October 1963 (age 52)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Literary movement||Autism rights|
Donna Leanne Williams, also known by her married name Donna Leanne Samuel (born Donna Keene in October 1963), is an Australian writer, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter and sculptor.
In 1965, aged two, Williams was assessed as "psychotic". During the rest of her childhood, she was tested multiple times for deafness and labelled as "disturbed". In 1991, she was diagnosed as autistic and, since then, has also undergone treatment for gut, immune system and sensory perceptual disorders. She has written four autobiographies – Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic Girl (1992), Somebody Somewhere: Breaking Free from the World of Autism (1994), Like Colour to the Blind: Soul Searching and Soul Finding (1998) and Everyday Heaven: Journeys Beyond the Stereotypes of Autism (2004) – and released two solo music albums, Nobody Nowhere and Mutations. During the mid-1990s, she was the subject of several TV documentaries.
Williams has written textbooks on the autism spectrum and is a qualified teacher, international public speaker and autism consultant. On 9 December 2000, she married her second husband, Chris Samuel. The couple have resided in Melbourne since 2002.
Early life and education
Donna Leanne Williams was born Donna Keene in October 1963. She grew up in Melbourne with an older brother, James, and a younger brother, Tom Williams (the street artist Duel; born 1969). According to Williams, her earliest memories include "rubbing her eyes furiously to lose herself in 'bright spots of fluffy color', which she found a soothing refuge against the 'intrusive gabble' of the human world around her". Her father, Ellis John Keene, later known as Jack Williams[why?] (1936–1995), was bipolar and aloof, while her mother was an alcoholic who was physically and emotionally abusive. In 1965, at the age of two, Williams was assessed as a psychotic infant; subsequently, throughout her childhood, she was tested multiple times for deafness and labelled as "disturbed". By the age of nine, she had developed two alternate personalities: "Willie", her "rebellious, disruptive, and bad-mannered side" and "Carol", the "kind, polite, socially acceptable child". That year, she was also diagnosed with various dietary conditions including "milk allergies, dairy [and] gluten intolerances[; and] salicylate intolerance" and was placed on a multivitamin and zinc regime. At fifteen, Williams left home and worked in various jobs but struggled to support herself. At times she was homeless, passing from boyfriend to boyfriend while suffering "gross cruelty and domestic prostitution in relationships with men".
With the help of a psychiatric social worker, Williams finished secondary education[when?] and enrolled in tertiary studies. From 1982, Williams started studying at Latrobe University and eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Diploma of Education in 1990.
In 1991, Williams was diagnosed with autism by Lawrence Bartak, a specialist at Monash Medical Centre and a senior lecturer in psychology at the associated Monash University. Bartak later recalled the "[Williams] displayed all the main features of autism when I met her, including one she wouldn't have known about ... The fact that she was apparently sociable and interacting with people doesn't mean she didn't have some type of disorder". Bartak helped Williams "begin building bridges instead of walls between worlds". In July 1996, doubts about Williams' condition were aired on Radio National's The Health Report and by The Australian newspaper. The claims of "faking it" were denied by both Williams and Bartak. In February 2005, David Smukler, writing in the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities' journal Mental Retardation, noted that back in the mid-1990s some sceptics had a poorly defined understanding of the autism spectrum: "...autistic people such as Donna Williams and Temple Grandin started to publish first-person accounts that described their lives as autistic people living in an often-inhospitable nonautistic world. Many readers of these early accounts questioned whether or not the authors were really autistic. The assumption underlying such responses is that autism is so incapacitating that Williams or Grandin could not be autistic and still write with such insight and sensitivity. When their books first appeared, autistic authors were characterized either as frauds or exceptions". Smukler concluded: "Today, Williams' and Grandin's 'credentials' are rarely challenged. Rather than being doubted, they are more likely to be commended for offering us an 'inside out' view of autism".
