Saturday, January 5, 2008

I'm currently reading Look Me in the Eyes; My life with asperger's by John Elder Robinson. (It's written by the brother of the author of my least favorite book in the whole world, Running With Scissors. I didn't realize that when I found it in the library).

The book is interesting, not because of it is well written. The author has asperger's, which does not always translate into literary genius. BUT, its still a great story. What I found so refreshing about it is that it describes a little boy most of us wouldn't want to teach. He struggles socially and makes up for it by playing tricks on his teachers and classmates. He shows no empathy for others. His parents take him to many different people in the mental health field and most say he is just obstinate, rude, and social maladjusted. If he doesn't get better, they predicte, he'll be a future serial killer with his love of violence and lack of empathy.

He ends up dropping out of high school and finds himself working for KISS as the electrical engineer who designes the flaming guitars and crazy light shows KISS is known for. He then goes on to work for Milton Bradly where he works on the first talking handheld video games.

Despite the predictions of his doom and gloom future, his horrible home life, and his lack of formal schooling, he still made valuable contributions to society. Maybe not in the happy warm-fuzzy way we like to think of as becoming a teacher, a pastor, or even a lawyer, but in a way that advanced science, added products to the market, and created a building block for future products to improve on.

It gives me hope for my smart cookie. We worry about where she will end up. She seems to enjoy making adults angry. She sees no need for school, authority figures, or how she is viewed by her peers. Yet there is a very brilliant little girl in there. If she drops out of high school, I'm sure we'll shake our heads and say, "we're not surprised" but I'm not sure that will be the end of her. Not fitting into our school mold may not be the worst thing in the world. Maybe despite all she has against her she'll be able to pull through and put her brain to use. Perhaps as long as she stays away from drugs and does not get pregnant in high school, she might be ok.

A good friend of mine said, "I just think I'm not a good twenty five year old. I'll be a much better 40 year old when the time comes."

Some kids just aren't made to be little kids. They'll grow up and be happy, well adjusted people, they just need time to grow. Being 8 isn't everybody's cup of tea.

Or am I just trying to put a positive spin on a situation I don't want to think is hopeless?


John Robison said...

I'm sure any first grade teacher wonders where her kids will be fifteen years later.

Why would you not want to teach the little boy in the book? I was difficult, for sure. Do teachers want kids who stay in their place quietly?

May I also point out that my tricks were only in response to ridicule from inappropriate teachers, and bullying from other kids.

Which would you rather have, a kid who plays pranks (kids like me in 1970), or a kid who comes and shoots up the school (today's version)

I have spoken to assemblies in schools with personal experience with violence. They are keenly aware of the difference between the behaviour I describe in the book, which is in the end a harmless release of frustration, and the killings they endured recently.

It's worth considering that all the future predictions for me were bad. I was essentially gentle (though you may not get that from the book), and while I played tricks, I did not harm anyone. Despite that, the grownups around me were all very quick to assume the worst.

organized chaos said...

John Elder,
Thank you for your comment! I must say that I WOULD want to teach the little boy in the book! I'm sorry it came across otherwise. I teach special education and love working with children with asperger's. Sadly, with test scores determining so much these days most teachers DO want their children to sit in place quietly so they can quickly learn what is on the test. Part of my job becomes running Public Relations for these kiddos and convincing their teachers that they are great kids, despite classroom disruptions.
I want others who read your book (and my blog) to understand that despite the predictions for your future being so bad, the adults were WRONG. I hear teachers make negative predictions frequently about the children on my case load and it frustrates me. I want to believe these kiddos will succeed, despite their dislike of sitting quietly and being compliant.
I attended a conference this summer that discussed the possibilities that the Virginia Tech violence occurred due to undiagnosed autism. Instead of reaching out to help the high schooler, teachers and adults wrote him off as odd. And we know where that got us. What would social skills training and compassion have done for him? He came from my school district, one of the best in the country. If we didn't give him what he needed, what does that say for other children?

John Robison said...

As a special ed teacher with younger kids, you should be aware of my abridged audio book.

There are two versions of the audio book - a 10-disc unabridged library work, and a 5-disc abridged work. I read the abridged one myself, and also reviewed and edited the abridgment.

I have gotten many comments from moms who say their autistic or Aspergian child is familiar with my voice on the recording. The feel comforted by my flat tone, despite the fact that non-Aspergians sometimes find it the opposite - unsettling.

I think it's a better work to use if you want kids to read/hear parts of the book because you can go right to parts you want and skip those you don't want.

The abridged version is what's on Amazon and in all the bookstores