☕ Book Break ☕ | Switched On by John Elder Robison

Reposted from my older site.

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Book Review of Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening by John Elder Robison

In a quest for emotional intelligence, John Elder Robison agreed to allow neuroscientists to experiment on his brain. In this memoir that reminds one of Flowers for Algernon, Robison tells us about his experience with TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and the resulting effects on his emotions and life.

Imagine your world being turned upside down by a sudden awareness that things are not at all the way you thought they were. Scales drop from your eyes. You connect with people in a way you never have before. Things are different, sharper. But there is a caveat. You  see that sometimes ‘friends’ are most definitely not friends at all. Childhood memories are now viewed with disturbing clarity. The gift you so sought after, to become more perceptive, is now yours but the beauty so desired and expected isn’t the only thing this new found ability to see emotion reveals.

I was moved by Switched On in a way no other memoir has touched me. This is truly a unique experience that Robison has shared.

After the reception his book, Look Me In the Eye, John Elder Robison was approached to participate in a research study. Scientists wanted to measure the plasticity of the brain, in other words, how the brain can adapt, change, and ‘rewire’ itself. They also sought results about cognitive therapies and how that might affect the brain. The idea was to see if TMS could be used to effect the difficulties autistic people have reading the emotions and nonverbal communication of others.

People on the autism spectrum are not unemotional or uncaring. They do have difficulty reading people, understanding, and responding in the expected way to situations. This is something that people are expected to come by naturally, but this skill seems particularly elusive to people on the spectrum.

Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change, chronicles the unexpected and far reaching results of this research study. Robison underwent moments of amazing emotional awakening and others of devastation as a result of the sudden onslaught of awareness.

This memoir leaves us with more questions than answers about the future of TMS for therapeutic uses. Delving into this area of research raises a multitude of ethical questions.

“The thing is, not all differences lead to disability. Some lead to exceptionality. And we don’t necessarily know enough to tell one from the other. Yet we are on the verge of acting on that incomplete knowledge right now in the area of autism.”

Switched On left me feeling conflicted. It offers hope for future understanding and therapies, but is, in part, a cautionary tale. We would do well to take heed. At the same time, there were tremendous gains for Robison. This book has given me a deeper understanding of why someone might be willing to try these kinds of treatments.

I like Robison’s writing style. I find his books to be easy to read and entertaining, while at the same time providing information. In this particular book he does tend to stray into areas that are a bit technical for me, but his down-to-earth style kept me engaged with the story throughout. This book was a fascinating read and I finished it quickly.

I recommend this book for anyone curious about TMS, autism, or for anyone interested in a good memoir.

I also suggest Robison’s first book, Look Me in The Eye, or another of his books, Be Different, both of which I found to be very encouraging and informative. This recent book is a bit different than the two I have previously read since it deals with medical research, but Robison’s engaging story telling style remains. In Switched On Robison has given readers the opportunity to gain further insights into his autistic journey.

Listen as John Elder Robison talks about his experience on NPR “Here and Now.”

Read my review of John Elder Robinson’s memoir Look Me in the Eye here.

My Hero

I shared this as part of another IG challenge, this one a writing challenge with @simmeringmind. The prompt was: A real life hero or writer who inspires you. Photo from Unsplash.

Anytime I think of a hero, I think of my kids. My kids are the reason I write what I do. The snippet below is an excerpt from the speech I gave at my youngest son’s graduation.

Eddie Rickenbacker, the WW I Ace and Medal of Honor recipient said, “Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared.”

There have been many things to be afraid of. When the world is loud and crowds you and it’s hard to tell up from down, in from out; terror doesn’t only stalk, it sidles up next to you and tries to claw its way into your back pocket.

When he was small, the invisible and seen were jumbled together and everything screamed danger. Fears were faced daily, but I remember one day in particular. We were at the church door, and he could not move.

He did not bury his face in my skirt, but edged closer to me. We waited. After a pause, his big brother opened the glass door. We all went in together.

Our place was in the back row. During the singing all the people stood, so we did, too, and he leaned into me. His little boy body trembled. I sat back down, but did not take him into my lap. Instead, with one arm I circled his thin shoulders and laid my other hand on his sticky-damp forehead.