By 1992, Williams was a qualified teacher. Subsequently, she became an international public speaker and an autism consultant. In 2002, she joined the United Kingdom's Medical Research Council's review into the causes of autism, where she was appointed to the lay-person's panel.
In 1993, Williams married Ian. They divorced after two years. Their relationship is described in Somebody Somewhere: Breaking Free from the World of Autism and Like Colour to the Blind: Soul Searching and Soul Finding; and he appeared in television documentaries with her. On 9 December 2000, while living in England, Williams married Chris Samuel. In 2002, the couple moved to her native Australia. Williams and Samuel created the auties.org website, for people on the autistic spectrum who are seeking to work towards self-employment. Williams wrote about him in Everyday Heaven.
|Autism rights movement|
In 1992, Williams published her first book, an autobiographical account titled Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic Girl (Doubleday, London). It was an international best seller including spending fifteen weeks on the The New York Times Best Seller list for adult non-fiction in 1993. It was short-listed for the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards for non-fiction in 1992. According to Kirkus Reviews the book enabled people associated with autistic individuals, to "understand more clearly what those unresponsive 'dead eyes' see". While Daniel Goleman of The New York Times described how Williams "originally wrote it as a series of notes to herself, to help her make sense of her own chaotic world. She planned to burn her journal until a therapist helped her see the value in sharing it".
Her second autobiography, Somebody Somewhere: Breaking Free from the World of Autism, appeared in 1994. Marguerite Mroz of Library Journal noted that Williams describes getting the first book published, including "[h]er extraordinary and painful growth as she completes her education, continues psychiatric treatment, experiences the unwelcome publicity brought about by the publication of Nobody Nowhere". Kirkus Review found Williams had become "more emotionally vulnerable than ever, unprotected by the ritualistic noises and movements typical of autism and determined not to call on the false selves that helped her function in the world 'out there'". Later autobiographical works include Like Colour to the Blind: Soul Searching and Soul Finding (1998), and Everyday Heaven: Journeys Beyond the Stereotypes of Autism (2004). Emily Golson in Williams' entry in Encyclopedia of Women's Autobiography (2005) finds that "[her] writing mirrors the convolutions of her thought processes: disjointed, sometimes rambling, often filled with images that convey a jumble of colors, sounds and attitudes".
Williams has written several non-fiction books on intellectual and developmental conditions, especially on the autism spectrum Autism – an Inside-out Approach: An Innovative Look at the Mechanics of Autism and Its Developmental Cousins (1996), Autism and Sensing: The Unlost Instinct (1998), Exposure Anxiety - The Invisible Cage: An Exploration of Self-Protection Responses in the Autism Spectrum (15 September 2002), and The Jumbled Jigsaw: An Insider's Approach to the Treatment of Autistic Spectrum "Fruit Salads" (2006). Her first collection of poetry and prose, Not Just Anything: A Collection of Thoughts on Paper (2004), was published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. A second collection, Weirdos Like Me, appeared in September 2009.
Williams is the subject of several TV documentaries. "My Experience with Autism, Emotion and Behavior" (1993), an episode, on Eye to Eye with Connie Chung was broadcast in the United States. Beth Fouse and Maria Wheeler describe Williams' interview and her mode of communication in their book, A Treasure Chest of Behavioral Strategies for Individuals with Autism (1997). Williams has "difficulties in processing incoming information. She must listen or look. She cannot use auditory and visual channels at the same time". On Jam Jar (1995), by Fresh Film in association with BBC Four, which aired in the UK, Williams provided her audience with a greater depth of understanding of autism. The documentary provided Joe Geraci with Williams' "provocative argument about academics coming to some kind of understanding of autism" where she described the 'inside-out' world, "[an autistic] has his own system, and it's not an infantile version of [the non-autistic person's] system they haven't learned his system". It was nominated for the Mental Health Media Award. Yokosho Watashi No Sekai E "Jiheisho" Donna Williams (1995), was broadcast by NHK TV in Japan. Krankheit als Schicksal (English: Illness as fate), was filmed in 1995, by Hamburg's Spiegel TV, and was aired on 25 January 1997 in Germany. It is titled Dann Verstehe Ich Auch Nur Bla, Bla, Bla (English: Then I Only Understood Too Much Bla, Bla, Bla).
