Come see me in Boston Monday, and some thoughts for a Thursday night

I have two thoughts to offer you tonight . . . .

My first point this evening is one those of you who’ve heard me speak already know. I believe Aspergian’s are responsible for creating many of the technological marvels that make today’s life comfortable and indeed even possible. And of course it’s not just me who thinks that; Tony Attwood and many other professionals feel the same way.

Bill Gates is frequently described as Aspergian, as is Isaac Newton and many other prominent scientists and inventors (Attwood et al.)

My own book would not have existed if not for Asperger’s. If I’d been normal, there would have been no story. I’d have been singing in the church choir instead of hammering out electric rock’n’roll with KISS. And who would want to read about that?

OK, having established Aspergian creativity . . .

My second point is that technology drives style. For example, “pretty girl” is defined by today’s fashion magazines. “Stylish car” is what’s in the latest ads. The “hot new gadget” is most always a technological marvel, like the iPhone.

In every case, technology is what makes the new style possible. Even the new fashions . . . they rely on state of the art fabrics, laser cutters, and sophisticated machines. Cars depend 100% on robotics and computer controlled production equipment to make things humans alone could only dream of.

Technology even underlies things you'd think are totally natural . . . Pretty girls . . . today’s “pretty girl” is tall, and tall people are another result of technology. The food engineering that raised farming efficiency made taller people a reality, and society defines the result as pretty.

Examples of technology driving style are everywhere, though they are not always obvious.

So, putting those two points together, what do you get?

Aspergians drive (indirectly) style and fashion.

Ironic, isn’t it? The idea that a bunch of Aspergian geeks who don’t know style from a hole in the wall (or so the neurotypicals say) actually create the underlying technologies that make the “pretty things” in today’s world.

Kind of an interesting circle.

And there’s more . . . .

Monday, January 7, I will be appearing with Doug Flutie and company at the Flutie Bowl for autism, at Lucky Strike Lanes, 145 Ipswich St., in Boston, MA 02215. I’ll be there from 6PM – 11PM. I am donating some signed first editions of my book, and I’d love to meet any of you who stop by.

This event is a $150/person fundraiser, with proceeds going to the Flutie Foundation.

I’ll be there with the folks from Elms College. As you know (at least I hope you know) I am working with them on a graduate program in autism and Asperger’s.

And now, in closing, I'll leave you with some shots from tonight's Umass-Houston basketball game, which Umass won in the last minute of play. For you camera buffs, these are handheld images from my new Nikon D3 with natural lighting.


Jan said…
great basketball shots. the lighting is so good it - were you close to the subjects when you took them? Must have been a pretty fast lens to get those action shots. you have a steady hand.

I hope to be there in Boston at the Flutie event and look forward to seeing others of your blogger community there. this is like an evite kind of thing. I hope more will respond positively there and help support these autism functions and fund raisers with you. You are great to take time from your many "jobs" to participate in these projects.

Your comments on geeks, aspergians, and fashion certainly are mind opening. I suppose you know that impressionistic art came into being about the same time as photography. The yin and yang of technology and what is considered beautiful is not a new thought, prospect, or reality.
Jan said…
I almost forgot.... woof
Samwick said…
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When people buy trendy gadgets or over-priced cars...

They lubricate the economy, which pays the salary of the Aspergian-creative.

Circle, indeed. WOOF.
Samwick said…
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Holly Kennedy said…
I had no idea Bill Gates has frequently been described as Aspergian. Interesting, and now that I think about it, it also makes sense.

Also, nice how you've connected Aspergian brilliance and flair to fashion and style. Made me smile, and it too makes sense!

Samwick, I'm not associating Aspergians with "pretty people." I'm just pointing out that Aspergians make some pretty things possible, perhaps unintentionally.

How is that good? Our creativity is good. My post illustrates how others may harness that creativity. Whether that's good is subjective, I suppose.
Samwisk, I am also aware that many struggle wit a greater level of social impairment than me. That said, there are still millions of people with my level or less of impairment.

The existance of one does not obviate the other

Standing up for our rights, like blacks and gays, is rather another issue, which I know you disagree with.
Samwick said…
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Samwick, with autism being a continuum that fades into "normalcy", it is certainly true that there are more people at the normal end than the profoundly impaired end.

