Kathy's Reviews > Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's

Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison
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's review
Aug 28, 11

bookshelves: asperger-syndrome, autism, memoir, nonfiction
Read in August, 2011

As a parent, I am glad I didn't read this before my Aspie (or Aspergian as the author likes to say) hit his teenage years. It would have totally freaked me out thinking he may have pulled some of the same kind of stunts! Not to say he hasn't challenged me in different ways, of course, but overall the teenage years have been much better than I anticipated or worried that they would be. The author did have a rough childhood, though, with no one understanding him or recognizing what was wrong, not to mention having a mentally ill mother and alcoholic father. Reading about his teenage years especially was disturbing and I could see where his guidance counselor was coming from when he said, "John, some of your tricks are sick. They are evil. They indicate deep-seated emotional problems."

The language in the book was harsh and between that and just a general darkness I almost gave up on it. I was glad I stuck through it, though, because he lived an interesting life and it was good to see his growth and development and especially his insights on himself, his family, and his condition that come in the later chapters. The language also cleans up considerably as it moves into the adult years.

I really liked his explanation of the severe end of the autism spectrum as being turned completely inward and gradually more outward-turning as you get to Asperger's and then you have normal and even to an extreme of those who are turned completely outward and lack the ability to be introspective or do calculations in their heads or anything inward-turning. One interesting passage was this:

As I recall my own development, I can see how I went through periods where my ability to focus inward and do complex calculation in my mind developed rapidly. When that happened, my ability to solve complex technical or mathematical problems increased, but I withdrew from other people. Later, there were periods where my ability to turn toward other people and the world increased by leaps and bounds. At those times, my intense powers of focused reasoning seemed to diminish.

I hadn't thought much about it being a trade-off like that, giving up some of the special gifts to be able to reach out to the world more. In the end that's the path he chose and he found it worth it in terms of his relationships and happiness. It was also good to hear about how learning his diagnosis helped him and the changes he was able to make and the things he was able to accept about himself.

I got valuable insights and a look at an interesting life story from reading this book, so while it made me uncomfortable at times, in the end I am glad I read it.

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