Best Selling Author John Elder Robison to Speak at UC Riverside

In his latest book, Robison shares his experience in an experimental study designed to improve emotional insight in people with autism spectrum disorder

A headshot of John Elder Robison

John Elder Robison

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — John Elder Robison, a New York Times best-selling author, an adult living with Asperger syndrome, and an autism advocate, will share insights from his latest book, “Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening,” at a public event on Sunday, Jan. 8 at the University of California, Riverside. The free talk is open to the public.

Robison, who grew up with undiagnosed Asperger syndrome, wrote about his inability to read others’ emotions in his best-selling 2007 memoir “Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger’s.” He is also the author of “Be Different: A How-to Guide for Grown Ups with Autism” and “Raising Cubby,” the story of raising his son, who has also been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

ASD, a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, now affects 1 in 68 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A diagnosis of ASD includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately, including autistic disorder and Asperger syndrome.

In 2008, as he entered his fifties, Robison was recruited into a pioneering study investigating the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to improve emotional insight in people with ASD, who often struggle to make emotional connections and read social cues. TMS, a noninvasive procedure in which areas of the brain are stimulated with electromagnetic fields, is currently used as a treatment for some forms of severe depression.

In Switched On, Robison shares how TMS enabled him to read emotions and experience empathy for the first time, yet it also brought unanticipated problems and new struggles as his emotions were awakened overnight.

Jan Blacher, Distinguished Professor of Education, UC Presidential Chair, and Director of the SEARCH Family Autism Resource Center in UCR’s Graduate School of Education, points out that Robison’s personal experiences provide rare insight into the life of an adult with Asperger syndrome and the challenges faced by people with all levels of autism and their families as they seek treatments and resources.

“We are delighted that John Robison will be here to share his experiences with the UCR community.  It is a wonderful opportunity for parents, educators, medical practitioners, and scholars in education, psychology, and neuroscience to hear John and to meet him in person,” Blacher said.

The public talk will be Sunday, Jan. 8, from 4-5 p.m. in the Highlander Union Building (HUB) Room 302 on the UCR Campus. This event is jointly sponsored by UCR’s Graduate School of Education and the School of Medicine. Attendees should RSVP to:

UCR’s SEARCH Family Autism Resource Center provides no-cost diagnostic and referral services for low-income families in the Riverside-San Bernardino community.

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