A man stared at us. I joined in to sing the chorus with the congregation, my arms remaining around my child, the pressure firm and sure while he sat, solid and still.

He closed his eyes. We breathed in unison. In, out, in, out. His balled up fists became loose and lost their whiteness around the knuckles.

He has always been the bravest one. 

I’ve watched him square his shoulders more times than I can count.

“Courage doesn’t always roar.

Sometimes courage is the quiet voice

at the end of the day, saying,

‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

Mary Anne Radmacher

There have been many, many tomorrows. There are Giants in the land. Everyday courage takes everyday perseverance. To see the persistence, the faith walked out in small, careful steps has grown in me a deep and steady strength I never knew was possible.

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

C.S. Lewis

To see him get up, try again, time after time is enough to produce a vision of what heroic truly means.

Thanks for reading. If you liked this post, leave a comment telling me about your biggest hero.

 

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☕ Book Break ☕ | The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

 

The Girl He Used to Know

 

I adore restoration of lost love stories. 

 

Overall I loved, loved, loved the characters and the story. I cried buckets. Every now and then I got stressed out for Annika and the situations she got herself into. 

  

The way the author showed how adults on the spectrum can continue to grow and learn new skills was definitely something I appreciate being addressed. Too often people assume that someone with a developmental disability or cognitive delays only has until the end of high school to acquire skills. There were pains taken to correctly define ASD without sounding like it was out of place. The writing was seamless, the story moving along and unfolding naturally.

 

The writer obviously did her research to accurately portray Annika, although I would love to see more books about people on the spectrum with less stereotypical autsitc characters. Not all autistics rock, flick their fingers, or crave solitude. 

 

Well worth the read. 

 

This may be on the top of my best books this year because of my interest in autistic characters and simply because it is an engaging, well plotted novel with emotional impact. I will check out other books by this author.

 

Things I LOVED

 

Characters

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Plot (some people felt it was a little cheesy at the end, but I liked it)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Need for Kleenex for Weepy Moments

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Satisfying Ending

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

General All Around Lovely Novel

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A little spicy. A few sex scenes, but not as steamy as The Kiss Quotient.

☕ Book Break ☕ | The Aspie Girl’s Guide to Being Safe with Men by Debi Brown

~The Aspie Girl’s Guide to Being Safe with Men by Debi Brown~

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s sad such a book has to be written, but it is a hard fact that people on the spectrum are some of the most vulnerable. The characteristics of autism make those with ASD easy targets. It’s hard to stay safe when you can’t read body language and you don’t understand social interaction well.

This book is written by a woman on the spectrum to young women and girls on the spectrum. It is not bogged down by technical jargon but rather reads like a conversation imparting sisterly advice. At the same time, it is well organized. Much of the information contained in this book are things girls are assumed to instinctively know or pick up from their friends. This does not happen for people on the spectrum. Even if a person has been instructed about the topics in this book, having the unwritten safety rules organized and written out is a good idea and would probably be helpful.

If you care about a young lady on the spectrum I feel purchasing this book or one like it is needed and money well spent. This small volume is easy to understand and written in a friendly, sensitive, accessible style. This is a book about sexuality and staying safe in sexual relationships from a female aspie perspective. Have the conversation.

This is the first book I have seen on this specific topic. I haven’t seen one for guys yet. If you have please let me know in the comments.

☕ Book Break ☕ |~Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine~

~Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine~

 

“I don’t like the word soon because you don’t know when it’s going to sneak up on you and turn into NOW. Or maybe it’ll be the kind of soon that never happens.”

 

Caitlin depended on her older brother, Devon, to help her navigate the world. But when he is one of the victims of a school shooting she has lost her guide. Her father, overcome by grief, is of little help. Functioning in an environment that is not friendly to her was difficult already, and now she must deal with the fallout of her brother’s death.

 

The story is told from the point of view of an 11-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. Even so, the descriptions of Caitlin’s world and attitudes of those around her came through clearly. I could tell what her counselor was thinking at times, the surprise you feel when a kid on the spectrum makes a pronouncement, in all innocence, that smacks you in the head and makes you do a double take.

