Friday, February 18, 2011

Preview of my episode on Discovery Science and my tour schedule

It's very weird seeing myself on television. Here's a link to the episode of Ingenious Minds that profiles me on Discovery Science next week. My friend Bob Jeffway talks about how I was . . .

Meanwhile, the release of Be Different draws closer every day. Here's a link to the wonderful trailer that Alex Plank made for the folks at Crown, Random House Canada, and Random House Australia.

I am about to embark on the most extensive speaking tour ever. It's exciting but also stressful and kind of scary. I'll be on the road for six week this March, April, and May, and again in September. I sure hope to see some of you at my stops on the road. Here's what I have so far, for 2011:

Remember my latest schedule is available at and on the website

March 05, 2011, Lenox, MA
I will be teaching my Asperger Mind course at the College Internship Program in Lee. This is a regular one-credit graduate course, which you can also audit or take for professional development credit. Register on the Elms College website; call the college or CIP for more details.

March 22, 2011, EVERYWHERE Be Different goes on sale! Order your copy now for delivery on the first day!

Mar 22, 2011, Atlanta, GA
I'll be appearing at ASA Georgia's 2011 conference at the Gwinnett Convention Center in Duluth, GA. Advance registration required . . . see conference website for details

Mar 23, Hartford, CT
I will be the keynote speaker for the Annual Professional Development Conference of the Connecticut Association of Private Special Education Facilities. This will be at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Registration required.

Mar 24, Washington, DC
I will be speaking at the National Institute for Children's Health. All NIH employees are welcome, but this is not a public event.
For more information or reservations, contact Alice Kau, Ph.D. at The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch, Center for Developmental Biology and Perinatal Medicine at 301 496 1383 or by email:

Mar 27 (afternoon), 2011, Iselin, NJ
I'll be the keynote speaker for ASPEN's annual conference at the Hilton Woodbridge. For more information see ASPEN - Asperger Syndrome Education Network at All are welcome but registration is required and there is a fee to attend the conference

Mar 28 (evening), 2011 New York, NY
Join Michael John Carley and GRASP for an intimate evening fundraiser. Regiatration required; contact GRASP for details. Both Look Me in the Eye and Be Different will be available and I'll have time to speak to guests.

Mar 28, 2011 New York, NY
Join me at 7PM, at B&N Tribeca, 97 Warren St., New York, NY 10007. This free public event will include a Reading/Talk/Q&A/Signing.

Mar 31, 2011 Framingham, MA
Join me at Barnes & Noble on Route 9 in Framingham for a free event at 7PM

Saturday, April 28, 2011, 7:00 PM, Chicopee, MA
Join me at Elms College for a Q&A and discussion . . . This is a free event; Public welcome; Odyssey Bookstore will be there with books. I'll be in the Veritas Auditorium, 291 Springfield Street in Chicopee.
c. Kathryn James, Ph.D.
413-265-2253 (admin asst.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011, Northampton, MA
Join me at 1:45PM at Stoddard Hall, Smith College for a Q&A and discussion . . . Public welcome; Broadside will be there with books

Events contact: Roxie Mack/Bill at Broadside

Tuesday, April 5, 2011, Washington, DC
Join me at Ivymount School. Ivymount is home to the renowned Model Asperger Program for kids like me. They are producing one of the teaching guides for Be Different

I'll be speaking at a free public fundraiser at Ivymount School Auditorium, 11614 Seven Locks Rd in Rockville. Politics & Prose has Co-Sponsored the event with Ivymount. They will be there with books.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011, Houston, TX
Join me at 7PM at Barnes and Noble's River Oaks store for a talk and Q&A. I'll be there with folks from Monarch School. . . . Public welcome; Address is B&N River Oaks, 2030 W. Gray Street, Houston

Thursday, April 7, 2011, 6PM on Vermont radio, also streamed online
Join host Ann Barbano and I for THE NEXT FRONTIER, the first Vermont autism, disabilities and diagnosis radio program WOMM-LP 105.9 FM Burlington. Call in to (802) 861-WOMM (861-9666)
On ITUNES under eclectic radio WOMM

April 9, 2011, Nashville, TN
Join Dena Gassner and I at the Center for Understanding conference. 9AM to 2PM (several programs) at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 3900 West End. Ave. in Nashville. Landmark will be there with books.

April 11, 2011, Toronto, ON
Join me at 7:00 PM at the Royal Ontario Museum where I'll talk about Being Different. Sponsored by Random House Canada and Autism Speaks Canada. Tickets required. I'll be signing copies of both books.

April 12, 2011, Philadelphia, PA
I'll be speaking at 11:45AM as part of a diversity and autism awareness program at The Kinney Center at Saint Joseph's University. Admission is free and open to the public.

April 13, 2011, Boulder, CO
I'll be visiting the Google Boulder crew and recording a talk for the Authors@Google program. This is a private event but you'll see it online shortly.

April 13, 2011, Boulder, CO
Join me at 7:30PM at Boulder Bookstore, 1107 Pearl Street.

April 14, 2011, Denver, CO
Join me at 7:30PM at Tattered Cover's Colfax store, 2526 East Colfax at Elizabeth Street

April 16, 2011, Burlington, MA
Join me at 2PM, Saturday afternoon for Educator Appreciation Weekend at the big Barnes and Noble store, 98 Middlesex Turnpike, across from the Burlington Mall. I'll be discussing Asperger's, autism, and education, while signing copies of Look Me in the Eye and Be Different. Free, open to the public, and refreshments are available in the cafe. Remember, Barnes and Noble sells all my books on the Nook as well as in print and CD audio.

