John Elder Robison
Author of Look Me in the EyeBook Speaker
As his latest in a long list of achievements, John Elder Robison has been appointed to the U.S. Government's Interagecny Autism Coordinating Committee. In his incredibly readable, bestselling memoir, Look Me In the Eye, Robison recounts his idiosyncratic life with illuminating insight. The book was named one of the top books of the year by Amazon, was listed in Publisher's Weekly as one of the top selling books in America for three years in a row, and was a finalist for the Books for a Better Life Award.
In his talks, Robison, an adjunct professor at Elms College in Massachusetts, details how he overcame enormous odds to lead a fulfilling life: from an anti-social child to a successful father now running a multi-million dollar car specialty shop and his own photography business. Though his life is unique—he's designed guitars for KISS and toys for Milton Bradley—it's equally rich with clues to both spotting autism in children and harnessing the best from those already diagnosed. (Autistic kids excel at math, in engineering, and with technology.)
Robison, who is currently involved in autism research at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre and is a member of the U.S. Government's Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee , has been applauded by thousands—the general public, teachers, mental health workers—for his storytelling skill, his on-stage compassion, and his insistence that anyone can lead successful lives according to gifts, not limitations. Asperger's is not a disease that needs curing; it's a way of experiencing life that requires only understanding and encouragement from others. In affecting, unforgettable talks, Robison reminds us that people "on the spectrum" can develop throughout their lives, and that it's never too late to hope for or expect change.
Robison's latest book, Raising Cubby, is a slyly funny, sweetly moving memoir of an unconventional dad’s relationship with his equally offbeat son—complete with fast cars, tall tales, homemade explosives, and a whole lot of fun and trouble.
It was truly an honor to have John come to Eagleton School. Our students enjoyed the visit and they are inspired! He is an amazing and courageous human being and we are lucky to have had the opportunity to meet him and hear his message.
Raising Cubby: A Father and Son's Adventures with Asperger's, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives
The slyly funny, sweetly moving memoir of an unconventional dad’s relationship with his equally offbeat son—complete with fast cars, tall tales, homemade explosives, and a whole lot of fun and trouble
Misfit, truant, delinquent. John Robison was never a model child, and he wasn’t a model dad either. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of forty, he approached fatherhood as a series of logic puzzles and practical jokes. When his son, Cubby, asked, “Where did I come from?” John said he’d bought him at the Kid Store and that the salesman had cheated him by promising Cubby would “do all chores.” He read electrical engineering manuals to Cubby at bedtime. He told Cubby that wizards turned children into stone when they misbehaved.
Still, John got the basics right. He made sure Cubby never drank diesel fuel at the automobile repair shop he owns. And he gave him a life of adventure: By the time Cubby was ten, he’d steered a Coast Guard cutter, driven a freight locomotive, and run an antique Rolls Royce into a fence.
The one thing John couldn’t figure out was what to do when school authorities decided that Cubby was dumb and stubborn—the very same thing he had been told as a child. Did Cubby have Asperger’s too? The answer was unclear. One thing was clear, though: By the time he turned seventeen, Cubby had become a brilliant chemist—smart enough to make military-grade explosives and bring state and federal agents calling. Afterward, with Cubby facing up to sixty years in prison, both father and son were forced to take stock of their lives, finally coming to terms with being “on the spectrum” as both a challenge and a unique gift.
By turns tender, suspenseful, and hilarious, this is more than just the story of raising Cubby. It’s the story of a father and son who grow up together.
Be Different: My Adventures with Asperger's and My Advice for Fellow Aspergians, Misfits, Families,
"I believe those of us with Asperger's are here for a reason, and we have much to offer. This book will help you bring out those gifts."
In his bestselling memoir, Look Me in the Eye, John Elder Robison described growing up with Asperger's syndrome at a time when the diagnosis didn't exist. He was intelligent but socially isolated; his talents won him jobs with toy makers and rock bands but did little to endear him to authority figures and classmates, who were put off by his inclination to blurt out non sequiturs and avoid eye contact.
By the time he was diagnosed at age forty, John had already developed a myriad of coping strategies that helped him achieve a seemingly normal, even highly successful, life. In Be Different, Robison shares a new batch of endearing stories about his childhood, adolescence, and young adult years, giving the reader a rare window into the Aspergian mind.
In each story, he offers practical advice—for Aspergians and indeed for anyone who feels"different"—on how to improve the weak communication and social skills that keep so many people from taking full advantage of their often remarkable gifts. With his trademark honesty and unapologetic eccentricity, Robison addresses questions like:
- How to read others and follow their behaviors when in uncertain social situations
- Why manners matter - How to harness your powers of concentration to master difficult skills
- How to deal with bullies
- When to make an effort to fit in, and when to embrace eccentricity
- How to identify special gifts and use them to your advantage
Every person, Aspergian or not, has something unique to offer the world, and every person has the capacity to create strong, loving bonds with their friends and family. Be Different will help readers and those they love find their path to success.
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's
Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother in them)—had earned him the label "social deviant." No guidance came from his mother, who conversed with light fixtures, or his father, who spent evenings pickling himself in sherry. It was no wonder he gravitated to machines, which could, at least, be counted on.
After fleeing his parents and dropping out of high school, his savant-like ability to visualize electronic circuits landed him a gig with KISS, for whom he created their legendary fire-breathing guitars. Later, he drifted into a "real" job, as an engineer for a major toy company. But the higher Robison rose in the company, the more he had to pretend to be "normal" and do what he simply couldn't: communicate. It wasn't worth the paycheck.
It was not until he was forty that an insightful therapist told him he had the form of autism called Asperger's syndrome. That understanding transformed the way Robison saw himself—and the world.
Look Me in the Eye is the moving, darkly funny story of growing up with Asperger's at a time when the diagnosis simply didn't exist. A born storyteller, Robison takes you inside the head of a boy whom teachers and other adults regarded as "defective," who could not avail himself of KISS's endless supply of groupies, and who still has a peculiar aversion to using people's given names (he calls his wife "Unit Two"). He also provides a fascinating reverse angle on the younger brother he left at the mercy of their nutty parents—the boy who would later change his name to Augusten Burroughs and write the bestselling memoir Running with Scissors.
Ultimately, this is the story of Robison's journey from his world into ours, and his new life as a husband, father, and successful small business owner—repairing his beloved high-end automobiles. It's a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien, yet always deeply human.
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