Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers

( 33 )

Overview

“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 ...
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Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers

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Overview

“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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

John Elder Robison, the author of this book, was almost forty before he realized what had made him so different since childhood: He had Asperger's. In a few years, the whole world knew about his condition, thanks to his younger brother Augusten Burroughs' memoir Running with Scissors. In 2007, Robison himself spoke up with his own bestselling memoir Look Me in the Eye. Be Different is a quite different, yet equally appealing book. Like its predecessor, it includes memorable stories about Robison's youth and adulthood, but its focus is on practical advice and coping strategies for Aspergians and other outsiders. The tone is upbeat: "My differences turned out also to include gifts that set me apart." "Find life and work settings that minimize your weaknesses, and find your strengths and play with them." Remedial reading for all of us. (P.S. April is Autism Awareness Month.)

From the Publisher
“For anyone who has difficulty fitting in, this book is fantastic.”
—Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures
 
“In a love poem to his wife, Pedro Salinas, the Spanish poet, wrote, ‘Glory to the differences / between you and me.’ John Robison teaches us to celebrate differences like Salinas did, but also offers clear insight and valuable advice on how to cope with the challenges that being different can create. This book transcends the specific case of Asperger’s syndrome and is a lesson in humanity and the human condition.”
—Alvaro Pascual-Leone, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
 
“Anyone with Asperger’s, if not everyone else, will derive knowledge and pleasure from the wonderful stories told in John Elder Robison’s newest book, Be Different. Clearly, John is one of our community’s leading voices.”
—Michael John Carley, author of Asperger’s from the Inside Out and executive director of GRASP and ASTEP
 
“Be Different is a fascinating and unique guide for young people who may be struggling with autism and feel ‘out of sync’ with the world around them. John shares personal insights about growing up, feeling apart from his peers, and learning to modify his socializing skills and harness his gifts to discover his path to a successful life.”
—Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks
 
“Robison offers down-to-earth life advice for his “Aspie” peers and their friends, families, and teachers...recommended reading for anyone seeking to understand Aspergian children and adultsKirkus

" ...provides incredibly helpful advice to families learning to live with these challenges. Robison’s clear writing provides substantial insight into the mind of someone whose disorder makes clarity very, very difficult...a valuable read."--Booklist

Library Journal
In his second autobiographic work on Asperger's syndrome (a milder version of autism), following his Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's, Robison includes additional episodes while providing "actionable advice" intended to help explain Asperger's. He uses short chapters to showcase different character traits of Asperger's; some are quite strong, such as his account of his nonemotional reaction to a horrific automobile accident. Many of the chapters, however, are weak and lack real value. He discusses at great length and with no clear purpose why the nicknames he provides are more appropriate than given names. The book has a good deal of useful content but repeats his chronological first work in a topical fashion. Many of the stories appear in both books, and there is only a bit of new material here for readers of his first title. VERDICT While Robison provides a nice understanding of the Asperger's mind, this follow-up does not adequately supplement his previous work. It is recommended only for libraries with comprehensive autism and Asperger's collections. Others should have Look Me in the Eye.—Corey Seeman, Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor
Library Journal
We first met Robison in brother Augusten Burroughs's eye-popping Running with Scissors. Then Robison himself spoke up, detailing his life with Asperger's syndrome in the best-selling Look Me in the Eye. Here he uses examples from his own life to advise Aspergians and their parents—including his "Mom Army" of over 10,000 online followers—and also shares recent scientific research. There's an audience; this syndrome is increasingly in the news.
Kirkus Reviews

A guide to making the most of living with Asperger's Syndrome.

Aspergian Robison (Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Asperger's, 2007) offers down-to-earth life advice for his "Aspie" peers and their friends, families and teachers. The author grew up never fully understanding why he, an intelligent, capable man, could never quite fit in.It was only when he was diagnosed with Asperger's at age 40 that he realized his quirkiness arose from having been born with a mind that made connections in ways different from what he calls "nypicals" —people with neurotypical or "normal" brains. Unlike so many other Aspergians who end up alienated, alone and unemployed, Robison gradually found ways to overcome his social and communication deficits and transform his differences—such as superior concentration, abstract reasoning and mechanical skills—into gifts. Beginning with a chapter that gives a human face—his own—to the "restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior" associated with Asperger's, Robison proceeds with a discussion of the thornier interpersonal issues Aspergians face. Compensation for all or most of these challenges is possible, argues the author, by combining the Aspergian strength of logical analysis with observation, an awareness of past experiences and practice.Learning to live in a "nypical" world was not easy for the author—"[i]t's been a lifetime job for me"—but the rewards have made his efforts undeniably worthwhile.