In September 2010, Orlai Produkciós Iroda of Hungary produced a monodrama, Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Not a nobody creature") presented by Börcsök Enikő, from a book by autistic author, Henriett Seth F. which appeared in theatres and on TV. The script contains quotations from Nobody Nowhere along with Birger Sellin's Don't want to Be Inside Me Anymore, and Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
Music and art
Williams' first music album, Nobody Nowhere, appeared in 2000 with Paul Farrer. Two tracks, "Sometimes" and "Beyond the When", feature in the Tokyo Broadcasting System Television series, Things You Taught Me (2000). The 12-part series follows the life of an autistic woman developing her human interaction skills. In July 2005, she followed with a second album, Mutation. It was recorded with Akash, an Australian music composer, producer and arranger. Both albums feature music and lyrics by Williams with the second also including her spoken word poetry. Williams is a self-taught painter, beginning in adulthood. She is also a sculptor and has completed life-sized sculptures.
- Golson, Emily B (2005). "Williams, Donna (1963–)". In Boynton, Victoria; Malin, Jo. Encyclopedia of Women's Autobiography. 2: K–Z. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 565–567. ISBN 978-0-31332-739-1.
- Williams, Donna (29 September 2007). "Autism; it ain’t all physical. Donna Williams Blog". Donna Williams.
- "'Nobody Nowhere' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Goleman, Daniel (21 February 1993). "A World of Her Own". The New York Times (The New York Times Company (Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.)). Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Paisley, Rose (2004). "Interview with Donna Williams". Romance at Heart (Romance at Heart Publications). Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Blakely, Mary Kay (15 May 1994). "To Seem Is not to Be: And Other Rules of Life, Love and Autism Donna Williams Taught Me". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Payne, Carole (2010). "Book Reviews: Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic Girl". Humane Medicine: A Journal of the Art and Science of Medicine (Humane Health Care (Dimitrios G. Oreopoulos, John O. Godden)) 10 (2). Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- Haslem, Benjamin (30 July 1996). "Best-Selling Author Denies She Faked Autism". The Australian (News Limited (News Corporation)). p. 3.
- "Best-selling author denies she faked autism.(Local)". The Australian (National, Australia) (News Limited (News Corporation)). 30 July 1996. p. 3. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Gollan, Kathy (29 July 1996). "Autism - a special report by Kathy Gollan". The Health Report (Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC))). Archived from the original on 24 April 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- Lyall, Kimina; Haslem, Benjamin (3–4 August 1996). "Donna's double life?. -Is author Donna Williams autistic?". The Australian (News Limited (News Corporation)). p. 24. ISSN 1038-8761.
- Smukler, David (February 2005). "Unauthorized minds: how "theory of mind" theory misrepresents autism". Mental Retardation (American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) 43 (1): 20–21. doi:10.1352/0047-6765(2005)43<11:umhtom>2.0.co;2. PMID 15628930. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Mroz, Marguerite (15 October 1993). "Somebody Somewhere: Breaking Free from the World of Autism". Prepub Alert, Library Journal (Media Source). Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- "Somebody Somewhere by Donna Williams". Kirkus Reviews (Kirkus Media). 15 December 1993. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- "Donna Williams". Autism Today. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- "Institute on Disability to Offer Summer Workshop on Autism". University of New Hampshire (UNH) Institute on Disability. 6 June 2007. Archived from the original on 4 July 2007. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- "MRC Review of Autism Research: Epidemiology & Causes" (PDF). Medical Research Council (MRC). December 2001. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- Akin to the art of Rafael Villamil - the graffiti art of Duel |Donna Williams’ Blog
- "Women and Disability: Autism & Asperger Syndrome Disability Studies". The Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies. Syracuse University. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
- Donna Williams: About Donna
- Auties.org - Autism Employment
- Donna Williams: Everyday Heaven
- Williams, Donna (1999). Nobody nowhere : the remarkable autobiography of an autistic girl. Jessica Kingsley. ISBN 978-1-85302-718-5. OCLC 56965690.
