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Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian [Paperback]

John Elder Robison
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 24 2012
“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.
 

Frequently Bought Together

Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian + Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's + Raising Cubby: A Father and Son's Adventures with Asperger's, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives
Price For All Three: CDN$ 48.05

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Review

“For anyone who has difficulty fitting in, this book is fantastic.”
—Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures

“In places, Be Different is downright funny. . . . But when [Robison] recounts how hurt he feels when people say he doesn’t seem to care . . . this book becomes a heartbreaking, eloquent plea for understanding.”
Montreal Gazette

“Robison, who learned the hard way that coping in the real world is really just a matter of learning manners and social conventions, fills his book with practical advice for young Aspergians, using himself as an example.”
Macleans
 
“His new book, Be Different, is an uplifting guide for people with Asbergers and their loved ones to understand themselves and each other.”
—King5.com
 
Be Different: John Elder Robison’s new book shines. . . . There is a generation of teens and adults with autism spectrum disorders who are looking for guidance, and this book provides it. . . . If you have aspergers, ADHD, autism or if you feel left out in any way (or if you love or teach someone in any or all of the aforementioned categories), you must read this book.”
—Laura Shumaker, City Brights, San Francisco Chronicle
 
“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 adults
Kirkus





From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

JOHN ELDER ROBISON grew up in the 1960s before the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome existed. Today he has claimed his spot on the autism spectrum; he blogs for Psychology Today and is an adjunct professor at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts. John served on the public review board for the National Institutes of Health where he considered research proposals to study autism spectrum disorders; he is currently involved in autism research at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; and he sits on the Scientific Advisory and Scientific 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 is the brother of Augusten Burroughs, author of Running With Scissors.

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome Perspective Jan. 17 2012
By 4kids
Format:Hardcover
I have found this book so encouraging after reading nothing but depressing clinical books related to Aspergers. The author has given me confidence that we are on the right path with my son and that he, too, has an incredibly bright future in store. I now see that his brain is different rather than deficient and his many gifts and talents will help him immeasurably along the way!
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  140 reviews
77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening the nypicals who seek to understand Aspergians March 23 2011
By Sandra W. Sutherland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
John Elder Robison has spent his life teaching himself to compensate for his own lack of social skills due to living with Asperger's Syndrome. His first book, "Look Me in the Eye" includes stories of hilarity and pain, sometimes at his own expense. The response to these stories has surely far surpassed his expectations, as he quickly becomes looked to as "the guide" to parents' hopes and teachers' dreams. Seeing the need for more information, Robison offers to others the best understanding he has developed about autistic thinking throughout a life span in his new book, "Be Different".

"Be Different" offers deeper explanations of this thinking - at least as Robison has experienced it - as a child and as an adult. He reflects on how much easier his own life might have been if others had been there to guide him rather than punish him for unknown transgressions. In an attempt to enlighten those who are trying to desperately to understand, but who are handicapped by being "nypical" (non-Aspergians), he has answered some of the questions asked of him by the many caregivers and loved ones who now look to him for this guidance plus much more.

Robison has a knack for humor as he describes and analyzes events with explanations for his blank stares and misunderstandings due to differences in language interpretation. He refutes the idea that lack of response means lack of feelings, in fact, he states that the truth is quite the opposite. Some of the issues he discusses are as problematic to "nypicals" as they were to him, and his salient points apply to many children who are misunderstood by those who make assumptions instead of making the effort.

This book is a "must read" for anyone involved with loving or serving these children and who might recognized a hitherto misunderstood adult. It also might serve to enlighten related persons who need to forgive those who are not responsible for their condition. Robison's kind and wise views give heart from the heart.
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Perspective on Being Different April 7 2011
By Barbara Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As an occupational therapist and parent of a young man with asperger's syndrome I have read numerous memoirs that never fail to reinforce how unique each person's challenges are. John has already established that he is a very good writer (it apparently runs in the family) and again shares intimate experiences and thoughts about his inner life and many coping strategies.

I tried reading some excerpts to my son who refused to listen. He does not like to hear the words "autism" or "aspergers"- illustating that while some "aspies" find solice in sharing their growing self-awareness, others just struggle to fit in the best they can and don't want to be reminded that they are indeed "different". Some of them will love this book, others won't.

Despite being a "nyptical", I found this book to be very readable, although I had occasional dejavu feelings that I had read some of the anectdotes before. The most striking one for me was the story of John's car accident. He was able to focus on taking steps to rescue a survivor without feeling the horror that might paralyze someone else. My son explained to me that his same ability will enable him to work in a medical setting amongst the sick and dying.

