Sunday, May 18, 2008

A high school dropout no more . . .

This weekend I returned to Houston for a special engagement. The Monarch School, a place I’ve written about before, decided to give me an honorary high school diploma. There were ten kids in the graduating class, and me. In this shot, we're all lining up for the official photo:





Here I am, with the leadership of the school, as a newly minted graduate:



Each of the kids had done a senior project. One made a park bench for the new campus. Another wrote poetry. Several did art. One did a special education project. One wrote an essay about his mom and her struggles coming to America and raising him. Two kids promised to return to school after graduation and help with programs, like sports.

And one kid, in a wonderful display of Aspergian eccentricity, made a multi-pane display for school yearbooks. As he said, it’s configured to be free-standing, hung from a wall, or used as an ornamental door.

I wished I had a project of my own to tell them about.

It was a remarkable display that showed why Monarch is unique, and shows the benefits of small schools in general. http://www.monarchschool.org/

After graduation, there was time for a trip to the Ship Channel, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houston_Ship_Channel the highlight of any trip to Houston. The best place to see the channel is east of town, by the Battleship monument. If you go all the way to the end of the road you'll reach the Lynchburg Ferry, which you can ride for free till the service ends at dark.




There are two ferries, which swap sides every 15 minutes or so. I rode the William P Hobby. The photo above shows the Ross S Sterling as we meet mid-channel.


Here are some pictures of the traffic, which I watched till dusk. The towboat Elizabeth Bleiler passed close by, with two barges:









A lone biker rode watched the channel from his hog:






As the sun began to set, the tanker Stolt Creativity headed out to sea. Stolt Creativity is a 37,000 ton tanker that carries specialty petroleum products.








The light was too low to get the name on this one, my last tanker of the evening:



The refineries glittered like gold as the lights winked on at dusk:







After that, I drove back to the Galleria for dinner, where I encountered this van in the garage. The name truly says it all.



They’re online, for real, at http://www.texaslicesquad.com/

I’ve been scratching a bit since dinner.

39 comments:

Strange Behaviour said...

What an honor, to stand with those kids in a moment of achievement! Congratulations to you and them.

Jan said...

Woof! You look very proud to be among those honored graduates. Hope you sent your Mom a picture of you in a cap and gown! As for the lack of a project... no worry. You have completed so much in the passed year since the beginning of what turned out to be your "Senior" high school year, you only need to identify which one of many you want them to count. All of the wonderful words of wisdom, inspiration, and hope you have given us all compile a senior project anyone would be proud to call their own. Shall I name a few - the Autism program at Elms, the Q and A for Billy the Kid, The paradigm that Autistic individuals may NOT want to be left alone, the VOICE of Autism, and then there is all you are discovering and helping discover with TMS. You have had a great senior year and accomplished much.

We are all proud of you.

Jan

PS did you go to the prom?

Brett said...

Congratulations. Guess it's time to start working on a college degree ;-)

Polly Kahl said...

Very proud of you John, and you look quite distinquished in that cap and gown. Congratulations, graduate.
p.s. the pictures rock too

Stephen Parrish said...

Congratulations, John. Next up: an honorary doctorate.

Don't forget: anniversary tribute to Miss Snark on Pat Wood's Blog starting May 20th.

John B said...

All of us at the Monarch School were fiercely proud to see this wrong finally righted. John's intelligence and accomplishments deserve even more recognition than this high school diploma. As Dr. Neal Sarahan of Monarch shared, "If we were a university, we'd have given you a college degree!"

John, we loved seeing you again. You bring us hope, joy and much laughter (especially about the Texas Lice Squad!) We love you, man!

John

Marty F. Webb said...

John, although we gave you an honorary degree, in fact you honored US with your presence, your wisdom, your friendship. Your comments to the graduates and their families were predictably poignant and such a precious gift. Love to you and Martha both. We know you will continue to make remarkable contributions to the world and we're proud to send you back out as a Monarch graduate!

Marty Webb

Jill Elaine Hughes said...

This is great. Congrats on your diploma.

I wonder if the lice (like everything else) are bigger in Texas.

ChrisEldin said...

Many, many congratulations!!

Hugs coming your way.....
:-)

Kanani said...

I love the LICE squad!

Anyway, congratulations! You're proof positive that it's never too late to write a best selling book and get a high school diploma!

xxx
Kanani

The Muse said...

Wow, what an honor! This must give you a great sense of accomplishment and closure. As John B. said, "All of us at the Monarch School were fiercely proud to see this wrong finally righted." (Yes! Good karma strikes again.) I'm sure that your presence brought the graduating class a great deal of promise for their futures. What a thoughtful gesture on the part of the administration to grant you an honorary degree. Not only does this benefit you, but more importantly those kids last memory of the school is standing shoulder to shoulder with someone who has succeeded against all odds. Just think John- YOU have become a symbol of hope and inspiration...

