Thursday, April 25, 2013

Look Me In the Eye: My life with Asperger’s

by John Elder Robison
 At an early age John Elder Robison sensed that he was different. In pre-school he longed to make friends and engage in activities with other kids but could never get anyone to play with him. Instead he spent time in his own world playing with and naming his toys. His first real friend was a toy dump truck that he named ‘Chippy’.
Entangled in a caustic home life with an alcoholic father and a mother who teetered on the brink of mental break-down, John’s childhood was an uphill battle that was only compounded by Asperger syndrome.  Unable to rely on his parents or to establish relationships with others, John was soon labeled a ‘social deviant’ and spent most of his time tinkering with electronics and commandeering the attention of his much younger brother (Augusten Burroughs, author of ‘Running with Scissors’).  John dismantled radios, dug five feet holes in his yard to trap his brother, and even built from his Erector set a tall crane that could lift blocks into his brother’s crib. When he dropped out of high school and began pursuing employment, his electronic experimentation paid off. He was soon on the road (literally and figuratively) with various rock bands using his skills to improve their sound by tweaking amplifiers. His last and most famous tour was with the band KISS. It was Robison who designed and executed the spinning and rocket shooting guitars and pyrotechnics that was synonymous with the band.
This book is a fascinating read and one that left me marveling at a resilient nature of a man who overcame huge obstacles and in the end, built a pretty remarkable life. It is a funny, sincere and eye-opening account of Asperger syndrome and a family spiraling out of control.

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