Thursday, March 7, 2013

John Elder Robison Returns to Boswell and This Time, We're Raising Cubby.

It’s not often when I read a memoir where the hero of a book is a school program, but after finishing Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s Trains Tractors, and High Explosives (on sale Tuesday, March 12), I was ready to give three cheers for the Montessori program. It’s what got John Elder Robison’s son on track with his schooling, and it probably saved him.

Now I should note that folks who read Robison’s new memoir will note that both father and mother (known affectionately as Little Bear) accomplished amazing things on their parenting journey. I should also note here that everyone involved was eventually diagnosed with Asperger’s, though for most of the story, nobody had that label.

It turns out the Montessori method was just the thing to help a long a kid with very specific interests who also had learning issues. I’m not sure what this is diagnosed as, but Cubby also had problems copy written diagrams, though he could follow oral directions quite well. It led to a kid who would get some test results as being way above normal and others where he was failing.

It made me glad to know that what happened with the Robisons might have been somewhat averted in Milwaukee. It turns out that Milwaukee doesn’t only have private Montessori Academies, but also has the largest public Montessori program of any school system. According to FOB Jenni, about 10% of MPS students are educated using Montessori techniques. I’m not sure Robison knew that before, but he should now, as I let his publicist know.

Robison’s already written two books, Look me in the Eye is the memoir of his own upbringing, touched on in his brother Augusten Burrough’s own memoir, Running with Scissors. He has also written a book of essays, Be Different, an advice book that offers anecdotes and coping strategies. We already know from his appearance last March that the next book will be looking at the science behind these diagnoses. And I know that there’s been a lot of hoopla about DSM folding Asperger’s into Autism, so there might be a little about that too.

Before Mr. Robison’s appearance, Cubby made national news when The New York Times ran a profile on the family, including the story about how Cubby was charged for his experiments with explosives. As you may have heard, the DA at the time, who gets no love in Raising Cubby, compared him to a terrorist. I won’t go into that part of the story that much here, as like a juicy thriller, memoir culminates some courtroom melodrama, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

But most of the book is about a different-ish parent coping with a different-ish child, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes amazing. Once again, we’re co-sponsoring our event with Autism Speaks, but this time we’re doing it a bit differently. Instead of ticketing the store, we’re going to donate a percentage of designated sales for the night to Austism Speaks, and that will include all sales of the new book. Just let us know at the register.

More on Autism Speaks. Their big fundraiser is their annual walk (it's called "Walk Now for Autism Speaks")  is held on April 6 at the Bradley Center. There is no problem with bad weather for their fundraiser, as the walk actually happens inside the Bradley Center, on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels. The 4th level is the "quiet floor" for folks who have to deal with sensory overload.

The festivities start at 9 am with various fun and informational activities and booths. The opening ceremonies are at 11, and folks start walking the Center until 1 pm. You can also get discounted tickets to the Milwaukee Bucks game that night at 7:30. Do you want more information? Of course you do. Here's the link.

I had such a great time at the last event, and I particularly enjoyed meeting so many of the families that came to share John’s story. Now it’s time to share Cubby’s story too. Here’s hoping you will join us at Boswell for this wonderful and inspiring event on Wednesday, March 13, at 7 pm.

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