Look Me in the Eye- John Elder Robinson
This has been the year of memoirs for me. Look Me in the Eye is the memoir of John Elder Robinson. Robinson talks candidly about his life with Aspergers (an autism spectrum disorder) and growing up with an alcoholic dad and mentally troubled mother.
From Wikipedia:Asperger syndrome or Asperger's syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical use of language are frequently reported.
We have a family member that has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, and looking back I can identify at least one child I taught in elementary school who probably could have been labeled an Aspergian (as Robinson calls them.) Aspergians are unable to pick up normal social cues. They are usually highly intelligent and often have some form of creative genius. They tend to be "misfits" or "outcasts" because of their lack of social understanding.
Robinson was born as the first child of parents who would soon begin to struggle with alcoholism and mental disorders. His childhood was difficult because of his continual social difficulties. When he was growing up in the 1970s, Asperger syndrome was relatively unknown. Instead, he was considered rude, lazy, unemotional. He had trouble making friends and relating to his peers.
As John Elder grew older, his inability to relate with others and his family problems caused him to struggle at school even though he was very intelligent. He became a trickster and was often in trouble. He ended up dropping out of school. His creative genius caused him to be very capable in designing and repairing any and all things electrical.
Robinson's unique abilities led him to find acceptance in the musical world designing and improving sound systems and special effects. He even went on to tour with the band KISS. In the music world, he was accepted as never before. He had many interesting stories to tell about his life on the road with the band.
Soon, he realized; however, that that world was not for him. He went on to get a "real" job where he struggled to succeed in the corporate world. His journey to owning his own business where he finally felt competent and accepted and his eventual diagnosis with Aspergers when he was forty years old led to a confidence that he had never known as a kid growing up.
Reading about John Elder's life was very interesting to me. His ability to share his story in the way he did and to connect with readers the way he does shows an amazing ability for someone with Asperger's syndrome. I realized some things about those children I know and have known with Aspergers while I was reading. Some of their "oddities" make much more sense to me now. I had several "aha" moments while reading this book.
I really enjoyed this memoir. I suppose it meant more to me because I personally know a child with Asperger syndrome. But, I think anyone can be touched with John's message of how it feels when a child feels different and left out. And we can all learn to look at people with those "oddities" differently.