Autism Researcher and Father of Autistic Daughter AMA – February 25, 1:30pm MST
Let’s Get Going!
My name is Dr. Richard Williams.
I am a molecular biologist by training. Along with my wife Sally, I began my prolific research into autism in order to better understand and advocate for our daughter. I bring years of in-depth and comprehensive study of the genetic components of autism.
I believe every individual has gifts that need to be discovered, fostered and nurtured. The gifts may not be initially obvious but they are always present. Finding the gifts of an autistic individual can provide hope, happiness and a brighter future.
Question: Hello there! What purpose does the study of the genetic components of autism serve? Does this understanding inform the manner in which support is provided, or is it used to promote awareness and acceptance, or is it simply interesting?
Answer: Great Question. Thank you for submitting it.
The study of genetics will offer a scientific basis to promote both awareness and acceptance. For example, we now know that 50% of the autistic condition comes from many genes, perhaps thousands, that create autism. The awareness part is supported by the fact that the thousands of genes have been in the human gene pool, for millennia. Rather than a mental condition, autism is an essential evolutionary component of the human population. Far different than 5000 years ago, we see today’s contribution to society in the creative successes of Silicon Valley and Route 128 in Boston.
Question: What are some meaningful things you’ve learned in your research? What have you learned as a dad?
Answer: My research has allowed me to summarize the genetic basis of autism to show that it is a contribution to the evolutionary success of mankind. It is a condition that has benefitted society for millennia.
As I look back on 42 years of my personal experience with my daughter’s autism, I’ve learned that the parents worst nightmares rarely become true. My biggest secret is patience. With support, unconditional love and patience, every parent will likely be surprised by rewarding achievements.
Question: In the perfect environment, any of us can be an asset. Just don’t forget the person behind the research, huh?
Answer: I am not sure I understand what your question is. Happy to reply if you will rephrase.
Question: How did you as a parent help your daughter manage her own expectations of herself? My son struggles with perfectionism (99% in a class is not good enough, it MUST be 100% or higher) and gets so down on himself. How would you suggest we best support him.
Answer: You’ve asked a very complicated question. You should try to understand what the possible motivation is for his drive to perfection. There are many different reasons, some good and some not so good. It is reasonable to think that he wants to overcome feelings of inadequacy or social rejection. A low personal esteem can drive a person almost obsessively to prove to oneself and others that he can achieve. Another consideration might be a search for acceptance by those he esteems.
Question: Does your research and learning transfer over to advice and are helpful to non-Autistic people as well as Autistic people? If so could you share one of those learnings?
Answer: I think one of the most important lessons of being autistic is the task all autistic people need to do at some time in their life. If you set out to investigate who you really are, what your personal skills and abilities are, and have the ability to direct your activities and interests, you are likely to achieve success and happiness. This is definitely true for non-autistic people as well. Make it a mission.
Question: What is your most important tip or recommendation for someone who is ASD or for the family of an ASD individual?
Answer: Hard to answer without knowing ages involved. By far the most important thing is acceptance and understanding in the home. It is required for any strong personal support. The above is easiest to achieve if the family shows UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.