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Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers Hardcover – March 22, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 202 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“For anyone who has difficulty fitting in, this book is fantastic.”
—Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures
“In a love poem to his wife, Pedro Salinas, the Spanish poet, wrote, ‘Glory to the differences / between you and me.’ John Robison teaches us to celebrate differences
like Salinas did, but also offers clear insight and valuable advice on how to cope with the challenges that being different can create. This book transcends the specific case of Asperger’s syndrome and is a lesson in humanity and the human condition.”
—Alvaro Pascual-Leone, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
“Anyone with Asperger’s, if not everyone else, will derive knowledge and pleasure from the wonderful stories told in John Elder Robison’s newest book, Be Different. Clearly, John is one of our community’s leading voices.”
—Michael John Carley, author of Asperger’s from the Inside Out and executive director of GRASP and ASTEP
“Be Different is a fascinating and unique guide for young people who may be struggling with autism and feel ‘out of sync’ with the world around them. John shares personal insights about growing up, feeling apart from his peers, and learning to modify his socializing skills and harness his gifts to discover his path to a successful life.”
—Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks
“Robison offers down-to-earth life advice for his “Aspie” peers and their friends, families, and teachers...recommended reading for anyone seeking to understand Aspergian children and adults Kirkus

" ...provides incredibly helpful advice to families learning to live with these challenges. Robison’s clear writing provides substantial insight into the mind of someone whose disorder makes clarity very, very difficult...a valuable read."--Booklist

About the Author

 is an author and frequent lecturer about his life with Asperger’s. He blogs for Psychology Today and is an adjunct faculty member at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts. John serves on committees and review boards for the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health. He is currently involved in autism research and therapy programs at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital. John also sits on the science and treatment boards of Autism Speaks. His previous book, Look Me in the Eye, was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into ten languages. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. Visit him at www.johnrobison.com.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (March 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307884813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307884817
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (202 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sandra W. Sutherland MANUFACTURER on March 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Elder Robison has spent his life teaching himself to compensate for his own lack of social skills due to living with Asperger's Syndrome. His first book, "Look Me in the Eye" includes stories of hilarity and pain, sometimes at his own expense. The response to these stories has surely far surpassed his expectations, as he quickly becomes looked to as "the guide" to parents' hopes and teachers' dreams. Seeing the need for more information, Robison offers to others the best understanding he has developed about autistic thinking throughout a life span in his new book, "Be Different".

"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.
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Format: Hardcover
As an occupational therapist and parent of a young man with asperger's syndrome I have read numerous memoirs that never fail to reinforce how unique each person's challenges are. John has already established that he is a very good writer (it apparently runs in the family) and again shares intimate experiences and thoughts about his inner life and many coping strategies.

I tried reading some excerpts to my son who refused to listen. He does not like to hear the words "autism" or "aspergers"- illustating that while some "aspies" find solice in sharing their growing self-awareness, others just struggle to fit in the best they can and don't want to be reminded that they are indeed "different". Some of them will love this book, others won't.

Despite being a "nyptical", I found this book to be very readable, although I had occasional dejavu feelings that I had read some of the anectdotes before. The most striking one for me was the story of John's car accident. He was able to focus on taking steps to rescue a survivor without feeling the horror that might paralyze someone else. My son explained to me that his same ability will enable him to work in a medical setting amongst the sick and dying.

"Being Different" is not the kind of book that mesmerizes- but it is a pleasure to read one chapter a night and then process it over the next morning's commute. This book has a different focus than "Look Me In the Eye" did- with greater emphasis on how the author's emotional and sensory make-up makes him deal with life the way he does. Readers who are just learning about their Asperger's diagnosis or are learning how to understand their children's needs will appreciate this book. It is yet, one more insightful memoir packed with advice and resources.

Barbara A. Smith, M.S., author of The Recycling Occupational Therapist
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Format: Hardcover
We have a big family with lots of "Aspie" traits, although most of us are very high-functioning and would fall through the cracks, diagnosis-wise. This book is a wonderful resource for us.
Mr. Robison explains certain behaviors so succinctly, we were laughing out loud in recognition and relief at having them explained so well. This book is invaluable to anyone interested in
the way the Aspie brain operates, and who would like some good advice on how to make positive use of this special way of thinking.
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Format: Hardcover
Have you wondered what it really meant to be wired differently? I have read many books that gave me the physiological difference and explanations, but nothing had given me such great insight to the mind of an Aspergian than John Elder Robison's new book "Be Different." So here goes my review.

This book offers great, practical advice to parents, teachers, and care-givers of Asperger kids. For me, the memorable part came when he covered aspie's lack of empathy.
"Don't worry, he doesn't even notice," he heard people around him say. And this was his response.

"I may seem robotic and mechanical sometimes, but there is nothing mechanical or cold about my internal feelings...I am just as sensitive as anyone to snide remarks and criticism. I cried inside fifty years ago, and I still do today."

Well, that's where I cringed. Even though I understood that my son's lack of empathy didn't equal to not having feelings, I did the samething to my son. I didn't mean to brush him aside or make him feel invisible; I was just too used to having him not pay any attention to me and what was happening around him. Now, I truly am sorry.

Besides teaching me many good lessons, this book actually left feeling good. I put it down with the better knowledge of Asperger and a little more understanding of my son. As he told through this book, embracing being Asperger doesn't mean you can't be positive.

Okay, let me take off my "blogger" hat and say what's really on my mind. Obviously, there's so much more in this book which can't all be mentioned. I just like to say that I LOVE reading, mostly fiction. But this book was the most delicious non-fiction I've ever read, well, if non-fiction could be delicious. It's worth your time, I promise:)
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