Think Aspergian engineers

They just attract less attention because many, if not most, are undiagnosed and going about their lives.

When an outsider looks at autism/Asperger's the most visible representatives are generally the most impaired.

However, there are many very functional people on the spectrum. Most of them don't seek any recognition or assistance.

I agree that their problems and issues may be very different from the more impaired folks.
Samwick said…
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Samwick, I do understand that I'm at the high functioning end of things. But even I am constantly striving to better myself. My desire to be more is inspeendent of my level of functionality.

I know some people can't do what I do, but there's also plenty I myself can't do, and we are all better for trying.

And we do all write what we know. You, being different, certainly write from your own persoective.
The Muse said…

Attitude is everything! As John says, there are countless people in society that have Asperger's and are less noticeable than other autistic people. The key is education, understanding, and acceptance. If you can learn to see the unique strengths and many gifts that Asperger's brings then perhaps you will start to see it as a blessing instead of a curse. Having known John for several years now, I have seen a transformation from a very awkward misfit to a confident and savvy speaker. He does make it look easy; and I too am envious. But, Samwick the real difference has been that he has had a paradigm shift and an attitude change. He now truly sees his diagnosis as a blessing...
Samwick said…
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Great pics. I'll have to show them to my shutterbug husband.

And fascinating post, John. I think it shows how we're all living in the Age of Aspergians.
The Muse said…

"The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

-Winston Churchill
niknak said…
Samwick, I don't think John has indicated that all people with AS are high-functioning. But I find him fascinating because someone I love has high-functioning AS. He is not "educating" me, I am already educated.

And I have been reading your posts for months and have always thought they were funny, intelligent and well-written. Including the most recent. Do you not consider yourself blessed to have these gifts?
vicky o'connor said…
Hi John:

I sent a message to your bookers...I'd like to bring you to BC Canada, to do an info session on Aspergers (I have it) and expose people to the benefits of Aspergers.

Will your people get back to me?

Vicki, you should contact the Lauren Verge at the Lavin Agency in Cambridge
Chumplet said…
It looks like somebody had some very good seats! I hope they didn't knock the camera out of your hands.

What a thrill meeting Doug Flutie! He played for our Argos for a few years. Have you bowled much?
Chumplet, I have never bowled, and I doubt I'll bowl next Monday. But I'll still be there.

As to the seats . . . the accredited photographers sit on the floor of the court, right behind the foul lines at the baskets.
Sherie said…
John Elder -

Great post. My little guy is not quite 7 years old and just recently diagnosed Asperger's. He is soon to be tested for a "twice gifted" program in the school district. From what I've read, it sure seems most Aspergians are extremely intelligent and creative, as your book and blog posts support. Dylan loves to tell stories and doesn't miss anything said even if he appears to be engrossed in something else. However, he also struggles in some of the aspects of school. Of course its still too early to tell if Dylan will be like you or other highly intelligent Aspergians since my son is still pretty young and I'm still gathering information and trying to help Dylan fit in and develop (whatever that winds up looking like for him). Sorry for the rambling post.

Trish Ryan said…
I love your point about how Aspergians drive fashion...simply brilliant. What a fun, intriguing (and probably spot-on) perspective.

And go UMass!
jimbranch3 said…
John, I have been following comments in the blogs. Do you abandon old blogs after you start a new entry?

Thanks, Jim B
Jim, I do not abandon any blog entries. They stay up indefinitely, and people puruse them anytime. This blog gets tens of thousands of readers and they look in all the nooks and crannies.

I do not personally respond to every comment, but any other reader may comment on any post at any time. In many cases, the commenters talk to each other.

So feel free to leave comments on older entries, not just the newest stuff. You never know who will read them, or when.

Polly Kahl said…
Interesting thoughts, John. BTW, the kids and I took my Aspergian brother mini golfing with us recently, and he got several hole in ones and came in way under par even though he hadn't done it in over thirty years. He was easily able to anticipate how the ball would roll related to all the hills, curves, leaves on the greens, and ridges in the fake grass carpets, and he did it with no effort at all. So you might have some bowling savantism that you don't even know about.
anonymoose said…
A little perspective here perhaps is in order.

It's just simply a logical fallacy -- to think that because John Elder is AS that all AS are John Elder. We need to simply assume that and take his story as just that -- his story.

