Grand Rapids Community College’s third Diversity Lecture Series speaker is a father, owner of a multi-million dollar business, and bestselling author. Yet on Wednesday he is not speaking on any of those things. Instead, John Elder Robison is speaking about Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism that he was diagnosed with at the age of 40.
Robison will be speaking about what it was like growing up with Asperger’s in a society that didn’t know how to recognize it, as well as spread more awareness that autism is not a disability because one is lacking in some way, but an opportunity for other gifts to shine.
“The gifts of neurological differences are totally overlooked,” Robison said. “I want to show young people today you can have a good and satisfying life.”
Robison has written three books, each of them carrying the same message of hope and autism awareness. His books are focused on helping people understand that everyone has differences, and his books have helped him spread this idea.
He mentions that his biggest challenge is how diverse his audience is in in the different needs they have. Some children who have autism do not even have the ability to speak properly, while others hope to obtain a successful job someday. Because of this wide range of needs, Robison tries to keep his message relevant to both ends of the spectrum.
In addition to giving talks at schools around the country, Robison serves on research boards including Autism Speaks and the National Institutes of Health. He focuses on research, “aimed at therapies to improve the lives of people living with autism.”
“I want to focus our research budget on things that matter now.” Robison said, emphasizing the importance of improving the lives of those who are living with autism today, not just those who will be diagnosed in the future.
Robison will be speaking at 7 p.m. at Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain St. NE, in Grand Rapids. The event is free and open to the public.