"Being Different" is not the kind of book that mesmerizes- but it is a pleasure to read one chapter a night and then process it over the next morning's commute. This book has a different focus than "Look Me In the Eye" did- with greater emphasis on how the author's emotional and sensory make-up makes him deal with life the way he does. Readers who are just learning about their Asperger's diagnosis or are learning how to understand their children's needs will appreciate this book. It is yet, one more insightful memoir packed with advice and resources.

Barbara A. Smith, M.S., author of The Recycling Occupational Therapist
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fills a niche no other book has - fantastic resource! March 30 2011
By Morgan McConnell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
We have a big family with lots of "Aspie" traits, although most of us are very high-functioning and would fall through the cracks, diagnosis-wise. This book is a wonderful resource for us.
Mr. Robison explains certain behaviors so succinctly, we were laughing out loud in recognition and relief at having them explained so well. This book is invaluable to anyone interested in
the way the Aspie brain operates, and who would like some good advice on how to make positive use of this special way of thinking.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book about aspergers that I really enjoyed reading and sharing! April 19 2011
By citybookgirl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Have you wondered what it really meant to be wired differently? I have read many books that gave me the physiological difference and explanations, but nothing had given me such great insight to the mind of an Aspergian than John Elder Robison's new book "Be Different." So here goes my review.

This book offers great, practical advice to parents, teachers, and care-givers of Asperger kids. For me, the memorable part came when he covered aspie's lack of empathy.
"Don't worry, he doesn't even notice," he heard people around him say. And this was his response.

"I may seem robotic and mechanical sometimes, but there is nothing mechanical or cold about my internal feelings...I am just as sensitive as anyone to snide remarks and criticism. I cried inside fifty years ago, and I still do today."

Well, that's where I cringed. Even though I understood that my son's lack of empathy didn't equal to not having feelings, I did the samething to my son. I didn't mean to brush him aside or make him feel invisible; I was just too used to having him not pay any attention to me and what was happening around him. Now, I truly am sorry.

Besides teaching me many good lessons, this book actually left feeling good. I put it down with the better knowledge of Asperger and a little more understanding of my son. As he told through this book, embracing being Asperger doesn't mean you can't be positive.

Okay, let me take off my "blogger" hat and say what's really on my mind. Obviously, there's so much more in this book which can't all be mentioned. I just like to say that I LOVE reading, mostly fiction. But this book was the most delicious non-fiction I've ever read, well, if non-fiction could be delicious. It's worth your time, I promise:)
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It gets better April 25 2011
By Esmom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this book to be insightful, humorous and, as the mom of an 11-year old Aspergian, tremendously comforting. I also couldn't help but find parallels with the "It Gets Better Project," which was created to offer LGBT youth a hopeful and reassuring glimpse of the future. In fact, Mr. Robison uses those powerful words more than once throughout the book. For example, on page 238 he says -- "The world really does get better for Aspergians, and indeed for all sorts of geeks and misfits, as we grow up."

Throughout the book, Mr. Robison does a wonderful job of articulating how he's managed, after what he describes as repeated "failures" as a child, to navigate the world as a highly successful adult. He doesn't really tell me anything I don't already know from having read extensively on the topic, but by highlighting his own unique experiences he gives me something that most of my aforementioned reading hasn't given me: hope.

And Mr. Robison's way with words is something to behold, providing much-needed levity about something that usually has my knees quaking with worry for my son. His breakdown of the official diagnostic criteria for Asperger's had me chuckling more than once. For example -- "The person might be preoccupied with parts of objects. Once again the shrinks have said some 'parts' are okay and others are 'abnormal.' A preoccupation with girls' legs is fine; a preoccupation with the differences between Standard and Kohler flush handles on bathroom toilets is weird." That's my son in a nutshell! But instead of dwelling on how those "abnormalities" can hold people back from a full life, Mr. Robison eloquently illustrates how, with proper guidance, Aspergians can channel those quirks and "forge them into a successful package."

He's provided so many tidbits worth sharing that my book is completely dog-eared where I marked passages to share with people in my son's life who may not quite understand where he's coming from. And as for my son, he's at an age where being different is the last thing he wants. His biggest wish is to fly under the middle school radar. But as he continues to develop his strengths and to make his way as an Aspergian, I will be sure to have this book on hand for him so that he, too, can see that it is indeed ok to "Be Different."
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