After reading John’s books and hearing him speak I could see him standing right next to me in the AMC lobby asking the same questions.
By Ron Sandison
On February 23rd, I had the pleasure of meeting a New York Times bestelling author, John Elder Robison, who is of my heroes from the autism community for both his boldness and humorous crude stories. Four years ago, I read his memoirLook Me in the Eye. It was the first book I read from an Asperger perspective. I felt like a bobblehead reading Robison’s book, laughing and nodding in agreement with his Asperger’s journey.
In 1982 at age seven, I was diagnosed with autism before Asperger’s was in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Reading John’s book I realized I had many of the characteristics of Asperger’s such as difficulty filtering what I say (not unlike President Donald Trump’s filtering system), repetitive behavior, sensory processing issues and concrete literal thinking. John’s writings inspired me to study Asperger’s and autism. After a year of in-depth research and self-examining, I decided to write A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom.
I enjoyed reading the chapter “A Trickster is Born” from Look Me in the Eye. My favorite prank was John sending his biology teacher, Ursula, a blow-up doll. In writing my book I also used humor to share my personal experiences.
One of my favorite stories took place at a movie theater. While we were dating, my wife Kristen and I would go to the movies at the AMC Forum 30 every Thursday for half-price. As we purchased tickets on November 11, 2010 to Unstoppable, the high-school age clerk said, “Twenty dollars, please!” Since tickets are normally $5 on a Thursday night, I asked, “Did you discontinue the discount deal?”
The clerk smiled and said, “No, today is Veteran’s Day. So it’s holiday rate!” I was enraged and demanded to speak with the manager.
“AMC company policy is every holiday we charge regular price,” the manager said.
“I can prove to you that AMC does not consider Veteran’s Day a holiday!” I said.
I turned and said to the clerk, “Do you receive time-and-a-half holiday pay for Christmas and the 4th of July?”
“Are you getting holiday pay today for Veteran’s Day?” I asked.
“No,” the clerk replied.
I looked the manager in the eye and said, “If Veteran’s Day is considered by AMC executives to be a holiday, why are your employees not receiving holiday pay?”
The manager was speechless. The theater lobby was packed.
“How many veterans are here?” I shouted.
Two veterans approached me.
“Thanks so much for risking your lives for our country and protecting our freedom. I just wanted to let you guys know that AMC is charging you double price today to show its patriotism!” I said.
These veterans were furious that AMC would charge them the higher holiday rate.
The manager gave us free gift cards for popcorn and drinks. The general population would just accept the fact that AMC is charging holiday rate on a Thursday. Not someone with autism and Asperger’s. After reading John’s books and hearing him speak I could see him standing right next to me in the AMC lobby asking the same questions.
John’s message is about neurodiversity.
“Most neurotypical people lie. We with autism say what everyone else in the room is thinking but afraid to say. My grandparents always said, ‘Boy you have the manners of a farm animal,”’ Robison shared.
During question and answer time, a concerned mom asked, “My son has zero ability to filter what he says. When we are at the supermarket, he will yell at the cashier, ‘You’re taking too long and need to be fired!’ What should I do?”’
John had the perfect response, “Was the cashier slow?”
He provided the mom with this practical advice, “If what your son says will not get him bullied or shot—don’t fret it. Autism makes us honest.”
One cool fact I learned from meeting John was his interest in early American clergy and autism. Through his research he concluded many theologians in the American church were high-functioning autistic and spent their time alone studying the sacred texts. As a theologian with autism I found this fascinating.
John’s message was motivating and inspired me to be bold and proud to be autistic.
Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of American. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.
He frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016. You can contact Ron at his website Spectrum Inclusion or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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