John Elder Robison
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About John Elder Robison
John Elder Robison grew up in the 1960s before the Asperger diagnosis came into common use. After dropping out of high school, John worked in the music business where he created sound effects and electronic devices, including the signature illuminated, smoking, and rocket firing guitars he built for KISS. Later John worked on some of the first video games and talking toys at Milton Bradley. After a ten year career in electronics John founded Robison Service, a specialty automobile company in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Today, in addition to running the car company, John is the Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence at the College of William & Mary, and advisor to the neurodiversity program at Landmark College. John serves on the board of INSAR, the International Society for Autism Research, and is widely known as an advocate for people with autism and neurological differences.
John is the author of Switched On; Look Me in the Eye; Be Different, Adventures of a free-range Aspergian; and Raising Cubby, a unique tale of parenting. John's writing has been translated into sixteen languages and his work is sold in over 60 countries. His writing also appears in a number of magazines and he's a regular blogger on Psychology Today.
In addition to his autism advocacy work, John is a lifelong car enthusiast, an avid hiker, a photographer, a music lover, and a world-class champion eater. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Find John on the web:
www.robisonservice.com - the car company
jerobison.blogspot.com - John's blog
JohnElderRobison - on Facebook
@johnrobison - on Twitter
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Titles By John Elder Robison
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “As sweet and funny and sad and true and heartfelt a memoir as one could find.” —from the foreword by Augusten Burroughs
Ever since he was young, John Robison longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother, Augusten Burroughs, in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.” It was not until he was forty that he was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way he saw himself—and the world. A born storyteller, Robison has written a moving, darkly funny memoir about a life that has taken him from developing exploding guitars for KISS to building a family of his own. It’s a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien yet always deeply human.
The slyly funny, sweetly moving memoir of an unconventional dad’s relationship with his equally offbeat son—complete with fast cars, tall tales, homemade explosives, and a whole lot of fun and trouble
John Robison was not your typical dad. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of forty, he approached fatherhood as a series of logic puzzles and practical jokes. Instead of a speech about the birds and the bees, he told his son, Cubby, that he'd bought him at the Kid Store—and that the salesman had cheated him by promising Cubby would “do all chores.” While other parents played catch with their kids, John taught Cubby to drive the family's antique Rolls-Royce. Still, Cubby seemed to be turning out pretty well, at least until school authorities decided that he was dumb and stubborn—the very same thing John had been told as a child. Did Cubby have Asperger’s too? The answer was unclear.
One thing was clear, though: By the time he turned seventeen, Cubby had become a brilliant and curious chemist—smart enough to make military-grade explosives and bring federal agents calling. With Cubby facing a felony trial—and up to sixty years in prison—both father and son were forced to take stock of their lives, finally accepting that being “on the spectrum” is both a challenge and a unique gift.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST
Imagine spending the first forty years of your life in darkness, blind to the emotions and social signals of other people. Then imagine that someone suddenly switches the lights on.
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.
Having spent forty years as a social outcast, misreading others’ emotions or missing them completely, John is suddenly able to sense a powerful range of feelings in other people. However, this newfound insight brings unforeseen problems and serious questions. As the emotional ground shifts beneath his feet, John struggles with the very real possibility that choosing to diminish his disability might also mean sacrificing his unique gifts and even some of his closest relationships. Switched On is a real-life Flowers for Algernon, a fascinating and intimate window into what it means to be neurologically different, and what happens when the world as you know it is upended overnight.
Praise for Switched On
“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
“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
In his bestselling memoir, Look Me in the Eye, John Elder Robison described growing up with Autism Spectrum Disorder at a time when the diagnosis didn’t exist. He was intelligent but socially isolated; his talents won him jobs with toy makers and rock bands but did little to endear him to authority figures and classmates, who were put off by his inclination to blurt out non sequiturs and avoid eye contact.
By the time he was diagnosed at age forty, John had already developed a myriad of coping strategies that helped him achieve a seemingly normal, even highly successful, life.
In each story, he offers practical advice for anyone who feels “different” on how to improve the weak communication and social skills that keep so many people from taking full advantage of their often remarkable gifts. With his trademark honesty and unapologetic eccentricity, Robison addresses questions like:
• How to read others and follow their behaviors when in uncertain social situations
• Why manners matter
• How to harness your powers of concentration to master difficult skills
• How to deal with bullies
• When to make an effort to fit in, and when to embrace eccentricity
• How to identify special gifts and use them to your advantage
Every person has something unique to offer the world, and every person has the capacity to create strong, loving bonds with their friends and family. Be Different will help readers and those they love find their path to success.
Desde que tenía tres o cuatro años, John Elder Robison es consciente de que es diferente de los demás. Era incapaz de establecer contacto visual con otros niños y, cuando era adolescente, sus extrañas costumbres —una fuerte inclinación hacia los dispositivos electrónicos, desmontar radios o cavar profundos hoyos— le habían otorgado el sello de «socialmente desviado». Sus padres no solo no lograron entender sus problemas de socialización, sino que fueron prácticamente tan disfuncionales como él. Pero, alentado por algunos maestros a arreglar sus equipos audiovisuales averiados, el pequeño Robison descubrió un mundo más familiar y cómodo de máquinas y circuitos, luz suave y perfección mecánica. Esto recondujo más tarde su vida laboral hacia sectores donde la conducta extraña se considera normal, desarrollando las guitarras eléctricas de KISS o juguetes computerizados para la compañía de Milton Bradley. No fue hasta los cuarenta años que le diagnosticaron una forma de autismo llamada síndrome de Asperger. Entender lo que le ocurría transformó la forma en que se veía a sí mismo y al mundo.
Mírame a los ojos es la historia de cómo creció con el síndrome de Asperger en un momento en que el diagnóstico simplemente no existía, con el objetivo de ayudar a quienes están hoy luchando para vivir con Asperger y mostrarles que no es una enfermedad, sino una forma de ser, que no necesita más cura que la comprensión y el aliento de los demás.