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Seeing John Elder Robison

By Matthewspuzzle @matthewspuzzle

Seeing John Elder Robison

Last night I had an opportunity to listen to a lecture given by John Elder Robison. If you are not familiar with Mr. Robison let me give you a little background. Mr. Robison is the author of Look Me In The Eye, a book about his life as a person with Aspergers. He also has written a newer book called Be Different, in which he gives advice to persons on the autism spectrum in how to “fit in” yet still draw on the amazing talents they may have from being autistic. Mr. Robison has led a very interesting life and he speaks very candidly about his life, his desires, what he has learned and what he hopes for the future. And he cusses. A lot.

I was really interested in seeing Mr. Robison since he is a very successful adult with Aspergers. Of course I hoped to glean some idea of what Matthew may be like in the future and really to seek assurance that he would be alright. It was hard to see Matthew in John Robison. Matthew has PDD-NOS while Robison has Aspergers.  Robison is brilliant and focused because of his Aspergers fixations, but Matthew does not show those qualities. Matthew is intelligent but we are not seeing this preoccupation with one interest. He will not immerse himself in one activity. Mr. Robison spoke with a characteristic vocal patter often associated with Aspergers or autism, but I don’t hear that in Matthew. Matthew’s speech seems more traditional.  Robison spoke about his mind blindness and how he truly did not understand the feelings of others. I believe Matthew too has mind blindness but maybe not to the extent Robison discussed.

Robison told us a story of a study he took part in. They used something called TMS which is transcranial magnetic stimulation. They stimulated his brain with these magnetic pulses in the hopes of regulating the mirror neurons in his brain. Mirror neurons are responsible for our ability to mimic others, to read their expressions and understand what someone is thinking. The treatment worked to some degree and he recounted how he saw the world and the people in it in a whole new light. Although the treatment did not last it gave him a glimpse into what he was missing. I think Matthew already has these glimpses but that he has a hard time maintaining them. The thought behind this testing was that persons on the autism spectrum may have an over regulated mirror neuron system and by using TMS they may be regulate up regulate they system and have it function properly. I wonder if Matthew’s system is not fully over regulated but instead mis-regulated. I say this becuase he has moments of such clarity and understanding, empathy and compassion, that would not be seen in an over regulated system.

John Robison gave a wonderful and thought provoking lecture. I am so glad I decided to attend. Any insight into my child’s mind is wonderful knowledge. As they teach him in school, knowledge is power. Stay well.

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