This is a book by John Elder Robison. An autobiographical book about his life with Asperger’s Syndrome. The book appealed to me on two levels — it appealed to my love for reading and to my love for psychology.
First and foremost, for those that are not aware, let me explain to you what Asperger’s syndrome is. Individuals with Aspergers have significant difficulties in forming and developing appropriate social interactions, difficulties in communication skills and tend to have restrictive interests. This website
has more information. Anyway, the best example I can provide about an individual with Aspergers syndrome would be Sheldon Cooper from the show ‘Big Bang Theory
‘ (although, please note that not all individuals with Aspergers are geniuses!)
But I digress.
Going back to the book…it is a great insight into the life of someone with Aspergers. What makes it even more fascinating is that John Robison was not diagnosed until about the age of 40! The title of the book is because some individuals with Aspergers, like John, have difficulty maintaining eye contact when they speak to others…resulting in people telling them to “look me in the eye”.
Whilst growing up, John failed to understand why people didn’t understand him. Or why it was so difficult for him to make friends with kids his age. Or why people misunderstood him when he smiled at the fact that someone else met with an accident. Or why people and psychiatrists back then thought he was a psychopath in the making. John writes about his dysfunctional life — an alcoholic father, a mother with a mental illness, an abusive childhood, a dodgy therapist who was supposed to help the family, and a younger brother who back then to him, was a real pain.
John takes us through his journey as a child where he struggled to make friends but learnt around the age of 9 what was acceptable and what was not. (e.g. patting someone on the head was not acceptable or talking about your helicopter when they showed you their truck was not the etiquette). He takes us through his adolescent years where he dropped out of high school and got interested in electronics and cars, his misadventures with women, and his attempts to fit it. He takes us through his adult years where he formed relationships with women, worked with Pink Floyd briefly and the band KISS doing special effects for their live shows, getting a ’stable’ job in the corporate world and finally ditching that to become his own boss at an automobile company.
It is a heartwarming book and you can literally see the struggles of a little boy who has no clue what’s going on with him. You feel uplifted when years later, this little boy finds out his diagnosis. And sees the light. And everything seems to make sense to him after 40 long years of struggle and compensation.
For me personally, given that I work with some teens with Aspergers, it was all the more insightful. It was life from their point of view. It also opens up the world of Aspergers to the population out there explaining everything in lay terms.
If you like autobiographical books and enjoy reading about overcoming hardships and a dysfunctional childhood, this book is worth a read.
Until next time,