Asperger support groups and a special bonus feature: turtle management

This afternoon I went to a meeting of the Asperger’s Association of New England. I’d looked at joining a while back, knowing they sponsored various activities, but I didn’t take them up on it till now.

I was anxious going in, because my parents had put me in “support groups” and “discussion groups” as a teenager, and they didn’t accomplish much. However, this group was different. I went to a grownup meeting, with me, a young married Aspergian couple, three guys ranging in age from 20 to 60, and a facilitator.

I enjoyed it a lot.

We all introduced ourselves and talked about what we did, and my book proved an interesting topic of conversation, along with one fellow starting a new job, and another fellow talking about shyness, something I’d experienced when I was his age.

I was surprised to see a myself reflected in most of the younger attendees. One had my awkwardness and my “geek” love of computers. Another talked about his awkwardness at job interviews, and I could just see myself fumbling my interviews at Milton Bradley and Simplex, thirty years before.

There was an older fellow there too – it’s always comforting to have someone older than me around – who had retired from a career on Wall Street. In him, I saw the intense focus that helped make me successful.

I also saw something of the struggle we all have, getting by every day. But any mom with a young Aspergian child would surely have found the whole bunch of us inspiring, because we’re all making it on our own, at various levels and in different ways. That was very encouraging. The mood at the meeting was upbeat. There was popcorn, too. And it was free.

In short, I saw something of myself in every Aspergian there. I wonder what they saw in me, especially the younger Aspergians. What would I have made of a middle-aged Aspergian when I was 21, I wondered? Just another old geek, most likely. Could the younger people know how similar I was to them, when I was their age? It certainly brought back memories, hearing their stories. I learned "what I learned" and some new things, too. And I hope I was an inspiration of sorts to them.

These meetings are an excellent idea for grown Aspergians, and I commend the society for thinking them up, if indeed they did think them up. And even if they didn't, they're still worthwhile. I’ll be attending the next meeting on the 25th, and I'm bringing my friend Bob, a fellow engineer and geek that you'll meet in my book.

Now, for the tip of the day: What to do when snapping turtles come calling

Many Americans live in tightly packed housing in cities. If you are one of those people, the following turtle tip will not be useful, but check back for next week's tip – removing large snakes from apartment ventilation systems. I know - you say it can't happen to you - but it does, every day, somewhere in America. And for the rest of you . . Those who live in homes with yards may one day look out to find the lawn covered or at least spotted with turtles

When that happens, prompt and decisive action is needed.

There are many theories regarding the best way to remove a snapping turtle from a lawn. Some say, “Dangle an ax handle in front of its nose and carry it out when it latches on.” Others say, “Jab it in the ass with the ax handle and get it moving the direction you want it to go.” And the real connoisseurs say, “Time for turtle soup.” Those are the ones the turtles fear, and with good reason. The ones who approach smiling, in puffy white hats, and with white coats.

Personally, I have not found turtles to either bite on command or move in the direction indicated by my jabs. And the local turtles are tough eating. Also, they can chew hell out of the ax handle, rendering it dangerous and splintery for subsequent wood cutting.

I have found that the easiest answer to turtle infestation is a snow shovel. A shovel can be slipped under all but the biggest snappers with a minimum of difficulty, and the turtle can be relocated with ease. And unlike snakes, agressive turtles cannot climb the handle to bite you. Any turtle that tries will find himself on his back, on the ground, waiting for the shovel or the stewpot.

Cubby pointed out that many people with serious turtle problems will want to know if the same turtles return again or if new turtles keep appearing. To find that out, simply tag each turtle you relocate with a distinct pattern of paint dots. My turtles are all blue dot, so you’ll know them if they appear in your lawn. May I suggest yellow or red, with shape stencils, for your neighborhood.

Solve YOUR turtle problems now, while you still can.


Polly Kahl said…
Those snappers can be nasty beasts, and they move fast too. We saw a lot of them, growing up playing in the Green River. They can stick their necks out pretty far so watch those fingers. They don't have teeth but can snap your fingers off with their jaws. Push it into a container with a stick. Or slide your hand under it and hold it steady by the tail. It can't reach your hand underneath, and it can't reach its tail. Don't carry it by the tail or you can hurt it, and don't hold it by the sides unless your fingers are replaceable.

That meeting sounds great. How cool to see Aspies of all ages, and be able to think about where you came from and where you're going. I bet if you tell those young guys about your work with all the rock & rollers, they won't think you're such an old fart anymore.

Always have such fun reading your blogs, John.
John Robison said…
Your elaboration on turtle handling is most welcome. I can see you're a veteran of turtle encounters, yourself.

I didn't really have a chance to talk much about my past at the meeting because the talk was mostly centered on present day issues.
Anonymous said…
John, as the "older man" in the room, I can say I shared many of your feelings -- about seeing myself in the younger people.

It was great to meet you, and I do hope you'll continue to attend -- I've been to 4 or 5 of the meetings so far, and they have gotten more comfortable each time. There's something slightly oxymoronic about Aspies socializing.

As I mentioned to you, I'd never heard the term "Aspergian" -- did you make that up? -- but I do prefer it to "Aspie" which is affectionate but perhaps somewhat too cutesy (especially at my age). So, thanks for that addition to my vocabulary.