Originally published: London: Doubleday, 1992. Formerly CIP.
- "The New York Times Best Sellers List: May 9, 1993: Non-fiction" (PDF). The New York Times (The New York Times Company (Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.)). 9 May 1993. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- "Australian Writers Guild Writers Directory: Search Results: Donna Williams". Australian Writers' Guild. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- "Nobody Nowhere by Donna Williams". Kirkus Reviews (Kirkus Media). 1 August 1992. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- Graeber, Laurel (4 June 1995). "New & Noteworthy Paperbacks". The New York Times (The New York Times Company (Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.)). Retrieved 1 May 2010.
- Williams, Donna (1994). Somebody somewhere : breaking free from the world of autism (1st ed.). Times Book. ISBN 978-0-8129-2287-5.
- Williams, Donna (1998). Like colour to the blind : soul searching and soul finding. Jessica Kingsley. ISBN 1-85302-720-0.
- Williams, Donna (2004). Everyday heaven : journeys beyond the stereotypes of autism. Jessica Kingsley. ISBN 1-84310-211-0.
- Williams, Donna (1996). Autism – an Inside-out Approach: An Innovative Look at the Mechanics of Autism and Its Developmental Cousins. Jessica Kingsley. ISBN 978-1-85302-387-3. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- Williams, Donna (1998). Autism and Sensing: The Unlost Instinct. Jessica Kingsley. ISBN 978-1-85302-612-6. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- Williams, Donna. Exposure Anxiety - The Invisible Cage: An Exploration of Self-Protection Responses in the Autism Spectrum and Beyond. Jessica Kingsley. ISBN 978-1-84310-051-5. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- Williams, Donna (2006). The jumbled jigsaw : an insider's approach to the treatment of autistic spectrum 'fruit salads'. Jessica Kingsley. ISBN 978-1-84310-281-6.
- Williams, Donna (2004). Not Just Anything: A Collection of Thoughts on Paper. Jessica Kingsley. ISBN 978-1-84310-228-1. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- Williams, Donna (2009). Weirdos Like Me. Donna Williams. ISBN 978-0-98067-390-6. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- Williams, Donna (September 2009). Weirdos Like Me. Donna Williams. ISBN 978-0-98067-390-6.
- IMDb Pro : Donna Williams
- Fouse, Beth; Wheeler, Maria (1997). A Treasure Chest of Behavioral Strategies for Individuals with Autism. Future Horizons. pp. 5, 40–41. ISBN 978-1-88547-736-1. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- Geraci, Joe (2001). "Chapter 4: Towards an understanding of autism – An outsider's attempt to get inside". In Dadds, Marion; Hart, Susan; Crotty, Tish. Doing Practitioner Research Differently. Routledge. pp. 49–67. ISBN 978-0-41523-757-4. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- Jantzen, Wolfgang. "Janusz Korczak als Herausforderung für die Behindertenpädagogik" [Janusz Korczak as a Challenge for the Disabled Pedagogy] (PDF) (in German). Materialistische Behindertenpädagogik (Wolfgang Jantzen).
- "nemsenkilény (not a nobody creature) – Enikő Börcsök's evening". Arts in Difference. Third Theatre of Pécs. 12 September 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
- CD Baby: Donna Williams: Nobody Nowhere
- "The Things You Taught Me (君が教えてくれたこと)". TBS Program Catalog. Tokyo Broadcasting System Television. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
- "Mutation – Donna Williams". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
- CD Baby: Donna Williams: Mutation