Stillman Delivers Powerful Message About Autism in Keynote Address

April 15, 2023

WARREN, Pa. – Speaking at Thursday’s Lakeshore Community Service Autism Acceptance Day, author and speaker William Stillman delivered a simple yet powerful message, and it’s one that he hasn’t changed in 25 years.

“My message hasn’t wavered in 25 years – to presume intellect,” Stillman said. “We are really more alike than we are different.”

Stillman engaged the audience with personal stories and anecdotes, as well as social experiments, and gave a new perspective to many on autism in general with his program “Autism and the 90 percent Factor.”

“One of my goals is for people to have a different perspective going out than when they walked in,” Stillman said. “We may have the best intentions but don’t always hear people.”

One of the examples Stillman gave was to imagine having a song stuck in your head and to transfer that feeling to the rest of your body, for it to build in your throat but not be able to vocalize it.

It goes back to part of his core message, which is not to presume intellect.

“The single greatest mistake we can make is presuming intellect,” Stillman said. “Often we’ll talk out and around a person (with autism).”

This led him to the example of the mother who said she did this with her teenage son, and that Stillman helped her to recognize it, which ultimately led to an apology.

The boy acknowledged his mother by responding “You are so sweet to me.”

Stillman didn’t fully grasp the emotional response by the mother until she told him those were the first words he had ever uttered.

“It happens much more often than you would think,” Stillman said.

It was part of an overall message that promoted self-reflection while encouraging people to always include individuals on the autism spectrum, to really hear them.

“Nothing about me, without me,” he said.

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