In the week prior to World Autism Awareness Week, we bring together four differing perspectives on autism. Over 700k people in the UK are autistic, and 2.8m people have a relative on the autistic spectrum. Chaired by Jessie Hewitson, this discussion will highlight changing attitudes and perennial misconceptions and misperceptions of autism in our society. It will also highlight that understanding autism is not only an inspiration but also a duty.
Jessie Hewitson is an award-winning journalist, currently working on The Times. She is a mother of two; her seven-year-old son is autistic. Her new book, AUTISM: How to raise a happy autistic child, the definitive guide for parents of children with autism, is written from the perspective of neurodiversity. It has already been hailed by Laura James and David Mitchell as a must-read SatNav for anyone with an autistic child in their life.
David Mitchell, best-selling author of works including Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, has a son with non-verbal autism. The Reason I Jump by Naoli Higashida, which he co-translated with his wife, was translated into over thirty languages and contributed to a better appreciation of the intellect and imagination of people with non-verbal or pre-verbal autism. The follow-up title, Fall Down Seven Times and Get Up Eight, focuses on autism in young adulthood.
Laura James is an autistic woman living in a neurotypical world. She always knew she operated on a ‘different system' but did not receive a definitive diagnosis of her autism until her forties - twice-married, a mother of four with a successful career as a journalist. The paperback of her memoir, Odd Girl Out, will be published in March.
Jasmine Bigden is 20 years old and a member of Ambitious about Autism's youth council. The council leads the charity's campaigning work, ensuring the views and experiences of children and young people with autism are heard at the highest levels.
'There are twin truths: autism is not a tragedy, and adaptation and acceptance are not resignation.’ - David Mitchell