be different


“Individuals are labeled different, geeky, abnormal or even Aspergian or Autistic at a young age. Among other things, these labels suggest that the people around them – their friends, family, teachers and counselors – can’t relate to their actions and expressions.

That’s understandable, but it doesn’t mean that those actions aren’t motivated by legitimate feelings and desires or that those of us who are different aren’t capable of achieving amazing things in our lifetime.

There’s so much talk about the disability of Asperger’s – so much focus on what kids who are different CAN’T do – that I thought it was time for a book about what they CAN do.”

– John Elder Robison, from the introduction to Be Different


My dear friend, John Robison’s new book, Be Different launches today. I had the great honor of reading an early draft, and I absolutely cannot wait to have the final product in my hands. (Ahem, Amazon, get a move on.)

John’s first book, Look Me in the Eye, was much more than a book for so many of us. It was an inflection point in our lives. It was a moment in which we gained some measure of understanding, glimpsed the other side of the wall, and for the first time, had some idea of how our children processed the world. His book, while fiercely entertaining, was also a window into the Aspergian mind.

While John has Asperger’s, my Brooke does not. She has a very different flavor of autism. She does not have the facility with language that John did as a child, nor does she have his mechanical aptitude. They are very different people whose challenges manifest themselves in radically different ways. Nonetheless, I saw her in his stories. Hell, I saw myself in his stories too. His book changed me. And it changed the way that I interacted with my girl.

Over time, I have gotten to know John and have had the honor of calling him my friend. He once said to me – as only John could, “Well, I guess that I’m this pretty rare combination of things. I’m autistic enough to have some insight into it all, but I’m also self-aware and articulate enough to be able to pretty accurately describe what happens in my brain.”

John is indeed a rare (and wonderful) combination of things. He is bright and charming and funny. He is also desperate to make the world a friendlier place to kids who are different. And let’s be honest, it doesn’t take much more than that to make me like you. He also has a hell of a story to tell.

Be Different – available online (click the book below to order) and through all major booksellers TODAY.


Ed note: Thank you all so very much for your love and support yesterday. It both breaks and soothes my heart to be reminded that we do not walk this road alone.

Yesterday was a better day. In fact, it was a MUCH better day. Hell, we even sang.

I am so grateful for this family we’ve created here. Thank you, my friends. From the bottom of my soggy little heart.

23 thoughts on “be different

  1. I am kinda in the same boat as him….I am an aspie but concidered to be “mostly functional” as my issues tend to stay within the bounds of “social/emotial” issues that is I can work and (kinda) keep track of my finances….but I am not great with relationships that are concidered “normal”…I have had a failed marriage and many failed friendships….I am gonna see if I can save up some extra money (with 2 kids not easy to do LOL) and get these books….I read a book geared towards children about aspergers called “All Cats have aspergers” that was really great too….possibly because my “thing” is cats lol…but it broke down the different symptoms into something easy to understand and even as an adult it made thing make sense to my family and some friends…

  2. I’ve only recently discovered your friend’s blog. I am excited to read his first book as well as looking forward to his latest edition. Thanks for introducing me to his incredible work!
    And I’m glad that yesterday brought you singing to salve the pain of the previous day.

  3. I loved John’s first book and it helped a great deal as my 10 year old son has Aspergers. I look forward to his new book.

    Glad you had a better day yesterday. It is hard. My son is verbal and during a meltdown he can scream how much he hates me and his father then 10 minutes later come over to me and sit next to me and give me a kiss. He makes the transition from meltdown to lovey dovey in minutes…meanwhile my blood pressure is raging!

  4. Hmmm. I think I pre-ordered this, but now I can’t remember. I have to go check. I’m excited to read it. I think voices like John’s are so important. I’m going to see him speak when he comes to Maryland next month. I’m really looking forward to it.

  5. Although my flavor of ASD (because no one can settle on a specific diagnosis) is also very different from John’s, I see myself in him as well in some ways. I, too, have that interesting combination of autism and self-awareness that allows me to describe things, at least when I write. Just don’t ask me to talk about them, cause it’s not happening. Can’t wait for Be Different to make it to the library… I’ll be all over it!

  6. I have such great hopes for my girl… it is the brilliance of people like John, and the gift of his words that give me such hope for her. Thank you to John, THANK YOU.