Talking with you and reading your website and blog have encouraged me to put more energy into my own writing. As I mentioned to you, I have set out to tell my story, much in the way you have, though of course my life and my style of telling about it will be very different. Still, the basic message will be the same, I hope -- that AS is a "different way of being" and need not be an impediment to a successful and happy life, despite the many bumps along the way. I've experienced much heartache in my life, but I remain optimistic, and committed to continually improving my lot.

I very much look forward to future conversations.
Anonymous said…
Turtles! I had no idea that they could be such a problem!

That does sound like a great meeting you had. [and inspiring for the rest of us]

As an aside [off topic and none of my business anyway] I was wondering if you could find the time to describe your sense of humour / what you find funny / why? Or do we just have to wait for the book?

Best wishes
Tena Russ said…
Oh, the pesky turtle issue... Loved your post.

Michael Forbes Wilcox wonders about the term Asbergian, as do I. Did you coin the phrase, John? In our family (which includes at least one such member and possibly two) we call it Aspie.

Other: I was in my local indie bookseller in a suburb of Chicago. This store does a terrific business and has author events almost daily, also luncheon events at a club in Chicago. I had come in the store to see if they'd ordered your book (yes), but they didn't know anything about YOU so I gave them an earful. Of course I had to make up a bunch of good stuff. They are very interested in arranging a visit with you. I believe my friend at the store will call your publicist. If you want to talk about this, please email me at and I'll tell you more. I would LOVE for you to come to Chicago.

Sorry to be so long-winded here but I didn't find an email address for you.

This comment has been removed by the author.
Oops, try again. That meeting sounds terrific. I have a young woman friend in town with Aspergers - I hope to bring her to your signing in CT.

As the for turtle? I just might have found my career. I'll create turtle marking stencils! Hearts, Nascar numbers, I'll be rich, rich, rich!! I like turtles, although I rarely approach them. I do swerve around them on the road though.
Polly Kahl said…
Hey John. Turtles, snakes, skunks, coons, o'possoms, spiders, crawfish, love them all. Very frustrating to have spawned two boys who won't touch the darn things. They have no idea how much fun they're missing. Good thing they are all over hijacking the backhoe we have here since we're having an extension put on the house. Since I figured out how to lift the outriggers I haven't been able to keep my hands off it. So there is hope for the spawnlings yet.

Hey Tena, did you tell your indie bookseller about John's illustrious porn career? That might stimulate further interest.
Anonymous said…
Polly said: "Hey Tena, did you tell your indie bookseller about John's illustrious porn career? That might stimulate further interest."

Oh right, the Aspergian Porno King. I'll be sure to tell them.
Sandra Cormier said…
Our snappers stay across the street near the river, where they belong.

I guess they're quicker than the bunnies and squirrels, because they don't get hit by cars.

It's nice that you can interact comfortably with people in a similar situation. I'm glad you went.
Laura said…
The support group sounds very nice, and I agree, any mom of an Asperger's child would find you inspiring!

I don't think we have snapping turtles out here. At least not in the creek. I think they like still water. As a kid, I had a pet duckling that lost part of her foot to a snapper. We brought her to our vet, who kept her in the small pond behind her house, so little "Webby" swam around in circles with her one foot.
StockWatcher said…
It was an honor to be at the group and to meet John. I really found the individuals inspiring. I really liked hearing about John's previous stories about how children with autism wouldn't find him threatening as he might be able to understand them better. It was inspiring.

I found the turtle story to be interesting as I live on a wetland. While we don't see turtles that often, they patron us occasionally. My grandmother has a broom that she used and the turtle bit down on the straw part of the broom and she flung the thing in the air. It was pretty funny. We just saw a snake the other day (probably just a garden snake).

I like meeting new people but I never seem to understand why it never becomes a real friendship instead of some very rare instances. I really appreciated his advice as it was inspiring. I hope to meet him again.

I really like being able to have individuals of all ages there so I could learn from them.

Take care of yourself. I hope you get on the bestseller list.
Holly Kennedy said…
I loved your turtle
control pointers, John.

I've never had a turtle encounter.

A bear, yes. Ditto with raccoons and skunks and deer eating my flowers, but no turtles.
Anonymous said…
While we city-dwellers may not have to deal with rampaging hordes of turtle, we do have the odd alligator coming out of our sewers and toilets. Perhaps your de-turtling methods are applicable to all sorts of snapping reptiles? I'm going to start keeping a snow shovel in the bathroom. Might come in awfully handy one day!
John Robison said…
Effective alligator management calls for more than just a snow shovel. First of all, most alligators - even sewer gators - are too long for the shovel. Second, they can lunge and place your forward shovel hand at risk.

Duct tape is required to secure the mouth before movement is attempted.
John Robison said…
Holly, you just never know. Especially with this global warming. One day you Canadians may awaken to hordes of turtles, migrating north from the overheated United States.
Anne said…
John, I was glad to hear that you had a chance to enjoy hanging out with other autistic spectrum people. I like AANE's mission to foster respect, acceptance and support.

I think attending a group with autistic adults is very different from attending a group as a child, since groups for kids are more like "interventions."
dessertschick said…
We’d use nail polish, a different color each year, and we’d paint a sequential number on each turtle we caught. But they were box turtles or painted turtles, not snappers.

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