PLANET3RRY said...

I'd say that your book would be qualified substitute to a "senior" project. Congrats on your degree... too bad they all can't be honorary.

I loved the comment about the refineries glittering like gold... oh that is true right now. They are great pictures by the way!

jmw.marshall said...

Thank you for being a highlight at my son's graduation! Your senior project was the good news about your hope at Harvard. The room was absolutely silent with attentive listening. I'm proud of the work Monarch has done, and it is wonderful that you are a part of it! I look forward to hearing about the fun high school reunions. Congratulations! Melanie

MonarchMom said...

I love your observation about Monarch being a "safe and gentle" school. It serves to remind me of the very most important reason we have moved across the country for our son to attend Monarch -- so he can feel safe to explore who he is meant to be, encouraged to be an active member of a community where he is not judged or ridiculed but rather nurtured and guided to full potential. As a parent there is nothing I want more for my child, except maybe happiness which has been a delightful result of Monarch as well! Thank you for joining us at Monarch, John. You are an inspiration to all, including parents.

fareastphillips said...

Great photos!

Sadly I missed seeing you and the honored Monarch graduates last weekend. I'm sure for everyone there, it was a memorable part of their ongoing journey.

I'm sending my son to Monarch because it is my dream that he live a self-determined life. Sincere congratulations to you for living such a life and inspiring others to do the same.

Regards, Leslie P.

Dr. B. said...

It was a great honor for us at THe Monarch School to have you as a graduate. There aren't many positive adult role models with Asperger's Disorder for our students to look up to, and your honesty about the mistakes you made and trials you faced along the way are really inspirational for all of us.

John Elder Robison said...

Dr B, thanks for your kind words and your support. May I just say one thing? Why don't you call this Asperger's Syndrome and drop the Asperger's Disorder?

Or just call it Asperger's?

The more functional one becomes, the less appear there is to being "disordered."

And I suggest it's sometimes a self-fullfilling kind of thing.

Monarch Student said...

Dear Mr. Robison,

Thank you for coming to the graduation and being part of the graduating class of 2008.

I'm the one who gave the gift to be the sports manager for The Monarch School.

I thought your talk was really funny and interesting. We really want you to come back to the Monarch school and visit us.

Your friend,

Matthew

Monarch Student said...

Dear Mr. Robison,

WOOF!

I liked your speech at the graduation. It was inspiring and new.

I enjoyed seeing you graduate because I think you deserved it.

Remember, me, it's Alex. I'm the kid who interviewed you on the radio and talked about KISS. I thought the guitars you made were awesome.

I went on the internet and found a video of one of the guitars that you made that Ace used. It was really cool.

See ya around,

Alex

Monarch Student said...

Dear Mr. Robison,

I was honored to be able to graduate with you. The world needs more people to speak out like you do.

I was the one on your right side and we walked down the aisle together at graduation.

It's inspiring to see you be able to come back and graduate after how many years was it?

You've been a great help, helping us understand more about autism.

Thank you for showing us that we can have our own voice.

Sincerely,

Megan

Monarch Student said...

Dear Mr. Robison,

This is Chris and I am a Monarch Challenger Student. (a junior)

I do not have autism, but I have bipolar and have symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome.

You made a comment about people with autism looking around like a caged animal.

This is true. It's misunderstood that it's behavior of autism. It's more of being socially cautious and aware of your surroundings because you don't know who's going to attack you next, like you said.

Without Monarch, I probably would have never made it through jr. high. In other schools I felt like an outcast. In Monarch there is a sense of belonging that I just never had before.

Funny enough, without being "socially challenged", I don't know who I'd be. You just learn to deal with it over time, and it becomes a part of you.

You finally graduated 20 something years after high school, because The Monarch School saw you for who you were, not as a burden. I felt like I was a burden before I came here.

It just goes to show, even though you have your weaknesses, there is always someone who will believe in you.

Congratulations,

Chris

rwtebo said...

I attended the graduation ceremony last Saturday, and I'm glad I did. Hearing from John and the other graduates was truly the highlight of my week. I was also amazed at the senior projects that were done.

I have a 7 yr old boy at Monarch now. He is doing very well, and every day we see that he loves to go to school. Just as you mentioned at graduation, he and his classmates no longer have that "trapped animal" look in their eyes. This is a safe environment to learn and thrive.

Thank you for your words at graduation, and your blog.

Regards,

R. Tebo

Stacy said...

Sounds like an amazing school. And congrats!

dick b said...

I too was at the graduation and was so impressed by all the students and your talk about the promising work being performed at Harvard. You are truly an inspiration to the students as are all the wonderful faculty and staff at Monarch School. How blessed all the students are for this "safe and gentle" place.

