Wednesday, August 17, 2011
thoughts on: Be Different
Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robison
Robison's memoir, Look Me in the Eye, shared the ups and downs of his unusual life. Be Different is more of a guidebook: this is how I, an Asperigian, learned to navigate and succeed in the world, and you can, too. It contains practical advice along with stories of how he learned it.
He begins by dividing people into three groups: Aspergians, Proto-Aspergians (those with "plenty of aspie quirks but not too many disabilities"), and everyone else, the neurotypical, whom he dubs nypical. Be Different is written to those in the first two groups, but anyone who interacts with them would benefit from reading it.
Most of the advice, or, at least the advice I could relate to the most, involved learning social skills. Robison shares how difficult it has been for him to learn basic interpersonal skills, including how long it took him to realize the value in them. He talks about how his lack of awareness, and that of other Aspies, is not lack of desire to connect with others and is not deliberate rudeness. I felt he did well simplifying some of the basic interactions so that those on both sides could better understand each other.
His clear and direct style is easy to read and offers hope for those struggling to connect with others and find their way. He repeatedly reminds young readers that often what is considered weird in childhood/adolescence is merely considered eccentric in adulthood and that delayed does not mean never.