• Cork Autism Conference

How to really empower autistic individuals with Donna Williams



Author, public speaker and autism consultant, Donna WIlliams RIP believed that natural pesticides in plant products, called salicylates, (a substance from which aspirin is derived), can have a significant impact on the health of an autistic person. The presence of salicylates doesn’t show up in allergy tests.


“What I have seen is some kids who were smearers and doubly incontinent; who couldn’t hold a piece of cutlery; had no interaction with their siblings; who were self injurious - that when they went off foods that contained Salicylates, after six months these children were able to self-feed, there weren’t smearing, they weren’t incontinent, they were toileted, they were starting to speak in two - and three-word sentences.”


Donna said she had been shocked to encounter ‘personality dependent disorder’ in the world of autism where carers of children with various levels of disability take over so many of the child’s functions, that the child “gets the impression that they are loved and looked after because this person rescues them”.


She said: “If you train the parent to get it wrong, to behave as if they have developed dementia and forgotten how to do these activities, suddenly the kid starts doing their own toileting.”


"They start doing their self-feeding, they start opening doors they couldn’t open…..it was just teaching the parent how to turn around learned helplessness.”


When talking about her own experience of growing up, she said:


“As a kid, I was in a welfare programme from six months to 2½ years old. I believe the routine of that and the predictability of it gave someone like me - who couldn’t process language and for whom the world was very visually fragmented and who could not simultaneously process self and other - gave me exactly what I needed, which was a sense of routine and a sense of placement and that was really important in building this belief that I could safely interact with people.”


In comparing her life with that of a non-autistic person, she said: “I am really pleased that I got to know what it was to experience those really basic things, that non-autistic people have in the blink of an eye, in daily life.”


Donna credits the use of an amino acid called Glutamine, which is used for brain injury and by students cramming for exams, for improving her health and language processing skills. She also explained about the importance of early intervention and how “you can do a DIY program” at home.


“We have the internet these days. YouTube is full of video clips. There are different approaches, we don’t have to buy the ‘one size fits all approach’, because autistic individuals are different ‘fruit salads’.


“What works for one may actually be to the detriment of another. You can acquire those skills from watching these kinds of programmes. Set up a programme yourself.”


Donna Williams sadly passed away from Cancer on April 22, 2017. The above writing is extracted from an interview our founder Micheál O’Mathúna did with Donna in 2015.