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Donna Williams

Born 1963 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, she is a best-selling author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter and sculptor diagnosed with autism after being assessed as a psychotic infant in 1965 at age two,[1] tested multiple times for deafness and labeled disturbed throughout childhood, before treatment for gut, immune and sensory perceptual disorders in adulthood.

Williams' first book was the autobiographical Nobody Nowhere:_The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic Girl. It was an international bestseller with fifteen weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. It was shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Prize for Literacy in 1992.

Somebody Somewhere (1994) is the sequel to Nobody Nowhere that picks up the story of getting the first book published, and how that changed her life.

Later autobiographical works include Like Colour To The Blind (1998), and Everyday Heaven (2004).

She has also written several books on autism:

  • Autism and Sensing: The Unlost Instinct
  • Exposure Anxiety - The Invisible Cage: An Exploration of Self-Protection Responses in the Autism Spectrum
  • Autism - an inside-out Approach: An Innovative Look at the Mechanics of Autism and Its Developmental Cousins
  • The Jumbled Jigsaw: An Insider's Approach to the Treatment of Autistic Spectrum "Fruit Salads"

and a collection of her poetry and prose:

  • Not Just Anything: A Collection of Thoughts on Paper published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

In a 1996 radio interview, Kathy Gollan (a producer for Australian Broadcasting Corporation) raised questions about whether Williams is autistic or characteristic of persons with autism. According to the Gollan interviews, Dr Kathleen Dillon (a Professor of Psychology at Western New England College in Massachusetts) "thinks that Donna's symptoms owe more to the abuse she suffered as a child than to autism". Gollan said there was "serious doubt about whether Donna Williams is autistic, and her books should be read with that in mind". Fred Volkmar, an autism expert and the director of the Yale Child Study Center said, “... it's hard for me to know what to make of Donna Williams. Donna Williams' books in my view, while very interesting, are not typical of the experience of at least the 20, 30 or 40 higher functioning autistic people that I have come to know fairly well." Williams said that these claims were an attempt to discredit her.

Williams was in several television documentaries:

  • My Experience With Autism, Emotion and Behavior, 1993, Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, USA (in English).
  • Jam Jar, 1995, by Fresh Film in association with BBC Four, aired in the UK and was nominated for the Mental Health Media Award (in English).
  • Krankheit als Schicksal (also titled Dann Verstehe Ich Auch Nur Bla, Bla, Bla), 1995, by Spiegel TV, aired 1 January 1997 in Germany (in German).
  • Yokosho Watashi No Sekai E "Jiheisho" Donna Williams, 1995, by NHK TV, Japan (in Japanese).

Williams' first album, Nobody Nowhere was published in 2000 with Paul Farrer, two tracks from which (Sometimes and Beyond The When) feature in the TBS international TV series Things You Taught Me.

In 2005, she followed this album with a second titled, Mutation which she made with an Australian music composer, producer and arranger named Akash. Both albums feature music and lyrics by Williams with the second album also featuring spoken word poetry.

Williams is a painter who is self taught and began painting in adulthood. She is also a sculptor who has completed life-sized sculptures. She is the older sister of the award-winning mural artist and Australian graffiti artist, Duel.

Donna became a qualified teacher international public speaker and autism consultant. She was invited to join the UK's Medical Research Council's review into the causes of autism in 2002, where she was elected to the lay-person's panel.

On 9 December 2000, she married Chris Samuel while living in England. In 2002 they moved back to her native Australia. He helped Donna create the auties.org website, for people on the autistic spectrum seeking to work towards self employment. Donna writes about him in her book Everyday Heaven.

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