NOTE: We're pleased to share this interview from our sponsor Safeminds. While many of our own children can not self-advocate, and the term has become tarnished by many in the Neurodiversity movement, it's important and we welcome those with autism who can help our kids to do so. Thanks, Lisa Wiederlight of Safeminds and James. Please visit the Safeminds site here.
An Interview with James Williams, Autistic Advocate, SafeMinds Communications Committee Member
Last year, SafeMinds Executive Director Lisa Wiederlight, had the privilege of interviewing James Williams, a 27 year-old man with autism. James is a bright, highly-intelligent advocate for and representative of the autism community. The text of the interview follows.
Please tell us about yourself, and provide some information on your background.
I am an adult with autism, age 27, who has lived with autism all of my life. Though my official diagnosis of autism was at the age of three, in 1991, I was filmed extensively as an infant as part of a research project to showcase "normal" child development, and this footage has revealed that my autism emerged at birth.
My diagnosis at the age of three was the product of two things--an "explosion" of autism symptoms that increased at 18-months that included a digression of language, and my parent's belief that my digression was a product of the "terrible two's," a belief that had to be discarded when I turned three and the behavior did not change.
I underwent many therapies and interventions growing up--physical therapy, occupational therapy, theraplay, auditory integration training, and speech therapy--you name it, I had it, with two notable exceptions--ABA therapy and psychotropic drugs. My parents did not believe in ABA or drugs, and refused to give me such interventions.
After a highly-successful early intervention where I regained full language, I began my presenting career at the age of 11, answering questions after a presentation by parent advocate Annabel Stehli that was organized by auditory therapist Terrie Silverman. This led to a full-time career as a traveling presenter that I continue today. I am also the author of three books, Out to Get Jack, The H.A.L. Experiment, When Gary Comes to Play. I have served on the leadership team for Camp R.O.C.K.S., a summer camp for individuals with autism, from 2007 to 2012, and also a professional musician who plays the recorder.