Author, sculptor, musician, composer, autism consultant, and, probably most important to her, Donna. Born in Australia, Donna Williams showed signs of autism from infancy. Her abusive family used this to hurl objects and insults (wonk, blonk, spastic) at her. Forced to adapt early to this hostile environment, she used echolalia and echopraxia to develop defenses resembling, but not identical to,7 multiple personalities. Willie was intellectual and dominating. Carol was social and "adoptable". Donna was buried behind both of them, although they made her able to appear much more "high functioning" than she would have looked otherwise.

She began to write as a preteen, beginning with lists and progressing to poetry.5 She struggled with the outside world -- trying to understand it, trying to keep it out, trying to join it. After years of traveling the world, abusive relationships, and homelessness, she ended up in college, and trying to understand where she fit into the world. Along the way, she met a few people who were similar to her. She began to question why she was how she was.

She at first attributed her differences to growing up uneducated with a working class background, which still left too many unanswered questions. Then, she came across the word autism. She found out that she had been called autistic as a child. She started looking for answers, and wrote out a manuscript of her life in an unstoppable and automatic state of mind. She intended to destroy it, but the doctor who saw it thought that it should be published.1 This manuscript became the book Nobody Nowhere. She became one of the first autistic people to have an autobiography published. Many other unknowing auties have opened her book and found someone like themselves for the first time.

Since then, she has published several more books, married twice, moved to Great Britain and back, written and performed an album of music, co-founded Autism Network International, created several life-sized sculptures, took up painting, and striven hard for authenticity. She has formulated a theory of autistic development whereby people go from the stage of "right brain" sensing to "left brain" literal interpretation to significance8, and believes that people with autism and Asperger's syndrome are stuck in different stages9. While famous for her work on autism, she finds her forced role as a self-described "walking autie textbook" to be dehumanizing6. As stated in her books, one of her life's biggest goals has been to be true to herself. After she started fighting an immune deficiency, she chose the dandelion as her personal symbol, standing for strength and perseverance in the wake of adversity.10


Donna Williams has attracted her share of controversy, both by virtue of the position she has been forced into and the positions she has taken on various issues. She believes now that these controversies have helped her grow as a person.

Is Donna Williams really autistic? The short answer is: Of course she is. Fueled by a stalker intent on harming her reputation,10 this rumor has unfairly damaged her credibility. Many people point to her multiple personalities and her record of abuse as a child, and question her motivations in believing she is autistic. But the truth is that many people born autistic are also abused, and to believe that the two cannot occur at the same time is damaging to the large number of autistic people who have experienced both at once.

Opinions. She holds controversial opinions on the neverending cure debate2,3,4,7, extrasensory perception8, the difference between autism and Asperger's syndrome7,9, the lines between autism and other conditions, autistic development8, facilitated communication6,7,9,10, neuroleptic drugs9,10, and the role of the immune system and other biological factors in autism7,10. Many autistic people disagree with at least some of what she says, and many agree with at least some of it. Her views are made more prominent and controversial than those of other autistics by her involuntary status as one of the first autistic celebrities. It is likely that if she were not among the first, she would be just another one of us muddling along, and not so widely discussed or controversial.



Personal reactions to her work: Like a lot of autistic people, I came across her work before I came across anyone else's. Nobody Nowhere spoke to parts of me that nobody else had ever seen, and that I had never dared expose. While there are now dozens of books by autistic people, there were only a few at the time of my diagnosis. I read each of her books voraciously, eventually acquiring her demo album and then her album.

As for her views, it is difficult for me to disentangle the parts I agree with from the others, because they have been woven into each other -- a simple statement can be half-right and half-wrong. Usually the experiential and emotional half is accurate, but the interpretation and implications given can go either way. I worry that an unsuspecting neurotypical could generalize her blanket statements about autism to the rest of us, not knowing which halves apply and which don't. As such, I've developed a strong preference for her poetry and music over her theories, and have wished that someone with similar experiences would come along and write different opinions. I also believe that some of her views on neurology would be best described as pseudoscience. Nevertheless, Nobody Nowhere and Not Just Anything will always be special to me.


1Williams, Donna. Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic. New York: Avon Books, 1992.
2Williams, Donna. Somebody Somewhere: Breaking Free from the World of Autism. New York: Times Books, 1994.
3Williams, Donna. "About 'Fighting Autism'." Our Voice. Volume 2, Issue 1, 1994: 6-8.
4Drake, Stephen. "Media Review Column." Our Voice. Volume 2, Issue 1, 1994: 14-15.
5Williams, Donna. Not Just Anything: A Collection of Thoughts on Paper. Texas: Future Education, 1995.
6Williams, Donna. Like Color to the Blind: Soul Searching and Soul Finding. New York: Times Books, 1996.
7Williams, Donna. Autism - An Inside-Out Approach: An innovative look at the mechanics of 'autism' and its developmental 'cousins'. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1996.
8Williams, Donna. Autism and Sensing: The Unlost Instinct. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1998.
9Williams, Donna. Exposure Anxiety - The Invisible Cage: An Exploration of Self-Protection Responses in the Autism Spectrum and Beyond. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2003.
10Williams, Donna. Donna Williams Home Page. inUK. 2003.

