Exploring the experience of autism through firsthand accounts

J Autism Dev Disord. 1991 Sep;21(3):303-13. doi: 10.1007/BF02207327.


Two firsthand accounts from verbal, high-functioning individuals with autism are presented. Participants include a 27-year-old man and a 13-year-old boy and his parents. Data collection included participant observation, formal and informal interviewing, correspondence, and collection of personal documents such as poems, art work, and essays. It was our aim to explore the participants' perceptions, mental processes, and experiences of living with autism. Five salient themes are identified and discussed: sensory processing, memory, stereotypical behaviors, social interaction, and empathy. Multichanneled sensory processing appeared in both participants, as well as a remarkably detailed memory of past events. Both participants were able to bring their stereotypical behaviors under voluntary control as a result of their awareness of nonautistic individuals' reactions to these behaviors.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arousal
  • Attention
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Perceptual Disorders / diagnosis
  • Perceptual Disorders / psychology
  • Self Concept
  • Sick Role*
  • Social Adjustment
  • Stereotyped Behavior