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John Elder Robison

7 p.m. Monday, October 7, 2024

Page Hall - University at Albany Downtown Campus
135 Western Avenue, Albany NY 12203 See map.

John Elder Robison is a world-recognized authority on life with autism and the New York Times bestselling author of thoughtful and humorous books about his experiences living on the autism spectrum.


A photographer, educator, neurodiversity advocate, automobile aficionado, and designer of special effects guitars for the rock band KISS, Robison received his autism diagnosis at the age of 40 — when he was already the parent of a second grader with a similar diagnosis.

Prior to that, Robison had merely been pegged as a “social deviant,” because of his tendency to blurt non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes.

Robison is the neurodiversity scholar in residence at the College of William & Mary and he serves on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which produces the U.S. government’s strategic plan for autism spectrum disorder research. 

Robison’s books include Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s (2007), a memoir about growing up with Asperger’s syndrome; Be Different (2011), Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s (2013), and Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening (2016).


Major support and funding provided by New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID) and KeyBank.

About Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Wakening

It has long been assumed that people living with autism are born with the diminished ability to read the emotions of others, even as they feel emotion deeply. But what if we’ve been wrong all this time? What if that “missing” emotional insight was there all along, locked away and inaccessible in the mind?

In 2007 John Elder Robison wrote the international bestseller Look Me in the Eye, a memoir about growing up with Asperger’s syndrome. Amid the blaze of publicity that followed, he received a unique invitation: Would John like to take part in a study led by one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, who would use an experimental new brain therapy known as TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, in an effort to understand and then address the issues at the heart of autism? Switched On is the extraordinary story of what happened next.

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Praise for Switched On

“A mind-blowing book that will force you to ask deep questions about what is important in life. Would normalizing the brains of those who think differently reduce their motivation for great achievement?”—Temple Grandin, author of The Autistic Brain

“An eye-opening book with a radical message . . . The transformations [Robison] undergoes throughout the book are astonishing—as foreign and overwhelming as if he woke up one morning with the visual range of a bee or the auditory prowess of a bat.”—The New York Times

“Astonishing, brave . . . reads like a medical thriller and keeps you wondering what will happen next . . . [Robison] takes readers for a ride through the thorny thickets of neuroscience and leaves us wanting more.”—The Washington Post

“Fascinating for its insights into Asperger’s and research, this engrossing record will make readers reexamine their preconceptions about this syndrome and the future of brain manipulation.”—Booklist

“Like books by Andrew Solomon and Oliver Sacks, Switched On offers an opportunity to consider mental processes through a combination of powerful narrative and informative medical context.”—BookPage

“At the heart of Switched On are fundamental questions of who we are, of where our identity resides, of difference and disability and free will, which are brought into sharp focus by Robison’s lived experience.”—Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Effect

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