 

This novel stirred up so many emotions in me. My heart cracked open every time Caitlin tried to figure out “closure” and how to get it. A beautifully written, emotional read with an important message and a satisfying ending. This book touched me.

 

This novel was written with a tremendous amount of sensitivity. It’s on the short side but is not light weight. It covers heavy topics. There are no graphic descriptions or extreme bullying, but the characters do struggle with the issues stemming from school violence.

 

Very relevant to the situation in our schools and culture today. I was of two minds about a book that dealt with both the issues of special needs with school violence. Too many people have wedded these. It’s a complicated issue. I felt like this novel did a beautiful job with the topic while honoring storytelling.

 

One thing I hope everyone can agree on is that empathy and understanding can go a long way in helping all humans deal with the tragedies life throws our way.

 

If you’re looking for a book about the power of friendship, relationship, and the struggles of grief, this one might fit the bill.

.

All the Feels

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Character Interaction

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Relevant

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Storytelling

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

☕ Book Break ☕ |~What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum~

 

~What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum~

 

“There’s a famous expression that if you’ve met one person with autism, then… you’ve met one person with autism.

So you met me.

Just me.

Not a diagnosis.”

 

 

David Drucker has what used to be known as Asperger’s although he does not claim the label.

 

David is at the bottom rung of the social ladder . Kit, on the other hand, is one of the popular crowd. When her father dies, she can’t bear to hang out in the lunchroom with her chatty  regular crew and decides to sit with David, who eats his lunch all by his lonesome at a table devoid of company. A friendship ensues which eventually leads to a romance.

 

David is sweet, socially naive, and blunt. He carries a notebook around with him that his older sister helped him start when he first began high school. It lists things to remind him of proper social behavior, and clues to help him identify people. David, like many on the spectrum, does not easily recognize people, not to mention being totally lost socially.

 

The idea of David’s notebook reminded me a bit of the nonfiction book “The Journal of Best Practices” compiled by a man on the spectrum as an assistive tool to help him be a good husband. I can so see this kind of notebook being a necessary part of an aspies life to help navigate all the intricacies of day to day interaction.

 

Kit has her own set of issues to deal with.

 

I liked this book. I felt the portrayal of David was realistic, and I liked his character. There is a little bit of stereotyping by David himself when he denies his autism, even though it’s obvious he’s on the spectrum. I loved the positive relationship David had with his big sister, and the fact that he had supportive parents.

 

Adding to the story was a bit of a mystery about the car accident, which Kit asks David to help her solve. The answer is surprising.

 

Characters

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Plot

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Realistic

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Heart Tugging

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

David does have to deal with some serious bullying, but I felt it was realistic, considering some of the stories I’ve heard.

 

 

 

☕ Book Break ☕ |~Summerlost by Ally Condie~

~Summerlost by Ally Condie~
“Why does the end always have to be what people talk about?”

“I have been in the presence of a lot of greatness. And people I love who loved me back. It might be the same thing.”

After a tragic accident takes the lives of Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben, Cedar comes to spend the summer in Iron Creek and gets her first job at the Summerlost Theater. She and her new found friend, Leo, are determined to unravel the mystery of the festival’s most famous actress who died years ago. Items appear on Cedar’s window sill, items like the things her brother, Ben, would collect and Cedar tries to puzzle out who left them there.

Sweet, coming-of-age novel. I absolutely adore the main character, Cedar, and her vulnerability and honesty about her feelings for her brother.

This is a novel about Cedar’s coming to terms with losing her father and brother. Her grief, her experience.

It has a lovely summery feel to it, that fleeting warmth and sweetness of twelve-year-old summer, the time in between childhood and adolescence where things are bright and raw. Cedar’s summer is tinged with grief and memories.

This is a story of friendship between a boy and a girl. I like that it wasn’t necessary to have the friendship cluttered by romance. I love the message that it is perfectly acceptable to have a friend of the opposite sex, especially at this age. I remember the looks and raised eyebrows from the adults in my life when I was twelve and my best friend was a boy. Sometimes it’s about friendship, not kisses.

Sensitively done. Beautiful work. Moving.

In the author’s notes she mentions the neurodiverse community. I like that.