Recommended reading for anyone seeking to understand Aspergian children and adults.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307884817
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/22/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,385,772
  • Product dimensions: 8.28 (w) x 5.74 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

John Elder Robison

JOHN ELDER ROBISON
 is an author and frequent lecturer about his life with Asperger’s. He blogs for Psychology Today and is an adjunct faculty member at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts. John serves on committees and review boards for the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health. He is currently involved in autism research and therapy programs at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital. John also sits on the science and treatment boards of Autism Speaks. His previous book, Look Me in the Eye, was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into ten languages. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. Visit him at www.johnrobison.com.
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Read an Excerpt

Asperger’s came into my life when I was forty years old. I’m a pretty levelheaded guy, but I was totally shocked by the diagnosis. “Yep,” the doc­tors said, “you were born this way.” I could not believe I had reached middle age without knowing such a hugely important thing about myself. I was amazed to learn that Asperger’s is a kind of autism, because I thought everyone with autism was disabled. I’d always envisioned myself as a loner, a geek, and a misfit, but I would never have described myself as disabled. To me, being dis­abled meant having no legs I believe that. or being unable to talk. Yet autism, and so Asperger’s, was a disability—that’s what the books said. I’m still not sure I believe that.

The one shred of reassurance I got that first day was the knowledge that Asperger’s isn’t a terminal illness. “You’re not getting sicker,” they told me, “and it won’t kill you. You’re actually not sick at all; you’re just different.” Great, I thought. Very comforting.
All of a sudden, the concept of “people like me” took on a whole new meaning. Moments before, I’d have de­scribed myself as a middle-aged white male. I was a suc­cessful business owner, a husband, and a father. Now I was a guy with Asperger’s. I was autistic. Everything else seemed secondary to that new facet of me. This must be how it feels when you find you have cancer, I thought. I was still the same guy I had been the day before. I didn’t feel sick. Yet somehow, in a matter of seconds, my diagnosis had come to dominate my self- image.

In the weeks that followed, I read everything I could about the diagnosis, and I began to relax. When I thought back on my life, Asperger’s explained so many things. School had been hard for me, and I’d done some pretty unusual stuff after dropping out. My new knowledge of Asperger’s brought those memories into focus, and I saw how the differences in my brain had shaped the course of my life in countless subtle ways. Yet I also realized that the success I enjoyed as an adult was real, and it wasn’t going away. In fact, as I moved forward with new knowl­edge and confidence, I started to see my life get better every day.

Later, with the benefit of this new knowledge, I stud­ied my Aspergian son, now twenty-one years old, and thought about how he too used to struggle in school and in social settings. He was diagnosed when he was sixteen, twenty-four years earlier than me. I look at him today, and I see how much he’s benefited from understanding how and why his brain is different from other folks’. In many ways, he’s the young man I could have been if only I had known what I had. I made it through life the hard way; he has the benefit of knowledge to rely on. That will make his path easier, and it can make yours easier, too.

Observed from the outside, Asperger’s is a series of quirks and behavioral aberrations. Aspergians are not physically disabled, though an observant person might pick us out of a crowd by our unusual gait or even by our expressions. Most Aspergians possess all the body parts and basic abilities for the full range of human functions. We’re also complete on the inside. When today’s brain scientists talk Asperger’s, there’s no mention of damage— just difference. Neurologists have not identifi ed any­thing that’s missing or ruined in the Asperger brain. That’s a very important fact. We are not like the unfortunate people who’ve lost millions of neurons through strokes, drinking, lead poisoning, or accidental injury. Our brains are complete; it’s just the interconnections that are dif­ferent.

All people with autism have some kind of communica­tion impairment. “Traditional” autistic people have trouble understanding or speaking language. If you  can’t talk, or understand others, you are indeed going to be disabled in our society. The degree of impairment can vary greatly, with some autistic people totally devoid of speech and oth­ers affected in less substantial ways.

Autistic people can also have impairment in the ability to read nonverbal signals from others. That’s the kind of autism I have; it’s what most people with Asperger’s are touched with. The stories in this book describe the ways in which I minimized the harm my communication impair­ment caused me, while finding the gifts it conferred.
Autism in its many forms is not a disease. It’s a way of being that comes from this nonstandard wiring in the brain. The latest science suggests we’re most likely born different, or else we become autistic early in infancy. We don’t develop Asperger’s as teenagers; life on the autism spectrum is the only life we’ve ever known. We will al­ways be perplexed when we gaze at people who aren’t on the spectrum, and they will always struggle to understand our unconventional way of thinking.

