Monday, December 12, 2011
Donna Williams has come such a long way over the years
Donna Williams is a high-profile Australian best-selling author of autobiographies about what is supposedly an autistic life. She was given a diagnosis of autism by the Australian clinician Dr Lawrence (Laurie) Bartak in her 20s. This is how Dr Bartak described Williams in a report broadcast by ABC radio in 1996:
"She is much more impaired in spoken language, and when one talks with her even now, although she's enormously more able, she still has quite a demonstrable impairment in spoken language. And her comprehension of other people's speech is not marvellous.
I've had to, for example, talk to her slowly and with as little intonation as possible, for her to be able to comprehend and to keep things reasonably concrete."
There's quite a contrast between the woman described by Bartak and Donna's current apparently excellent ability to make and comprehend spoken language, as is apparent when one listens to her library of podcast interviews with various people, which is freely accessible from Williams' podcast page. Williams is articulate, attentive to her guests, intimate, engaging and warm, and at times shares jokes. I've met autistics who never go anywhere near to having this type of social fluency at any time in their long lives. In the interview with a synaesthete musician promoting a new CD Williams and her guest even manage to keep a perky interview kicking along despite the constant distraction of a tradesman banging away with tools in the background, a situation that would drive many autistics (and many non-autistics) beyond the limits of civility.
Williams' page of podcasts includes an interview with Australian synaesthete musician Tracey Roberts in which both Williams and Roberts describe their own synesthesia experiences. Roberts lives in a geodesic dome, as do all synaesthetes. We are very creative people.
Oddpod: Podcasts by autism-friendly host, Donna Williams.
Autism - a special report by Kathy Gollan
29th July 1996
ABC Radio National.