To take John Elder as a poster-boy, or worse an expert, or even typical AS would be as accurate as assuming that all blondes are as rich and as dumb as Paris.

Statistically of course, his specific experience means very little to the AS pool at large -- dumb luck probably has as as much to do with outcome as autism in this case.

Hubris aside though, this is an interesting and entertaining personal story.

I found it interesting that the book is nearly devoid of any sort of emotional landscape or relationships. I'm unclear if this is a result of AS, a symptom, a result of upbringing or whatever, or simply a quirk of the simple writing many filters, but 'knowing' the AS element made this all the more salient as I read.

I do think the recent publicity and the various points-of-view on autism are positive, and hope that appropriate resources are directed towards people exhibiting this condition.

However I hope we do not begin to expect our struggling young to become Bill Gates or Rock-Stars -- they might, but they probably won't. Just like the rest of us...We need to learn to love and accept them (and ourselves), just as they are...
Once again, an interesting post followed by an amazing array of comments, John! So glad I stopped by. Have fun at the Flutie event; he's such a great activisit and positive role model for so many. K.
Kim Stagliano said…
And he's as good looking as he was in college. ;) He and his wife Lori have put their heart into that foundation. Interesting that at least 3 NFL QB's have a son with autism. Must be the genetics.... (Ducking and running now.)

Kim, BC class of '85.
LOL Kim, you crack me up! K.
The Muse said…
Hey John,

Kim and I want to make SURE that you bring your new camera on Monday. We want some good close up shots of Doug, (some rear view shots would be good too!) We are hoping that you will post them on the blog. *sigh
Kim Stagliano said…
Muse wants a photo of his "Hail Mary ass!" Oh dear, was that vulgar?
The Muse said…
P.S. Velcro-Legged Kim,

Me vulgar? You are in no position to be casting stones after your "dribbling" comment.

Besides, if it wasn't a Monday night, I'd be there in person and pinch him for you...Hah!
ORION said…
Aloha John!
There will always be a conversation about functionality as there will always be conversations about what our educational system is responsible is a never ending dialogue- ultimately what we take away from your book is one aspect of Aspergers...Temple Grandin is another aspect etc.
It's confronting the same kind of mentality in our society that tells us "all those with mental challenges are the same" - A continuum is a good way to look at it.
Kim Stagliano said…
Regarding functionality (Hi, Orion!) our 27 year old friend with Asperger's gave us a big hello in Church today - she was on probabtion at her last job for inappropriate conversations with customers (grocery store, tampon purchases, pregnancy kit comments, customers complained.) I went to bat for her with the store manager. They parted ways. Today she gleefully told me she'd just gotten her BA and was on her way to her masters and is working in a BOOK STORE. "Everyone's quirky there. I fit right in." I felt so happy for her. We all deserve to "fit in" but have to realize that many people with AS and ASD have nowhere near the functioning of the high end of the spectrum, to the point where sharing the name is a disservice to both ends.

And Muse? You are naughty. I like you.
With all this talk, I will be sure to take my camera along. I'm actually heading out there early because I promised to bring the Flutie folks a few books for their silent auction.

And I always like eating at the Legal Seafoods out there.

Reading your comments, I can see that it's a real shame I am not gay or into football, because it seems like the best of this event is totally lost on me.
The Muse said…
Don't worry, John. Next time Kim and I will escort you so that we can get front row seats. Don't go "turning" on us now. It'd be such a waste if you went gay. LOL
Kanani said…
Hi John,
Well, my feeling about identifying anyone as anything is that you can't unless they've done it themselves and are public about it.

So while I've often heard that Bill Gates had poor social skills, that he exhibited traits of Asperger's, I think it's up to him whether or not he chooses to identify himself as such.

As for Sir Isaac Newton --well, he's dead. Kind of too late for that.
J said…
John, one of the first books my husband, a librarian, brought me after our son's diagnosis was Autism and Creativity: Is There a Link between Autism in Men and Exceptional Ability? by Mich Fitzgerald. Have you heard of it?
Of course some (one in particular actually) of the people Fitzgeral mentioned in the book may make some Aspergians howl.
My husband wrote a guest post for my blog on Dec. 9 about the math genius Archimedes that you might enjoy. Just click on the J for my profile to find my blog if interested.

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