Best selling author with Asperger’s Syndrome to speak

john robisonNew York Times best selling author, John E. Robison, who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at age 40, is speaking at Centennial High School in Ellicott City Tuesday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m.

Cosponsored by the Prince George's and Howard County public school systems and Individual Differences in Learning (IDL), Robison will discuss his life and offer practical advice for parents and educators, providing a fresh perspective on autism. The event is free but preregistration is required to reserve a seat.

Robison grew up a sad and lonely child who was unable to make friends, but it was before Asperger's Syndrome had been discovered, he explains on his website. He dropped out of high school in the 10th grade but his Asperger's gave him rare insight into electronics, and he ended up designing special effects guitars for KISS by the late 1970s, he explains. He climbed up the corporate ladder but hit a wall because he had no idea how to fit into a corporate environment. He ended up quitting his job and began fixing Mercedes and Land Rovers in his driveway. His company, JE Robison Service grew into one of the most successful independent repair businesses in New England.

A therapist with an interest in Land Rovers walked into the business one day and struck up a friendship with Robison, he explains.

"After studying me closely, he introduced me to Asperger's Syndrome, and the knowledge changed my life forever. It took some time, and a lot of hard work, but the knowledge of how and why I am different transformed my life," Robison explains on his site.

He has since written two books., a memoir of growing up different, "Look Me in the Eye," and "Be Different." He is now a speaker and advocate for people with Asperger's and other forms of autism.

The more Robison learned about autism and Asperger's, the more he realized how diverse the autism spectrum really is.

"Science has identified a number of traits that tie us all together, yet on the surface we could not possibly look more different. There is no such thing as a 'typical autistic person,'" he says. "Some describe us as gifted while others talk about disability. For every autistic person who has a family and a job, several others struggle but fail to attain those goals."

Seeing that, Robison began to understand the pressing need to develop therapies and services to help autistic people at all levels succeed in today's world.

"At the same time, I realized the wider world needs us; and they need help understanding how to accommodate us and help us fit in," he says on his site.

To register for Robison's talk at Centennial, visit tinyurl.com/Robison2012 or call 301-431-5675. For more information, contact Individual Differences in Learning Association president Katharina Boser at 410-461-5720. Centennial High School is located at 4300 Centennial Lane.

Find out more about Robison on his website.

Photo by Augusten Burroughs

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