' For instance, in this picture I see a bunch of nerds. But are there any Aspergians? Well, possibly. I see one kid who looks like an Aspergian, but I'm not going to tell you who it is. Can you make the diagnosis?

Samwick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Polly Kahl said...

I thought these comments were touching, but by the time I got to the end I was laughing my face off. Thanks for another great post, John. Wonderful people are gathering around you. I also used to say Aspie but stopped some time ago after realizing it bothered some folks. Maybe it's my imgaination, but it seems to me that the faces of older Aspergians are less lined than their non-Aspergian age-peers. Why? Because over the years they have made many less extreme facial expressions, thus slowing down the wrinkling process. ("many less"? I said it awkwardly, but I think you know what I mean.)

PLANET3RRY said...

Aspergian, on the other hand, sounds urbane, and cultured.

AMEN BROTHER! I am totally with you on this one. I greatly dislike and would only use "aspie" if I want quoting it in the comment of someone else's blog or something other way like that. Part of my Aspergian Mind (and my conservation response system) thinks in Movie quotes, so when I hear that slang word, I think of Raiders of the lost Ark:

Sallah: Why Does the Floor... Move?
Jones: Give me your torch
Sallah: Asps, very dangerous... you go first.

**********

Pranks: I found that pranks were an easier way to communicate with friends that you like them. After all, we typically give attention to those that we like, so when it came to my really good friends, it was devilish pranks. The best were the ones that were left to find... Such as the teddy bear that was wrapped in duct tape and squished to about 1/2 of the original size. Teddy Bear fur was unharmed as I prewrapped the bear in newspaper to avoid any hair loss.

Some pranks, are boys being boys... some.

John Elder Robison said...

Having had some discussion about the Aspergian Look let me qualify my own remarks . . . I do not purport to have an ability to recognize Aspergianism in still photos. I meant to say I see it sometimes while observing real living people.

You (I) can recognize it in videos, too. Look at me in the "tractor video" as an example.

Samwick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle O'Neil said...

Running over to Alex's blog now.

P.S. Where do I get me one a them fold up kid cages?

Michelle O'Neil said...

I couldn't find Alex's blog from the link on your post. Is there another link?

John Elder Robison said...

Michelle, I'm not sure what to say about the link. It seems to have gone down.

As to the folding kid cages, I got mine from a street vendor in Manhattan. It's made of fine spring wire, and a quick twist pops it open. Like a giant version of a Chinese finger trap.

A bargain at fifty dollars.

Lainie Petersen said...

Polly:

Two common causes of skin aging are facial movement and sun exposure, so yes, indeed,if someone isn't very facially expressive, they won't wrinkle as quickly.

Also, many aspergians/aspies (sorry,Mr. Robison, but I prefer "aspie"),seem to dislike the sun, and are indeed somewhat nocturnal. This would also slow down aging.

There are other factors, of course (such as genetics, nutrition, etc) but it really does make sense that many aspergians/aspies maintain youthful looks well into middle age.

DioneGresham said...

I just read your entire book today! I really enjoyed it, as I am a special education teacher. I have met some students who are on the AS, and I find them so interesting!
I realize that your educational experience was not favorably remembered. I work with all types of students who see school as a horrible place.
Looking back, what would you recommend, to make school a more positive place for students who are Aspergians?