Tuesday, January 27

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

How many times when you were a kid did someone say to you, "Look me in the eye?"

When we talk to people, we tend to look them in the eye unless we are feeling guilty about something. One of the biggest myths is that if someone doesn't look you in the eye, they are lying.

As all my regular readers will know, my grandson, Brandon, has Asperger's Syndrome. People with Asperger's have trouble with social situations and they seldom look people in the eye. It is very difficult for them to look directly into someone else's eyes. For years, we told Brandon, "Look me in the eye," or "Look at me when I'm talking to you." Now, after years of training, he often does look us in the eye when he's talking to us.

My neighbor, Marianne, the same neighbor who fell and had to have surgery (she's doing great by the way) gave me the book, "Look Me in the Eye my life with Asperger's," by John Elder Robinson. This man was 40 years old when he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. All of his life he had trouble in social situations. He called his mother "Slave," his father "Stupid" and his younger brother "Cubby." Why did he do this? He had trouble associating with people who he had not named himself and he couldn't feel close to them until he had given them a name. When his little brother grew older, he changed his name to "Varmint." This was his way of identifying the people he was close to.

Brandon often calls Jordan, "Manuel." Don't ask. I have no idea why. His pet name for his mother is her maiden surname and his father... well, it depends on the situation but he has a couple of names he calls Dad as well.

After reading, "Look me in the Eye," I asked Brandon if he calls everyone a pet name because that makes him feel closer to him. He just said, "I don't know."

When I read what the author had to say in this book, I saw the light about a few things that Brandon does. This man struggled his entire life to age 40, thinking he was a misfit, weird and eccentric, yet he was a genius in some areas. Have you ever seen KISS' smoking guitars or the ones that the flames shoot out of. Well, John Elder Robinson was the one who created the pyrotechnics for KISS' guitars. He was also good at motor mechanics and a host of other things. This man is truly talented and today his book is a New York Times Bestseller.

If you want a real look into Asperger's Syndrome or if you are an Aspie that has trouble understanding some of the things you do or the way you feel at times, please read this marvelous book. It's the inside scoop on living with Asperger's.

From the back cover:

Ever since he was young, John Robinson longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits - an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother, Augusten Burroughs, in them) - had earned him the label "social deviant." It was not until he was forty that he was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome. That understanding transformed the way he saw himself - and the world. A born storyteller, Robinson has written a moving, darkly funny memoir about his life that has taken him from developing exploding guitars for KISS to building a family of his own. It's a strange, shy indelible account - sometimes alien, yet always human.

John Elder Robinson will let you get into the mind of those who live with Asperger's Syndrome. He allows you to see what he's seen and walk a mile in his shoes. This is a must for every parent, grandparent, teacher or anyone else who is close to a person that has Asperger's. As you turn the last page, you will more understand these people who are sometimes unfairly labeled. Be sure to pick up a copy or inquire at your local library. Everyone should read this book in order to understand those who live with this disorder. Those adults who have been diagnosed with Asperger's really should read, "Look Me in the Eye." It will give a much different outlook on many of the things that are obstacles in your life. This one is being passed on to Brandon so he and his parents can read it.


"Look Me in the Eye," is also available as an Ebook and on audio from Random House Publishers. If you are sensitive to foul language, be sure to buy the version that is shown here. The unabridged version is one that I avoided only for the fact of the foul language.

Robinson's brother is Augusten Burroughs, author of "Running with Scissors." This is another must-read. It has also been made into a movie.


  1. Sounds like a fascinating book. I don't personally know anyone who has been diagnosed, but I sure have heard the word often lately.

  2. wow this sounds like a book I'd like to read. As you know my oldest son was diagnosed with a mild case of aspergers a few years back. He's alot better now but books like this help others to understand the condition for what it is.

  3. As I was reading this my thoughts turned to my brother...I must get this book and read more about this disorder. You are truly a blessing to your grandson to have found such patience for him and to have learned about Aspergers. Thanks for sharing Mary...

  4. I write to a lady on a group who has aspergers and she said that it is so easy for her to write to me but if we were in person - that she would not be able to talk- she is a wonder lady who does have great difficulties at times and I praise God that she is able to write- will try to get the book soon-
    hugs from Meme

  5. Great review! I'd love to read this book, but ironically I doubt I ever will, because like (some) other Aspies I have difficulty reading fiction or fictionalized accounts.

    Short stories I sometimes like to read, such as your amazing work Mary, but longer books... not really. Mostly, I stick to science magazines and science books.

    I really don't know if it's an attention span problem, an empathy problem, or something else. I did read novels until I was a teenager, but I was always ahead of the curve (young adult books at 9 or 10, horrors at 11 and 12).

    Thank you for increasing autism awareness in your blog!

  6. This sounds like a really interesting book. I'll be looking for it. You are such a blessing to Brandon - and I know he is a blessing to you as well!

  7. Wow, you have opened my eyes on some matters that I shall now research with a family member in mind. Thanks, as always, Mary!

  8. I'm sure we could ALL learn something by reading this book...or any book on a subject close to our hearts. It's a great learning skill.

    The author should be commended for his efforts of educating all of us.

  9. It sounds like a very interesting book and particularly useful to those of your experience.

  10. I will have to read this. My youngest son has it - though I never allowed him to be formally "diagnosed" with it. It stays between Me and him and his psychologist. (he didn't need the "title" to get through school and I felt it would be more detrimental than helpful for him.)

  11. It is always so enlightening when we understand the reason for things.
    I have a nephew who is almost completely deaf but for the first 6 years of his life, we thought he was disobedient and stuborn because of his behavior. I will never forget what he said when given his first hearing aide. "I didn't know Birds could talk". He had never heard the sounds of birds or the sounds of many other things we take for granted. He learned to read lips at a very young age and still has trouble understanding you unless he is lookibng at you when you talk.
    Thanks for this look into the lives of those who have Asperger's.
    Mama Bear

  12. Thanks for reviewing this book and sharing a bit of what Brandon experiences. It's so good you are there for him and trying to understand how he views the world. Life can be rough for all of us at times; the author deserves high regard for pushing through, as do you and Brandon.

  13. Mary-I'm glad the book helped you see into Brandon's condition. I have a friend with a young son who has been diagnosed with Aspergers I'm going to tell her about the book.

  14. I can't even imagine what it must have been like to be that way for 40 years before finally being diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome!! I'd be very interested in reading that book so will look for it. I'm so glad that it also helped you understand a few more things about Jordan's way of thinking. xoxo

  15. Sounds like a good book, Mary, I'll have to catch it. I wonder if after reading the book, when out in public, or elsewhere, if we should run upon someone with Asperger's, we'll be able to recognize - and understand better?

  16. I learned alot just from this post... Wow...sounds like a marvelous book!