    Jess – you bring so many of us together to share in similar journeys – which brings so much peace and faith – YOU are such a gift.

    Thank you, Mama…

  7. Jess if we can offer just a bit comfort to you in the difficult times, this is mere drop in the pond of what you give to you all of us 🙂

  8. I too gained so much insight reading Look Me In the Eye. His descriptions, particularly how he described his first interactions with other children were particularly insightful to me as I try to understand my little cherub of a boy. I could see my boy in his stories. Really, truly see him. That realization too, also changed how I interact with my son. The insight gleaned from reading his narrative has carried me far and continues to do so. Asperger’s, yes a different flavor of autism (such a great metaphor, Jess). I am so looking forward to John’s local book signing. It will be an absolute pleasure to meet the man that unknowingly gave this Mama a window into her son’s soul.

  9. “Yesterday was a better day. In fact, it was a MUCH better day.”

    this is a relief to hear. you’ve earned all the better days you can get. at some point, your sweet little one is going to have a long line of better days due to all of the love and support you’ve given her.

  10. You have, indeed,, developed the most amazing community here. I feel as though I know so many of you by reading your thoughts and comments each day.


  11. I read John’s book when I started to suspect D was on the spectrum, it provided me with invaluable insight. It also helped me to believe that D can do some amazing things with his life.

  12. Thank you for sharing the news about John’s book. I can not wait to read it. I am so glad that yesterday was a better day!! I could just hear it in your words that ring. My mom always says, “I can just hear it in your voice when you pick up the phone and say hello”….well I could hear it in your words that you just wrote…..yesterday was a better and I am so happy for you!!!

  13. A couple of times I have been asked to give input as to what I would suggest to a recently diagnosed family. The one thing I always say is build community. Going through this alone is so much harder than when you build up “family,” as you said.

    Thank you, Jess. gail

  14. Thanks so much for your support. I’ve been traveling and speaking all day but I wanted to pop in and say hi. Hope to see you soon though it looks like you are out of town for my to Boston events.


  15. Hi,

    I don’t have your contact info. That’s the only reason I am using comment section. I am also a parent and really admiring you the way you are handling and taking care of your kid.

    I have just started a ChildrenHaveTalent blog especially for children who are living with disability and/or health conditions. Here parents will be able to add their child’s talent in various categories like singing, painting, drawing and so on.
    Please try to use this blog.
    My main goal is to reach out all the parents so that they can start using this blog to give their kid a new horizon.
    If possible please give me some feedback as a parent did you like this idea?

    Blog Name: Children Have Talent
    Blog URL:



  16. have i aspergers and i”m in Junior high in Iowa I don’t think that one body else I know what it’s like to live in a state that the only time that the reset of the country notice your state in is only during persistent elections

  17. Hi Jess, my son has pdd-nos, but very strong language and academics (so far). He’s “easy” – he doesn’t have meltdowns at home; hasn’t really had them at school. Hubby mostly sees him at home. I see him more in the world, playing with peers and such – so I see the “difference”. I know, as hubby says, we’re lucky because son is “minorly” affected. We had a conversation last night, where I told him I started blogging. I’ve been looking into going back to school in the field of Autism Intervention (at a school where they are more maximization focused).

    Hubby wonders if my engagement with autism and getting into advocacy for him – because son is “easy” – is me “overly-mothering” him to compensate for an exceedingly selfish/underly mothering experience from my own mom (pop-psyche 🙂 I like to snuggle with my 6 year old DS and I have stayed with him till he falls asleep (DS likes this) – I plan on “weaning” as we get through September, but this is a peeve for hubby. He also has the “I probably would have been put on the spectrum, it’s overdiagnosed, the machine of the health care world creates the umbrella and has to keep itself going” attitude – he’s cynical by nature, and may be partially right, but he’s also not engaged in the same way with Autism that I am. And once in a while son does something “off” that makes hubby go “that’s it, isn’t it”, but it’s pretty infrequent.

    I’m kind of irked because of this conversation from yesterday. I don’t know how to clarify things for him. I don’t want to have to justify myself. Son IS easy, IS hardly symptomatic at home. I just feel trapped a bit by this. I don’t know if you have time to email me re. this, but if you can, or if anyone else has dealt with this – I’ll put this on community support as well.


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