April 19, 2011, San Francisco, CA
Join me at 7PM for a free public event at Books Inc.- Opera Plaza in San Francisco.
For more information, contact Margie Scott-Tucker 415-643-3400 x11

April 20, 2011, Portland,OR
Join me Wednesday at 7:30 at Powell’s- 1005 W Burnside in downtown Portland

April 21, 2011, Seattle, WA
Join me at 7PM at Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way NE in Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
For more information contact Wendy Manning; 206-366-3316 or

April 26, 2011, Madison, CT
Join me for a 7PM free public event at RJ Julia of Madison. I'll be signing copies of Look Me in the Eye and Be Different, and telling stories of life as a free-range Aspergian.

April 30, 2011, Dothan, AL
I will be speaking in my Uncle Bob's home town; at Wallace College, at the Spectrum Center for Autism

May 12-14, 2011, San Diego, CA
I will be attending IMFAR 2011 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. Advance registration is required.

May 17, 2011 everywhere
My mother's memoir, The Long Journey Home, goes on sale. Join my mother and me at 7PM at the Odyssey Bookstore, Village Commons, South Hadley, MA for a discussion and signing.

May 18, 2011 Mass General Hospital, MA
Join me for a night at Mass General YouthCare. For this event I will be accompanied by Cubby and Alex, my own Aspergian youths.

May 26, 2011 Chicago, IL
I'll be giving the 1PM EBCALA legal issues keynote talk at Autism One, followed by a breakout session, book signing, and Q&A. Autism One and EBCALA Conference registration required.

Aug 25-Sept 15, 2011, Australia
Stay tuned for dates and locations. Check back here or with Random House Australia

Oct 11, 2011, Kent State, OH
I just agreed to join the Tuscarawas County Literacy Coalition for their annual One Book One Community event in Kent State University in Ohio. Save the date . . .

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Autism and Fear

My friend and fellow autistic author Temple Grandin said something at last week's autism conference that really got me thinking. She said, The principal emotion experienced by autistic people is fear.

Temple went on to explain that fear is the foundation of many other feelings are built upon for autistic people . . . anxiety, rage, even depression.

If my life is a guide, she's right. In this essay, I'd like to ponder why that may be . . .

Last December, in The Meaning of a Smile, I wrote about my vulnerability to insincere people. Like many people with autism, I have difficulty discerning who is sincere and who's not. I can look at another person, and recognize their expressions, but I do not "share their feelings" the way nypicals (people without autism) do. Many scientists believe that problem is caused by a weakness in autistic people's mirror neurons. Whatever the cause, it's a profound element of disability that rears its head when you least expect it.

In my earlier story I wrote of the inability to distinguish the real from the fake when it comes to expressions. That makes it sound like I'd be an easy mark for emotional predators, and maybe I am. However, the larger problem is that my inability to "feel" another person when I look at them leads me to draw incorrect conclusions about their desires or intentions, to my occasional great detriment. The people I misjudge are not usually bad people, trying to do me harm. They're just people, going about their lives, and I get into trouble when I misread them during my dealings with them.

I project my own hopes or desires, even when they are totally at odds with what the other person is really thinking. I want something, I look at another person, and tell myself, They must want this too, even though their face is saying, No way! Sometimes the result is funny. Other times it's embarrassing, or hurtful, either to me or to them. Occasionally, it's harmful.

Autistic people often talk of being bullied and taken advantage of. I believe that emotional blindness is one of the main reasons that happens. In many cases, we bring the hurt upon ourselves through misinterpretation followed by misstep.

So where does that leave me? Like many others with autism, it leaves me fearful and anxious whenever I must deal with new people, or strange situations. I know this anxiety is shared by countless others on the spectrum. I hide it well, but the fear and anxiety is always with me.

Yet fear does not rule me. I am reasonably successful, on a number of fronts. How do I do it? I have thought hard about that, in hopes these tips will help others escape the weight of fear and anxiety.

First of all, I pay very close attention to the actions of other people. My weakness is in picking up nonverbal signals, whereas my hearing is totally unimpaired. Consequently, I have a natural predisposition to favor a person's words over their actions. However, the saying actions speak louder than words still holds true, and I have trained myself to pay close attention to the actions and compare the observation to the words. Any discrepancy between them, or between the actions and my goals or desires, is cause for concern.

Second, I have taught myself to ask the other person what they feel, and what they want, as often as possible. That won't protect me from intentional deception, but as I noted, most of my problems are the result of innocent misunderstanding, not intentional deceit.

By asking others what they want or feel, and also stating my own desires, I increase the chance that others will pick up on any misalignment between us and put it on the table for discussion.

Third, I have learned the wisdom of living in the moment, and relaxation through meditation. I can't do these things very well, but I observe others who do, and I see the benefit to that ability.

Fourth, I have learned to reflect before acting, and to engage in cardio exercise while reflecting. It seems like vigorous exercise slows or stops the internal dialogue in my mind, and allows me to approach emotional decisions with a clear and fresh mind. That, and the wisdom of time taken pondering, yields better decisions.

It's also likely that the increased heart rate and the associated increased flow of oxygenated blood to the brain, improves my mental acuity.

Finally, when all else fails, there is always anti-anxiety medication, or even antidepressants. I prefer to be drug free, but there are times when that fails, and I know there are people who would not be functional without the assistance of medications.

I present these thoughts as beneficial to autistic people, but for all I know, anyone might benefit from these same processes. After all, anyone who is not telepathic must be blind to the signals of others to some degree, and most of you are not telepaths.

I speak about fear, anxiety, and fitting in at much greater length in my newest book, Be Different, on sale everywhere March 22nd.

I also encourage you to watch me on the Discovery Science show Ingenious Minds. My episode airs Feb 24th at 10PM Eastern Time.

This essay originally appeared at Psychology Today