Monday, December 10, 2007

Me in The New York Times, upcoming events, and other interesting stuff

Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times called me a few weeks ago to talk about a story she was doing on Aspergian model Heather Kuzmich. We talked quite a while about the definitions of Asperger’s, what it’s like to be Aspergian, and the ideas in my book.

She quoted me in her story on December 4:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/04/health/04well.html?ref=science

Tara kept thinking about our conversation, and the result was today’s story,
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/10/books-seeing-yourself-in-autism/

Her title, Seeing Yourself in Autism, was particularly meaningful to me. For the first step in understanding and accepting someone different is seeing yourself in that person. Her article makes that clear.

We may seem different, but deep down we have the same emotions; the same hopes, fears, dreams, and insecurities. Looking or acting in non-standard ways does not rob us of our essential humanity.

I would wager that the vast majority of autistic people (myself included) want more than anything to be accepted, liked, and appreciated for what we are – people. Not Autistics, Aspergians, or some kind of freaks. Just people.

To me, phrases like “he’s autistic but he’s still pretty smart” sound about the same as, “He’s pretty smart, for a black guy.” Yet, the second phrase is universally condemned and the other is (unfortunately) still widely tolerated.

But not for long, I hope. At four o'clock, Tara's story was on the list of the NYT's most emails stories of the day. So people are reading and learning.

In the 1960s high school kids told jokes about black people. By the 1980s those kids had grown up, and they knew they’d lose their jobs repeating the old jokes at work. In the 1980s high school kids told jokes about gay people, and today . . . not only can you lose your job, your company may well get sued.

It’s our turn now. We’re tired of (being on the receiving end of) pointing and snickering. We’re ready to be accepted into the fold of society. Just as we are. Sure, we have our differences. But so do you. Deep down, we’re all the same.

I hope articles like this, my words (in my books and at my public appearances), and the words of others will go far toward gaining all of us who are a little different the respect and acceptance we deserve.

*

Last week I talked about the new documentary, Billy the Kid. As promised, I’ll be in New York City next Monday, December 17, to lead the Q&A after both evening shows at the Independent Film Center. I hope to see a big crowd; come by and say hi!

Here are the details:

Billy the Kid Special Screenings and Q&As – December 17th after the 6:25pm and 8:25pm Shows! The Q&A will be led by Special Guest Speaker John Elder Robison, author of LOOK ME IN THE EYE (NY Times Best Seller) and, director, Jennifer Venditti!

Tickets on sale now at www.ifccenter.com or at IFC CENTER 323 Sixth Avenue at West 3rd Street.

Discounted group tickets are available for groups of 10 or more at any show Mon-Thurs, and Friday before 5pm.

Tickets are $8/person, and need to be paid for in bulk. Groups should arrange discounted tickets by calling in advance.

The phone number is 212 924 6789. Please speak to Harris or Katy.

9 comments:

The Anti-Wife said...

John,
I received the book. Thank you so much.

John Elder Robison said...

You're welcome, but you should really be thanking all my other readers, at least those who actually purchased the book.

For they are the ones who made me successful and confident enough to give books away to wanton and faraway contest winners such as yourself.

Woof.

John Elder Robison said...

And, as I said in my dedication, you will always be special. You're the one and only Anti Wife.

Samwick said...
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John Elder Robison said...

Samwick, it's not a direct extension of the civil rights struggle, it's a recognition that the Americans With Disabilities act should be applied to autistic people just as it applies to people in wheelchairs.

And I suppose ADA is itself an outgrowth of the civil rights struggle.

You point out that differences cause some autistic people to be picked on, and that's true.

I submit that an autistic person has certain rights in terms of expecting accomodation from (for example) an employer, just like a person in a wheelchair.

Now, you question my equating the treatment of autistic people with that of blacks and gays. Think about it. In each case, jokes and comments about our being the way we are are/were common, and equally hurtful to each of us.

As I see it, society first dispensed with the race jokes in polite society. Then, as society evolved, that social protection was extended to gays. Society continues to evolve. Why should we not expect to be included under this protection too?

At this moment, there is no such thing as "handicapped accessible" for autistic people in our society.

To me, the motivation of the other people (which you mention) does not matter. I understant that someone might "just not like black people" and perhaps that same person does not feel such an intolerance for autistic people. But do you feel any better thinking that when you're called a retard - and laughed at - as a kid?

Samwick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kanani said...

Well, I think you're right. People with asperger's want to be just accepted for who they are, without labels. However, as someone raising awareness about Asperger's --what it is, how it manifests itself, you will pick up the mantle of "John Robison, that Asperger's guy." And it will be seen in a cool way, not something weird and mysterious, but as a way of being (perhaps).

ADA is an extension of the Civil Rights Act. However, I would put racial and sexual orientation discrimination on a different plane. The crafting of public policy (now and in the past) has been affected by the will to exclude, such as anti-miscegenation laws, Jim Crow laws, and recently the whole marriage debate.

Where people with AS or other mental health issues have difficulties and run into a form of discrimination is not being able to get services. This could be just having the stigma of mental illness which makes families go under ground, or not getting services in schools or access to federal or state funded psychological or psychiatric assistance.

And that's Congress. I think much has to be done to bugging our elected officials to make healthcare a top priority.

Glad to see all is well. My plumbing is all backed up and this makes my life seem more f*cked up than usual.

anonymoose said...

John,

Became aware of your book some months ago but i'm still -- lets say, ambivolent about this whole AS/HFA thing. so anyway, went on a small mission at the local library, picked it up and found myself reading the book until close to 1am this morning. Such a vivid account! And so familiar...

a club so exclusive, that most of the members don't even know about it...

thanks!

Michelle O'Neil said...

You are a great teacher John. Your book is doing a service that will ripple out to generations.

Thank you.