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Finding Kansas: Living and Decoding Asperger's Syndrome Paperback – April 3, 2012
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About the Author
After being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was 20 years old, Aaron Likens wrote Finding Kansas: Living and Decoding Asperger’s Syndrome. He was named a 2012 Mental Health Champion of Missouri and dedicates his time to raising autism awareness.
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I personally enjoyed the format of "Finding Kansas", as Aaron does not continue to dwell on one concept or subject for too long, but instead explores many of his life experiences and how he has reacted to each of them. Relationship troubles give way to his adventures in the world of auto racing and everything in-between, and it's genuinely hard to lose interest after reading just a few pages. Even if you don't know someone personally who is Autistic, Aaron's collection of personal writings is worth a read because he effortlessly is able to describe his non-traditional thought process in a way the average reader can understand.
This was very reminiscent of the film THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY about a stroke victim who was somehow able to transcend his condition and actually describe what was going on inside his head. Like this movie, the book FINDING KANSAS is wrenching in it's ability to throw back the curtain on medical diagnosis and assumptions and care-takers frustration with those with brain abnormalities, no matter what they may be, and eloquently illustrate that behind all these surface things, there is ultimately a person who is deeply suffering.
The author has uniquely described what he goes through on a daily basis, just trying to get through the day. What fascinated me most is the agony this writer goes through KNOWING he is not quite normal, but being utterly POWERLESS to do anything about it. It has always been easy for me to assume that my brother was just being difficult and stubborn. I never imagined that perhaps he doesn't WANT to be that way, that perhaps he is completely aware of what is causing other people distress and simply can't do anything about it. I never thought his actual condition could be causing as much deep internal pain for him as it does for all of those who love him.
In many ways this book is painful and heartbreaking, but it is also full of threads of hope. If the people surrounding those with Asperger's are better able to understand them, there has to be a chance that some of the internal pain can be slightly relieved. (For everyone involved!!!)
I have read many books, message boards and websites about Asperger's - but this is the most enlightening and enjoyable pieces of writing I have yet to come across. The author has a unique gift to be unrelentingly open and honest(while writing anyway)...something which most Aspy's are incapable of. So many of his stories, insecurities and life experiences are similiar to all of humanity - but the pain and frustration are magnified exponentially. This book left me thanking God that I have not been cursed with this syndrome, but it also left me with a deep compassion for my brother and all the other people who are struggling with a condition that allows them to appear normal some of the time, but leaves people frustrated and confused when the same person is unable to deal with the complexities of personal relationships and daily life.
After reading this, I am also left wondering how aware all sufferers of autism spectrum disorders are about their conditions, but just like a stroke victim or alzheimer victim, are unable to tell the world what is going on inside their minds.
As research increases on these conditions, I hope this book does not go unnoticed by the medical community. There is a lot of insight here that I have not seen anywhere else in my search to understand my brother.
I feel like this is not only an important book for those who are either dealing with Asperger's themselves or know somebody with it, but it opens the door to connect with anybody who has ever felt like an outcast. For many reasons, people can truly feel disconnected to those around them or society in general and Aaron speaks to those people and portrays their story as well as his. It is so therapeutic to put your story out there to explain how you feel and even more when others who hear your story can see a piece of them in it and can say they understand your feelings because they have felt some of those things too. I am positive, through this book, Aaron has helped other readers therapeutically--readers who would tell him they have Asperger's so they understand him or readers who don't feel like they fit in and would tell him he is not alone.
I took from this book the thought that although we may not understand exactly what is happening inside somebody's head, we can try to understand the pain life may create and that everybody has their own story. We should nurture one another, as we may actually be similar in ways even if for different reasons. It was heartbreaking to read of Aaron's struggles, but it was also glorious to see a young man getting to know his self and growing because of his desire to seek freedom and understanding. Aaron is braver than so many people who never understand who they are because they simply don't want to know.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Finding Kansas" and I wish all the best for Aaron and his journey in life.