“I Articulate Being a Freak Really Well”

John Elder Robison (photo by Rick Colson)

John Elder Robison, an electronic genius known for his work designing KISS’s exploding-rocket guitars and Mattel’s flashing-light memory game SIMON, came to Drew recently not to speak about his success as an inventor, but about his Asperger’s Syndrome.

Robison, author of the memoir, Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, came to my Construction of Disability class for a very intimate Q&A session about his troubled and lonely childhood, his experiences in corporate America and the ways having Asperger’s has affected his life.

After hearing the amazing stories he includes in his book, I need to find a copy. He explained being shocked when people approached him saying how relatable his story was, a story he thought he was writing only for the autistic community.

“What I ended up doing though,” he said, “was describing a human condition. I articulate being a freak really well and, maybe I was a bigger freak than others, but what I learned is that everyone feels like a freak at some point.”

Undiagnosed until he was 40 years old, Robison says that he grew up believing that no one liked him. “For me to learn that what was wrong with me had a name was a really big thing. I had always just assumed I was defective,” he said.

Asked if he felt that his Asperger’s was a gift, Robison—now an autism advocate for Autism Speaks who frequently lectures on college and high school campuses—said it’s “only through working with you that I’m doing something worthwhile in my life.”—Samantha Pritchard C’10, Drew Magazine intern

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