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John Elder Robison (born 1957) is the author of the 2007 memoir Look Me in the Eye, detailing his life living with Asperger syndrome. He is the elder brother of memoirist Augusten Burroughs, who also wrote about his childhood in the memoir Running with Scissors.
Robison was born in Athens, Georgia while his parents were attending the University of Georgia. He is the son of poet Margaret Robison and late John G. Robison, former head of the philosophy department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. After John Elder’s birth, the family lived in Philadelphia, Seattle, and Pittsburgh, where his brother Augusten Burroughs (born Christopher) was born. In 1966 he and his family settled in western Massachusetts.
Robison dropped out of Amherst High School in the tenth grade, to join the Amherst-based rock band Fat. Robison would later receive an honorary diploma from The Monarch School in Houston in May 2008. “It is unconscionable to me as an educator,” said Dr. Marty Webb, founder and head of The Monarch School, “that someone of John’s intelligence, competence and life achievement is walking around without a high school diploma.” Monarch, dedicated to providing an innovative, therapeutic education for individuals with neurological differences, has collaborated with Robison on the development of teacher guides for his best seller, “Look Me in the Eye” as well as the soon to be published sequel.
Several years later his ability to design electronic circuits allowed him to work for Britro sound company. He later became a sound adviser for Pink Floyd and KISS, for whom he created their signature illuminated, fire-breathing, and rocket launching guitars. He subsequently designed electronic games at toy maker Milton Bradley. Robison then worked for Simplex Time Recorder, Isoreg Corporation and Candela Laser of Wayland, Massachusetts. He later managed J E Robison Service Co from his backyard. He became successful from the venture, the business being one of the largest independent Land Rover, Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialty shops in the country, and becoming one of only 20 four-star service agents for Robert Bosch GmbH of Germany.
Like many people his age, Robison was unaware that he had Asperger syndrome, first learning of his condition in when he was 39 years old. As of 2009, Robison serves as a volunteer spokesman for the Graduate Autism Program at Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts. He has also worked with Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone of Harvard Medical School and Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on the use of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as an experimental autism treatment. Robison has written about that work on his blog and elsewhere. He has been interviewed by Diane Rehm on NPR, Leonard Lopate of WNYC, and Erin Moriarty of CBS Sunday Morning. He has appeared on CBS News, The Today Show, and other news programs.
In June 2009, Robison served as a public reviewer for the National Institutes of Mental Health when they reviewed applications for autism research that are to be funded as part of the economic stimulus package of 2009.
Robison currently lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.