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Breaking Free from the World of Autism

by Donna Williams

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8129-2287-5
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

 A compelling continuation of Williams's determined struggle to break free from autism. Perhaps even more than her best-selling Nobody Nowhere (1992), this journal reveals the vision and courage of the author. It picks up where the earlier volume left off, with the completion of the first manuscript and its submission to a publisher. Then, Williams was heading back home from London to Australia, newly aware of a self. But with the bite of the apple of awareness, she was 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.'' With the help of an educational psychologist and a couple who began as her landlords and ended as loving counselors, and with the help also of colleagues and her students, she fought to move beyond the still detached world in which she lived. She had no comprehension of what other people were feeling, since she could not admit feeling herself. Sensitive to noise, bright lights and supersensitive to touch, she was sometimes overwhelmed by sensation, at which time the ``meaning dropped out of words.'' She heard, but did not comprehend, only hoping that a speaker's words would be stored somewhere in her memory so she could retrieve and understand them later. College, teaching, and a worldwide book tour added pressure, but Williams's amazing determination enabled her to break through bouts of the ``Big Black Nothingness''--a void of sensation and experience--to feel anger, pain, and pleasure. Descriptions of feelings at times take on the fuzzy terms of New Agespeak, but discovering as an adult what most of us experience from birth must overwhelm the power of metaphor. A poignant sequel to Williams's ongoing adventure, her experiences here more closely shadowing the emotional struggles of non-autistic adults.