Friday, September 30, 2011

Being Different, in an Australian TV special and a NZ magazine


This afternoon I received a nice review from Thread, a New Zealand news site.  We've had quite a bit of press from Down Under lately, including this one-hour special on Being Different from the ABC, the Australian Broadcast Company.  It aired last week but you can see it now online

Autobiographies by their very nature can be a bit self indulgent, like the book we are reviewing on the life of Steven Tyler. Others choose to use their experiences to illuminate – and make the path of others, easier. Be Different – Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robison is just such a book. Having read his previous book Look Me in the Eye (a quip at the difficulty many with Autism have at staring you straight in the face) about his own struggles with his Aspergers/Autism, I can attest to his wonderful open writing style.

He has led a colourful life, from running away from home before he was 18, to designing the pyrotechnic displays known to shoot from the guitars of Rock Gods, KISS, his vintage car business, to his eventual marriage and diagnosis with Aspergers when his own son was diagnosed. This second book, while also autobiographical, is mostly a book full of “practical advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers.” And what great advice it is! Some of it doesn’t translate particularly well to our NZ schools – but on the whole it is a wonderful thing to get a bird's eye view of an Aspergian (his terminology for Aspergers Syndrome – and to my mind a much nicer turn of phrase) mind. With Aspergers a very personal subject for me, and one I know quite a lot about (various family members closely related to me), I am sorry this book wasn’t available earlier. It is a book that can easily be read by parents, family members, and professionals.

I can see it being particularly good for parents of a newly diagnosed child, as it is so very hopeful and positive. It can easily be read by a teen Aspergian, and could definitely make the transition of understanding what makes them tick, and how they fit in the world, so much easier. Five stars. On a personal note – the author is the older brother of Augustin Burroughs who wrote the harrowing tale of his childhood in Running With Scissors. Writing well must run in the family. Be Different – Adventures of a Free Range Aspergian by John Elder Robison is published by Random House and is available now.

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