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BellaOnline's Autism Spectrum Disorders Editor

Look Me In The Eye Book Review

With Father's Day upon us I wanted to spotlight the men on the Autism Spectrum - good reading material for the Dads and a way for them to obtain support.

This is a book review of Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger's by John Elder Robison from guest author - Chris McIntosh.

I think this book should be required reading by all of us with Asperger's Syndrome. Everyone will really enjoy reading it, but I think it contains special lessons for those of us with Asperger's Syndrome (AS).

John starts out telling us about his very early childhood years. The stories that John told about his difficulty making friends resonated with me and brought back memories of my own hardships in this area.

John touches briefly on the subject of empathy. I believe this is something that every single one of us with AS will struggle with throughout our lives. I believe we struggle with questions of whether we have it or not. I believe we struggle with other peopleís misperceptions of what our impaired empathy means, and how they believe this reflects on our warmth (or lack of it), friendliness, character, and trustworthiness. There is far too little written on this subject. Although Johnís coverage of this subject is all too brief, and mainly describes his experiences as a child, this coverage was very welcome for me.

John describes his turning into a prankster, and many of the tricks he played in his teenage years. These are all highly entertaining, but do range from the amusing to the rather unsettling.

John describes the very difficult family life he had growing up. His parents had their own problems, which led them to being less than ideal parents a lot of the time. To be fair, it is obvious that Johnís parents did love him, but it is also obvious that their parenting abilities were greatly impaired by their own challenges. At times, their treatment of their children was very harsh.

Most people may be interested in Johnís description of his growing interest, experimentation, and expertise with electronics, and where these skills led. They first got him involved with local musicians. Then they led him to the junior highís audiovisual center where he met his future first wife. Then came involvement with a local band, a national sound company (the sound company Pink Floyd formed to rent their equipment when they were not on tour), and then Johnís main claim to fame, guitar effects designer for KISS. After this came various regular jobs, starting with his hiring by Milton Bradley. Last of all came his quitting his job to become a car dealer and his own boss. His business has grown to the point where he now employs around a dozen people.

Interwoven through these experiences is a recounting of Johnís deteriorating family situation, his increasingly extreme behaviors in a wide variety of school and social settings, many failed attempts by mental health professionals to figure out the cause of his problems, and finally his growing awareness and competence in social situations. His increased social awareness led eventually to his moving back to his hometown and being welcomed and accepted there.

When John starts speculating on his transformation from "an Aspergian misfit to seeming almost normal" this book delivers its most powerful messages.

Several passages really stood out for me. These include:

These are powerful messages for anyone, but especially those of us with AS. I recommend this book unreservedly.

*Chris McIntosh is a happily married man in his 50's who has been diagnosed with AS. He has a good job in the computer industry. He collaborates with his Peak Performance trainer, Ariadne Sawyer, developing materials to support people with AS and those close to them.

Chris has written an article for magazine Autism-Asperger's Digest, on effective ways for parents to deal with Aspergers and Arguing. This article will appear in the July-August 2009 issue. Chris will return to posting at the Delphi Forum AS & Relationships that Work in July. He can be found on Twitter where he tweets as cmaspt. Chris can be contacted at cmasp@shaw.ca.

The author John Elder Robison can also be found on twitter.

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