Subtle brain differences often cause people like me to respond differently—strangely even—to common life sit­uations. Most of us have a hard time with social situa­tions; some of us feel downright crippled. We get frustrated because  we’re so good at some things, while being com­pletely inept at others. There’s just no balance. It’s a very difficult way to live, because our strengths seem to con­trast so sharply with our weaknesses. “You read so well, and you’re so smart! I  can’t believe you  can’t do what I told you. You must be faking!” I heard that a lot as a kid.

Some people with autism are noticeably disabled. A person who  can’t talk, for example, cries out for compas­sion. Those of us with Asperger’s are tougher to pick out.
The hardest thing about having Asperger’s is that we don’t look any different from anyone else on the outside. So why would anyone suspect that we are different on the inside? When I was a kid, no one had any knowledge of how my brain was wired, including me. Consequently, society wrote me off as defective along with millions of other “different” and “difficult” children. My strange behavior was de­scribed as “bad” instead of being seen for what it was—the innocent result of neurological difference.
Today most kids are diagnosed earlier than I was, but still, for many of us, knowledge of Asperger’s starts with some kind of failure. Most kids get diagnosed with As­perger’s after failing at some aspect of school, and their be­havior has brought them to the attention of the little men in suits who give tests.

I may not have been tested in school, but the differ­ences in me were still obvious. I could not make friends, I acted strange, and I flunked all my courses. Back then, people said I was just a bad kid, but today we see problems like mine as evidence of disability, and, as a society, we supply help, not punishment. At least, that’s how it’s sup­posed to work.

Today, many geeks, scientists, and other creative ge­niuses are said to have Asperger’s. But to some of us, the phrase “have Asperger’s” is misleading because it makes Asperger’s sound like a disease or an injury. You say, “I have a cold” or “I’ve got a broken leg.” Saying you “have” something implies that it’s temporary and undesirable.

Asperger’s isn’t like that. You’ve been Aspergian as long as you can remember, and you’ll be that way all your life. It’s a way of being, not a disease.
That’s why I say, “I am a person with Asperger’s.”

Many of us shorten this by saying we’re Aspergians, or Aspies. I think that’s more appropriate than saying, “We have Asperger’s.” There’s no right or wrong—you can say whatever you want, or say nothing at all. Whatever you choose, you’re in good company. Bill Gates is said to be Aspergian. Musician Glenn Gould is said to have been Aspergian, along with scientist Albert Einstein, actor Dan Aykroyd, writer Isaac Asimov, and movie director Alfred Hitchcock. As adults, none of those people would be de­scribed as disabled, but they  were certainly eccentric and different.

If everyone with Asperger’s achieved a high level of success, no one would call it a disability. Unfortunately, those people are the exceptions, not the rule. Most Asper­gians struggle with school, relationships, and jobs because their social skills are poor and they can’t seem to fit in. It’s all too easy to end up alone, alienated, and un­employed. That’s what life was like for me before I learned how to work with my dif­ferences, overcome them, and sometimes exploit them. As I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate how my dif­ferences have turned out also to include gifts that have set me apart. One of my main goals in life today is to help young people avoid some of the traps I fell into. We should all be given a chance to succeed.

There’s a lot more to this story than simple disability. 

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Customer Reviews

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( 33 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 18, 2011

    A MUST READ!!!

    "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." John Elder Robison I couldn't agree more. John Elder Robison has shared one of his many gifts with us by writing the invaluable guide Be Different. Using stories from his own life, both humorous and poignant, John Robison provides us with a rare glimpse into the Aspergian mind. With a great deal of self-reflection and insight, he explains his own behaviors and his reasons for adapting those he felt were obstacles to being accepted. His message, however, is not to change whom you are in order to be like others. Instead, he advises those with Asperger's and others who think differently to embrace their differences and the unique gifts that they bring. By focusing on ability and not disability, and using one's strengths to help compensate for weaknesses, individuals who previously found themselves struggling in the world of nypicals (Robison's word for neurotypicals) can find success and happiness. Be Different reminds us that difference does not have to be synonymous with disability. This is one of the best books I've ever read, not only on the topic of Asperger Syndrome, but in general. I highly recommend this book and the author's first book, Look Me in the Eye, for practical advice, inspiration and hope.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2013

