An extraordinary memoir about the cutting-edge brain therapy that dramatically changed the life and mind of John Elder Robison, the New York Times best-selling author of Look Me in the Eye.
Imagine spending the first 40 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.
John Elder Robison's best-selling memoir, Look Me in the Eye, is one of the most beloved accounts of life with autism. In Switched On, Robison shares the second part of his journey, pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery as he undergoes an experimental brain therapy known as TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation. TMS drastically changes Robison's life. After 40 years of feeling like a social misfit - either misreading other people's emotions or missing them completely and accepting this as his fate - Robison can suddenly sense a powerful range of emotion in others as a result of the treatments: "It was as if I'd been experiencing the world in black and white all my life, and suddenly I could see everything - and particularly other people - in brilliant, beautiful color." The ability to connect emotionally with others for the first time brings Robison a kind of joy he has never known.
And yet, Robison's newfound insight has very real downsides. As the emotional ground shifts beneath his feet, he must find a way to move forward without losing sight of who he is, what he values, and all he has worked so hard for. Robison is our guinea pig and our guide, bravely leading us on an adventure that holds the key to new ways of understanding the mysteries of the human brain. In this real-life Flowers for Algernon, he grapples with a trade-off - 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 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.
©2016 John Elder Robison (P)2016 Random House Audio
"A fascinating companion to the previous memoirs by this masterful storyteller." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Switched On is 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)
"John Elder Robison is an extraordinary guide, carefully elucidating the cutting-edge science behind this revolutionary new brain therapy, TMS, alongside the compelling story of the impact it has on his relationships, his thinking and emotions, and indeed his very identity. At the heart of Switched On are fundamental questions of who we are, of where our identity resides, of difference and disability and free will, which are brought into sharp focus by Robison's lived experience." (Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Effect)
Avid listener on my daily commute!
This book (which is part memoir and part Neuro for Newbies textbook) tells the personal story of the author's participation in and response to clinical research trials investigating the effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on the social and emotional intelligence of adults with Asperger's syndrome. Robison's response to TMS is nothing short of life-changing; everything from his marriage and family, to his career as a business owner, to his avocations as a music aficionado and amateur photographer is shaken to its very foundations and emerges completely altered. Anyone even slightly interested in autism spectrum disorders and/or brain research will be hooked from the very first chapters.
The book's only drawbacks--one related to content, one to performance--are ironically both likely related to the author's status as an Aspie. First, he writes like an Aspie, with fully competent grammar, usage and sentence mechanics, but a somewhat pedantic style, with perhaps an overreliance on technical details. Secondly, he reads his own words, which on the one hand is great (makes his memoir feel more authentic; makes the emotion more palpably real), but on the other hand will pose a problem for listeners who are easily put off by a less-than-stellar narrator. As a speech therapist, I couldn't help but cringe as I listened to his decreased respiratory support resulting in short breath groups of four to six words separated by pauses. For example, he reads like this: "As Howard Gardner first wrote....decades ago in Multiple Intelligences.... there are a variety.... of distinct intellectual capacities and orientations....that contribute to our understanding....of ourselves and our place....in society.” That's a lot of pauses, and DOES make the techie parts sound more boring than they need to, as well as distracting somewhat from the emotional impact of the more emotional parts of the story. I recommend either listening at 1.25 x normal speed, or supplementing listening to the Audible book by simultaneously reading the print version. I did both, and was VERY glad I did! Highly recommended.
l'enfer c'est les autres
The book is an anecdotal account of the author's experience of taking TMS (transcranal magnetic stimulation), as an experimental treatment for autism (he'll often use the word Asperger instead of 'autism'). The author is a good narrator, and tells his personnel experiences in a very likable manner.
Overall, I think I could have gotten what I wanted out of the book by reading a magazine length article on the merits and wizardry on TMS instead. I had wondered about the efficacy of the procedure before reading this book, and to the author's credit, I still wonder because he doesn't go beyond what the current science says and much more science needs to be done before easy answers can be given.
If you are on the spectrum and introspective you will likely find this fascinating. If you are not, you could be frustrated and/or bored at the tedium of getting thru the whole thing. As an autistic person I can only say that I see a point to almost every word. Some chapters will seem pointless to one person and be the most captivating to another so nobody should say 'it would have been better (more bearable) without this or that chapter'. You likely would remove the most interesting part for some other reader.
I don't think the point of reading is that it's a captivating story even though many may find it so. To me it's a must read for anyone who IS or lives with a high functioning autistic person. I recommend it to those who are on the spectrum because it gives a fascinating and credible basis for thinking about ones place in the world and some practical consequences of changing that place.
For the rest, it's never as credible to hear a person with Asperger syndrome explain that they do care even though, from all outward appearances, they don't. John has earned a voice on the national and international stages, not by who he knows but by being truly insightful and articulate while speaking from first hand experience. While he may not be able to speak for every autistic person, his descriptions and insights into how many of us think and feel is very realistic and generally quite close to the mark. I encourage anyone having regular contact with someone on the spectrum to not only read what he says about how we think but believe it and use it as a basis to take what those you know say seriously.
Absolutely loved it! I was hooked from the start and could not put it down. Such a good listen. Personal, touching, wonderous, and insightful.
I listened to it after I finished "Look Me In The Eyes" and it was strange adjusting to a new voice. You come to associate the voice with the author and story. But once I got over that, this book was so interesting, I found myself going, "WOW!" all throughout the book. A must read for everyone, not only educators and parents, to get a glimpse of life from this different perspective. It just might help you understand people you know and work with every day!
If you like to know about accepting oneself, and personal growth-this is the book to have.
Hearing the growing that went on. It was so exciting to hear it. I can't begin to explain how inspired I am every time I hear one of the author's books. I'm honored he shared so much about his struggles and his challenges because it shows us that if you put your mind to it- anything is possible, but not without hard work and perseverance. That is ever present in all aspects of his life. Failure is never an option for Mr Robison.
The intonation in his voice. I have now been looking for him online to hear his motivational speeches.
Little Bear. I cannot write about her without deep sadness. I don't know that I would've felt Mr. Robison's pain had he not chosen to work so hard on himself.
Thank you, Mr. Robison, for letting me see into your journey. I am honored.
Both as a reader and a Cognitive Scientist, this story is phenomenal, educational, and breath taking. I would recommend it to anyone who has the faintest interest in: the brain and the mind, autism, struggles, life, love, humans.
While the authors story is mostly positive, he describes a frightening future in which we manipulate children's brains to "cure" them of deficiency. As has been seen with the rampant dispensing of mostly useless pharmaceuticals, psychiatrists can't be trusted with such power.
I sell advertising. My job is to persuade others. I love learning how my mind works so that I can grasp what really motivates me. I also enjoy learning about people who may be very different than me.
If you enjoy learning about Temple Grandin, John Robison's story is equally compelling. After being introduced to John in 2011 at IMFAR, I read his first two books. When Raising Cubby came out, I devoured that one too. This is his best book yet. If you have Asperger's or autism, or if you care about people who do, this book is for you. John does a great job of describing his life and experience with autism. He also tackles the job of explaining how scientists are using their knowledge gained from years of research to develop promising treatments that will eventually be available to those of us outside research institutions.
Read the book, treatments are within site. The next steps will include training the masses. It cannot come too soon!
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