John E. Robison: An Emerging Voice of Autism

John Elder Robison (Courtesy:

John Robison admits to being a problem child. Often sad, lonely and unable to make friends, he was shuffled from school to school and therapist to therapist, all while his Asperger’s Syndrome went undiagnosed.

An electronics savant who saw wiring in patterns of color, Robison dropped out of high school and started working with rock bands, eventually engineering the first flaming guitar for the band Kiss. He later became well-known for his 2007 book, "Look Me in the Eye," a poignant memoir of being a socially isolated misfit who didn’t discover his autism until he was nearly 40 years old. 

His brother is author Augusten Burroughs of "Running With Scissors" fame. It was Burroughs who encouraged his older brother to write down his life story and Robison initially agreed for his own entertainment, never imagining that he would go on to become a New York Times best selling author and public figure.

John E. Robison is yet another example of how individuals with autism continue to shatter stereotypes and how they are contributing to our society. In fact, Robison himself stated that the world needs those with his condition, which is something to be "cherished and celebrated."

Robison’s book now has a teaching guide and is used in curriculum from middle school through college. He often makes personal appearances at autism conferences, sometimes in tandem with his friend Temple Grandin, and he is an adjunct professor in the department of Communication Sciences Disorders at The College of Our Lady of the Elms in Chicopee, Massachusetts. 

Robison’s second book, "Be Different," is completed and will be released later next month. And on February 24, 2011, he will be featured on Discovery Channel’s "Ingenious Minds," which should be a fascinating look into his background and life story.

If you’re unfamiliar with the name of John Elder Robison, you will soon be hearing much more of him as he continues to emerge as a powerful advocate for those with Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders.

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
  • * 4 out of 5 autistic children are boys

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