Chumplet said...

Congratulations, High School Graduate!

Michelle O'Neil said...

Congratulations John!

"I wished I had a project of my own to tell them about."

Uh, John? Do you have any idea how much that little LMITE project of yours has helped kids on the spectrum? And their parents? Not to mention all the education you are doing? Not to mention the brain wave you're doing now?

Woof!

piglet said...

congratulations john, that is so awesome you were able to go back there.

i was thinking when you wrote, "I wished I had a project of my own to tell them about." about all the major accomplishments in your life that i've only read about here and in your book. i guess people tend to have higher expectations on themselves.

those pictures are gorgeous!

i was unaware of the lice epidemic in texas :)

Drama Mama said...

John, I love the picture of you with the graduates. I love this school!

Do you have any pictures of the multi-pane yearbook display?

I certainly hope, that as a graduate, you decide to do something with your life.

Holly Kennedy said...

Woof, John!

This is so cool.
Congratulations.

Angela said...

Congrats on your high school diploma!!! Great pictures! I just bought your book, can't wait to read it!

Trish Ryan said...

Congratulations! That's amazing. And I love the great pictures, too :)

Neal Sarahan said...

John - Hope you are doing well. Check out an article that I'm trying to attach - the work goes on - and we're honored to be on the journey with you.
Check out the ComputerWorld front page for May 27th

Dr. B. said...

Thank you, John, for freely sharing your concern about diagnostic labeling practices that have a potentially negative ring to them. I fully understand your concern about psychologists' use of the term "disorder" to refer to people with Asperger's. For many, this term seems less hopeful and perhaps more stigmatizing than the term "syndrome." Perhaps some background would be helpful. From an historical and semantic perspective and within the medical community, syndrome refers to a cluster of symptoms that tend to co-occur, while disorder refers to a set of symptoms with a known or inferred physiological cause or basis. Many variations in human functioning have undergone a name change from syndrome to disorder as underlying physiological factors were identified, while others have retained the label of syndrome out of respect for a long history of having used that term (e.g., Down's Syndrome). With our emphasis on neurological differences at The Monarch School, you can see how use of a term that implies a physiological basis would be preferable to some. In addition, the DSM-IV, the definitive psychologist's hand reference, uses the term "Asperger's Disorder." It is difficult for many of us to move away from that standard to adopt new language that has more of a ring of hopefulness to it. As for me personally, in response to your questions and out of respect for your way of thinking, I will do my best to use the term "Asperger's" without further qualification. Consider me converted!

Polly Kahl said...

If you want to get specific, the PDM, last produced by the American Psychoanalytic Association in 2000, calls it Asperger’s Syndrome. The DSM-IV, produced by the American Psychiatric Association and last revised in 2000, calls it Asperger’s Disorder. The ICD-11, produced by the World Health Association and last revised in 1992 with a revision planned for 2011, calls it Asperger’s Syndrome. These manuals provide us with a myriad of professional diagnostic choices. In this discussion we have the opportunity to hear not only the opinion but the feelings of a highly-respected Aspergian who is every day becoming more well known as an expert on the subject. He has requested that we refer to it as a syndrome rather than a disorder. Would doing so really be an imposition?

John B said...

Glad you agree with Dr. Bryant in his decision to respect John's wishes,Polly!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I wished I had a project of my own to tell them about...

Your book?

:)

WendyCinNYC said...

Great photos, John! And congrats. What a lovely honor.

yabbadee said...

It's after 2AM, and I just finished reading your wonderful book.
As a non logical, intuitive/perceptive type, it was very helpful for me to read and understand your aspergian logical thinking process!

I used to be a learning disabilities teacher, and have worked with teens in foster care for almost 20 years now. A former resident, and now house mother, gave me your book to read, and I loved it.

I figured out that my own 14 year old is probably a high functioning Aspergerian too. Having recently figured that out, helped me understand and be more accepting of her "uniqueness." Knowledge is power!

On another note, I was fascinated to see you and i share some similarities such as both of us are Arieans, and are the same age too! I also have family in Springfield, MA; but have grown up closer to your grandparents, as I live in the FL panhandle.

Life is strange, but I believe we all are connected in some way, and have far more in common than differences. It's great you shared your story. We all can learn from one another, and you certainly have enlightened your readers. Thank you for sharing your life. It offers hope and understanding. Thank you! -APD

Jessica said...

As I read more on your site, I am learning more, I love it! This Monarch School you speak of,(congrats by the way!!) is it specifically for students with varying degrees of autism? If so, do you know of any in Canada? I will do a google search myself as well but you know a lot more than I do when it comes to this subject. I was very moved by the comments from fellow students of yours, you are making a HUGE difference in the world and I thank you for that.
Thank you for your time.
Kind regards,
Jessica Fediw