Keynote Address

Extraordinary Brain Change and Emotional Awakening
March 8, 2019 | 3:30 PM

In 2007, John Elder Robison wrote the international bestseller Look Me in the Eye, a memoir about growing up with Asperger’s. Amid the blaze of publicity that followed, he received a unique invitation to take part in a study led by one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, where an experimental new brain therapy would be used to understand and then address the issues at the heart of autism and Asperger’s.

In this keynote, based on his new book Switched On, Robison tells the extraordinary story of what happened next. Having spent forty years as a social outcast, misreading other’s emotions or missing them completely, John was suddenly able to sense a powerful range of feelings in other people. However, this newfound insight brought new problems and serious questions. As the emotional ground shifted beneath his feet, Robison struggled 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. 


About John Elder Robison

John Elder Robison is the Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, and one of the founders of the Neurodiversity Program at the school—one of the first of its kind at a major American university. He is particularly interested in improving quality of life for those people living with autism today—both autistic people and family members. He’s been a member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee of the US Department of Health and Human Services and serves on other boards for the US National Institutes of Health, and Centers for Disease Control, and private organizations.

In his younger days Robison worked as an engineer for KISS and Pink Floyd’s sound company and worked on original electronic games at Milton Bradley. Later on, he founded J E Robison Service—a restorer of Land Rover, Rolls Royce, and Mercedes motorcars. Robison’s books Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Intelligence, Look Me in the Eye, Be Different, and Raising Cubby are the most widely read account of life with Asperger’s in the world. His books have also been translated into more than fifteen languages and are sold in 60+ countries.