    Be Different is the second book by American author and Aspergian

    Be Different is the second book by American author and Aspergian, John Elder Robison. When his memoir, Look Me In The Eye: My life With Asperger’s became a publishing success, no-one was more surprised than Robison himself. When it began to be adopted by certain schools, Robison was asked for a book with more insight into the condition, and Be Different is the result. In this book, Robison looks at the quirks of the Aspergian brain that can lead to disability or expertise, depending on how they are handled. While this may sound like a dry topic, Robison illustrates with captivating and often humorous examples from his own life, making this an easy and exceptionally interesting read. With intriguing chapter headings like Underwear With Teeth and Lobster Claws: Dealing with Bullies, Robison has all sorts of tips and tricks for Aspergians and those who deal with them. Robison’s rules for manners would serve everyone well, regardless of their neurological state. This is a fascinating look at a neurological condition that has the power to create a misfit but also an expert.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2012

    This is an absolute MUST READ! Anyone who has Asperger's/Autism

    This is an absolute MUST READ! Anyone who has Asperger's/Autism or knows someone on the spectrum will benefit from this humorous insight into the Aspie mind. Mr. Robison uses some very personal stories to demonstrate how each of the "behaviors" associated with Autism, can be helped with some good old fashioned "manners". These methods will help the Aspie or Autistic person to navigate the "crazy" world of nypicals.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2011

    Break it down now...

    Where his first book gave hopeful insight into how a young aspie could go from the struggles of childhood to great successes of adulthood this book breaks down what it was and how he developed skill to handle it. A bit dryer read than the first book but very informative. He follows up detailed insights with some personal reccomendations and a wealth of references. Living with a houseful of these types I found delightful backup to my gut feeling and heartfelt assertion that there is nothing "broken" but that our family has numerous blessings and possibilities.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2011

    Amazing!

    I have a 11 year old son diagnosed with PDD-NOS both "look me in the eyes" and "be different" are incredible reads that help you see the world through the eyes of an autistic child/adult. "Be different" is very inspirational and a must read for any parent/teacher that has a child with autism!!!!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2013

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

    I found the book very insightful. I have a granddaughter
    with Aspergers so am always looking for articles and
    books that will help me to understand her better.
    This is one of the better books I have read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2011

    This Is a Great Book- Read It!

    John Elder Robison deftly writes about his experiences on the autism spectrum, specifically, growing up with Asperger's Syndrome and not realizing it. This book is affirming if you have Asperger's, because Robison several times points out the advantages. Yet he also acknowledges the weaknesses, and offers advice on how to combat them. I would recommend this book to anyone who has Asperger's or who suspects he/she does, and for family members and teachers of people with AS.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2011

    Superior insight into the life and times of a gifted Aspergian!

    Having read John's first book, it was with great anticipation that I waited for the release date for "be different". The suspense and anticipation were well worth it as this is yet again such a witty and informative book, written by a wonderful author who is an enthralling storyteller. The fact that it is about a person who just happens to be on the Autism Spectrum is secondary to the fine gift he has given us in this second installment of his life's journey. Can't wait for the third edition....

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2014

    Fhfrgtg

    Goooooooooood book to read. TrY it

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2012

    An inspiration

    With aspergers I just did not get it and though most read it to understand aspergarians ,but I read it to get what other people think and how to help fix my lack of social understanding so if as an aspergarian you hink you can go on on your own good luck but I will be fine and finnal understand jpkes as jokes not jerks

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2012

    It was good

    I read this book because my husband was diagnosed with Asperger's. The book was good, but I wish there was more information on his home life. What happened with his wife, etc. That would have madr it more valuable to me. Other than that, I found it interesting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 4, 2012

    Absolutely Fabulous !!!

    My daughter and grandson Jacob saw John at a book signing in Milwaukee and had him sign a book for me, Jacob (13) has Aspergers and I thought it would be great to get jacob a book too. After I started reading it and realized he needed to know what John was going thru at his age. Jaime bought a book for her nook, and they read a chapter every day and I asked him how he liked it and he said " It's good Meme "

    So, this is a great book for Teens and adults..

    April Captain

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2011

    Finally

    Practical and not clinical insight.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 12, 2011

    be different

    This ebook was a great story of an adult with altism. he found out when he was an adult. What he accomplished because of it. I would recommend especially for parents who have children who don't make friends socially.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2011

    Highly Recommended-especially for older kids or younger teens

    I thought it was a great inside to the Aspie world. If you or have a child that is struggling with his aspies and is a younger teen or older child, and is srruggling with it, The author tell about his life and you can find tips on how to solve them so that maybe you can learn sooner and your child will not struggle so hard in the social aspects of his Aspie

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2013

    Is this appropriate for my brothers who are ages six and three years old?

    I am hunting for books to read to my brothers at night because
    my mom is so tired and has a torn rotater cuff. I hate seeing them upset. Please can someone tell me if this book is okay for them!
    ~Isabella Cherveny age 9

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted July 9, 2011

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    Posted July 1, 2011

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    Posted June 1, 2011

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    Posted October 23, 2011

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