Thursday, January 27, 2011

Perspectives From Those With Autism/Asperger's

Adults with autism and Asperger’s have given us a unique point of view through many books.  Being able to share their life, their struggles and what differences they noted over the years has been helpful for the rest of us to understand autism more.  Temple Grandin is probably one of the most notable starting with ‘Thinking in Pictures’ and many more have followed suit since that time.

‘Born on a Blue Day’, by Daniel Tammet, is quite fascinating especially for the fact that the author has other unique abilities in addition to autism.  I was intrigued by his explanations of his form of Synesthesia which refers to how he seems to associate numbers and colors with the world around him.  He is one of approximately 50 people known that have both Synesthesia and autism.
Daniel describes his amazing memorization in which he can learn new languages in seven days and recite Pi to the 20,000+ number sequence, to name a few.  Although having these phenomenal abilities, he still struggles in areas of abstract concepts and social norms.  Daniel appears to have had a supportive family and good upbringing that was a great foundation for him; especially since he has such unique skills and perceptions.  His life story also was featured in a documentary called Brainman in 2005.  This book was a great read that did lose me a few times with his intense interest in numbers.  I think it isn’t necessarily a captivating story but rather a great description of a man with an extraordinary savant mind.

Switching gears a bit, I recently read ‘Look Me in the Eye’ by John Elder Robinson.  I had previously read his brother’s memoir ‘Running with Scissors’ which described the unstable, abusive and neglectful life these boys grew up in.  Knowing that background, it prepared me for the references to abuse that John described but did not make it less disturbing.  However, with this horrific upbringing he was still able to overcome and as John said in an interview, “Despite the odds, I did OK”. 
John’s perspective as a youngster that was always getting into mischief was important because it often did not have the intent behind it that one would assume.  He also goes into great detail about his special interests and how they helped him make his career choices.  There were many social norms that he had to learn on his own and he describes many occasions where he was seen as rude, arrogant, detached or uninterested but did not always know it at the time.  I think John’s life was not a fairy tale in the least but shows how much he was able to overcome.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend. 
John was not diagnosed until later in life and I thought the statement by his therapist was important for us all to remember.  In his book, John is told he has Asperger’s and his response is:

“So is there a cure?”  
The therapist says, “It’s not a disease.  It doesn’t need curing.  It is just how you are”



  1. Wow that "Born on a blue day" book looks really good, I need to get that to read! Thanks Abby & Molly!

  2. If you would like to see a preview of sorts, 'Brainman' is an excellent program and can be viewed online:
    Besides learning about the author, Daniel, there also is a wonderful interview with the man the movie 'Rainman' was based on. Enjoy!