Author: My life with Aspergers

John Elder Robison paced back and forth in front of the silent, captivated Castleton State College audience, his eyes scanning the room without destination. No one would know, looking from the outside in, that just five years ago he couldn’t talk comfortably to his brother in his yard, on his tractor, in his comfort zone.
John Elder has come a long way from his turbulent upbringing. He spent what seemed like a lifetime feeling less than the sum of his parts, different from the rest, but unable to put a finger on what that was or even meant.
Now he jokes warmly about how Vermont holds a special place in his heart because at 16  it was easy to get beer in the Green Mountain state. The irony of the fact that he was arrested here for illegally sleeping at a rest stop is lost on him.   
But life wasn’t often full of laugher for John Elder Robison. His fist book, a memoir called “Look me in the eye,” recounts Robinson’s unstable childhood with undiagnosed Aspergers Syndrome. Growing up, he couldn’t connect with one person, let alone a room full of college students like he did at CSC earlier this month. Hell, he was even making them laugh. Asperger syndrome is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. He calls it an “invisible” disability, which makes things difficult because sometimes people don’t understand things they can’t physically see.
 “No one goes up to a man in a wheel chair and says get your ass up,” he told the crowd.
All through his childhood he said he heard that he was a “defective kid” and “no damn good.”  
It wasn’t until he was 43 and running his own business that he was diagnosed with Aspergers. In-between that time, he’d dropped out of high school, toured with Pink Floyd, invented the first fire blowing guitar for Kiss and worked for Milton Bradley as an engineer – all the while feeling like a complete failure and not understanding why he couldn’t connect.  
“Look me in the eye,” the book assigned for this year’s incoming first year students, is a first person account of Robison’s childhood and search for peace of self told with Robison’s dry sense of  humor, but it wasn’t all laughs and book tours.
“As funny as it is to tell the stories, it was very painful to live,” he said.
Megan Breen, an SOS leader for the incoming first-year students, also read the book.
 “It shows that everyone should keep an open, understanding mind about the people around us. We might not know where people come from or what they’ve been through. Being different isn’t less,” Breen said
Student Government Association President  Michael Shalginewicz agreed.
“It puts a face to aspergers, and to anyone who’d ever had trouble fitting in,” he said.
Robinson hopes to touch people and make them see aspergers isn’t just some disease that needs to be cured.
“The nature of autism makes us practical. The world needs us,” he said.

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