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Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers Hardcover – March 22, 2011
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“I believe those of us with Asperger’s are here for a reason, and we have much to offer. This book will help you bring out those gifts.”
In his bestselling memoir,Â Look Me in the Eye, John Elder Robison described growing up with Asperger’s syndrome at a time when the diagnosis didn’t exist. He was intelligent but socially isolated; his talents won him jobs with toy makers and rock bands but did little to endear him to authority figures and classmates, who were put off by his inclination to blurt out non sequiturs and avoid eye contact.
By the time he was diagnosed at age forty, John had already developed a myriad of coping strategies that helped him achieve a seemingly normal, even highly successful, life. InÂ Be Different, Robison shares a new batch of endearing stories
about his childhood, adolescence, and young adult years, giving the reader a rare window into the Aspergian mind.
In each story, he offers practical adviceâfor Aspergians and indeed for anyone who feels “different”âon how to improve the weak communication and social skills that keep so many people from taking full advantage of their often remarkable gifts. With his trademark honesty and unapologetic eccentricity, Robison addresses questions like:
• How to read others and follow their behaviors when in uncertain social situations
• Why manners matter
• How to harness your powers of concentration to master difficult skills
• How to deal with bullies
• When to make an effort to fit in, and when to embrace eccentricity
• How to identify special gifts and use them to your advantage
Every person, Aspergian or not, has something unique to offer the world, and every person has the capacity to create strong, loving bonds with their friends and family.Â Be DifferentÂ will help readers and those they love find their path to success.
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Thankfully, the author's objective was to present the challenges and positive aspects of being an Aspie. The book starts off slow and I had a sinking feeling the thing was going to be like those self-help books written as if the reader has the intelligence of a 4th-grader. Fortunately, once Mr. Robison begins regaling the reader about his personal stories and how his high-functioning autism helped or led to misunderstandings, it becomes very enjoyable. I found myself laughing quite a bit, especially because I have done similar social faux pas. The author covers such areas as the difficulties of negotiating school, understanding social cues, dating, expressing emotions, empathy, the arbitrary nature of manners, staying cool in emergencies, being viewed as egocentric, and sensory issues. The book also explains how he persevered and gives suggestions as well as encouragement to fellow Aspies.
'Be Different' is a quick read and well worth reading for not only people with high-functioning autism but anyone interested in understanding how this influential segment negotiates what normal people consider run-of-mill situations. The chapters are short and the material is presented in a matter-of-fact manner, just like an Aspie. The Appendix is also interesting and includes some helpful descriptions as well as resources. It's the kind of work which entertains while giving you valuable insight and maybe will help you to reflect about someone in your life who you think is a vexing odd bird.
"Be Different" offers deeper explanations of this thinking - at least as Robison has experienced it - as a child and as an adult. He reflects on how much easier his own life might have been if others had been there to guide him rather than punish him for unknown transgressions. In an attempt to enlighten those who are trying to desperately to understand, but who are handicapped by being "nypical" (non-Aspergians), he has answered some of the questions asked of him by the many caregivers and loved ones who now look to him for this guidance plus much more.
Robison has a knack for humor as he describes and analyzes events with explanations for his blank stares and misunderstandings due to differences in language interpretation. He refutes the idea that lack of response means lack of feelings, in fact, he states that the truth is quite the opposite. Some of the issues he discusses are as problematic to "nypicals" as they were to him, and his salient points apply to many children who are misunderstood by those who make assumptions instead of making the effort.
This book is a "must read" for anyone involved with loving or serving these children and who might recognized a hitherto misunderstood adult. It also might serve to enlighten related persons who need to forgive those who are not responsible for their condition. Robison's kind and wise views give heart from the heart.