Hey there Zifendorf, you are a star.... you pretty much got it mostly right...You stated my reality pretty much as I see it mate. Good for you, and a damned sight better than most bother!

I loved the part about just being someone muddling along... don't you worry, this reclusive life I choose gives me some of that! thank god huh... or I'd go nuts. The public eye thing is totally not my thing... I'm a creator, not a performer, an artist, not someone who likes or even tolerates applause well or gawking or any of that and certainly not the 'what color is your underwear' style interrogations... celebrity? yeah well we both know what we think of that. I still have my opinions... don't worry you'll be happy to know I'm writing fiction now... films in fact... but in any case there's some things people don't know.

I am actually NOT pro-medication AT ALL and have been really flustered that people have taken me that way. I was staunchly against in total but only ever felt I had a right to decide that for myself and when I found I was safer on it than off it (mostly because of suicide risk due to extreme mood, anxiety, compulsive disorder stuff, but also impact on immune deficiency) well, I still NEVER proclaimed that this was for all people with a label... just that if someone was at serious risk of safety or health at this level it was an option... otherwise I NEVER suggest medication and even if I do think it might help I ALWAYS tell people to try environmental strategies FIRST, supplements and diet second and only if their are clear health indicators these are needed for very important health reasons and only medication last as in this way even if it is needed it is likely far far less of a dose than would otherwise be.

I am certainly not PRO-medication but knowing what the real risks of long term immune deficiency really are (cancers, death from a cold), the reasl risks of co-morbid mood disorders that lead to suicide risk or severe anxiety or compulsive disorders that significantly up the impact of untreated mood disorders THEN, for these MEDICAL conditions, yes, I support whatever makes people stay alive BECAUSE I celebrate their lives... I COMPLETELY respect the need to fight neuroleptic abuse, I myself was drugged at age nine with sedatives that didn't help me and which made me anti medication as an adult... BUT, I have also seen people kill themselves who didn't have to and I strongly fight for recognition of medical co-morbid conditions occuring under the label and considered part of the package of someone's Autism diagnosis.

I DO NOT think Autism is treatable with medication nor that it should be, but I DO believe that some extremely overtly distressed people who pull out their own eyeballs (you know I met one!), walk deliberately in front of traffic intent on getting killed, etc not because of autism but because of unmedicated undiagnosed mood disorders... yes, I will not ignore what I see...many of these folks have family members who committed suicide... same in my family. I, for example, have 4 relatives on one side of the family who have done so and many more who are substance abusers, have attempted suicide, gone to jail for violence or are diagnosed with depression and one with bipolar... more than many but really not uncommon in those who come to me as a consultant (and I wish too they were all healthy, safe, just dealing with Autism but they generally aren't.

So, THIS is where I'm coming from. To extend it into some political statement about treating Autism is not understanding what I'm really on about... had I know that Exposure Anxiety was underpinned by mood, anxiety and compulsive disorders I'd have said that these medical conditions can combine to cause a problem that exaccerbates suffering in some people with Autism and which is unecessary. This doesn't 'cure' their Autism, just makes life possible for some who were otherwise extremely distressed.

Anyway, hope that clears things on the medication front.

I also wrote a quote about being a Social Philosopher. I have never considered myself an expert, only a philosopher, raising possibilities worth exploring that have made so called experts look in places they otherwise never had. So what I write as theory should only be taken as that. Others have called me an expert, I see myself as a philosopher.

Thankyou so much for your kindness.

I'm glad you liked Nobody Nowhere and Not Just Anything. You know I'm really proud of the poetry book. Its my favorite. Feel free to review it for me on Amazon ok? Nobody has yet! .... oh and there's a second album, even better than the first... it had an autie producer and songs like 'beautiful behavioural mutations' and 'simply be', etc which are very very autie friendly and damned challenging stuff to the status quo out there.... you can have a listen on the CD Baby site if you like. And there is also a fourth Autie-Biography in the series, Everyday Heaven, which you haven't got on your list. A reviewer who doesn't like my other three loved that one... it covers stuff about deaths and sex as I moved out of my Asexual phase and into a Bisexual one... another fact you haven't mentioned but would have if you'd read that one.

Anyway, truly a pleasure to have met you. Thankyou for supporting my humanness and dignity.


Donna Williams *) ever the naughty autie

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