Monday, December 14, 2015

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

“To this day, when I speak, I find visual input to be distracting. […] That’s why I usually look somewhere neutral—at the ground of off into the distance—when I’m taking to someone.”

Published in 2007, this book isn’t one that is necessarily new to the scene of studies on autism spectrum disorders.  However, John Elder Robinson’s first-hand account of living with Asperger’s syndrome provides interesting insight into the learning experiences, struggles and accomplishments that accompany such a disorder.

As you may already know, Asperger’s syndrome was originally discovered in 1981 by Hans Asperger.  It was later added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1984 on the premises of Hans’ observations that children who were often intelligent with above average vocabulary skills exhibited autistic behaviors with pronounced deficiencies in social and communication skills.  Since then, research on Asperger’s and autism has expanded vastly, with recent findings discovering 1 in 150 people fall somewhere on the autism spectrum.  (Asperger’s was removed as a specified autism disorder in 2013, and was replaced with a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder ranked on a severity scale.)

Why is this important to note?  Teachers are consistently told that they should get to know their students in order to build stronger rapport in their courses, thus increasing student motivation, participation, and achievement.  There’s no question that John Elder Robison’s autobiographical lens can be helpful to understanding autism spectrum disorders as he describes his own experiences growing up with the disorder, and thus lead to a deeper understanding of how to best reach students outside of the “neurotypical” population.

Most importantly, John Elder Robison’s story strengthens the need for differentiated instruction in classrooms.  Considering the best ways to understand, appreciate, and build upon student differences is one of the key ingredients to differentiating your curriculum, and getting a glimpse of a behind the scenes story provides a good way to gauge how to implement those concepts in your own ways.

A great read for those who are looking for a stronger understanding of their population of students, or are interested in reading a funny, descriptive, and memorable first-hand account of someone’s own experiences with an autism spectrum disorder.

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s can be found in the “Understanding the Student” section of the CETL library.

Review Provided By:  Jessica Moser

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