JKP author Tony Attwood is a practising clinical psychologist and a leading expert in the field of autism. We met up with him at the recent Autism Cymru conference to ask him some questions.
When and why did you first become interested in Asperger’s Syndrome?
I first became interested in Asperger’s syndrome in the early 1990’s when we finally had some diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s syndrome which I was able to use in my clinical practice. I had been interested in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) since 1971. At that time our knowledge of ASD was primarily in the area of classic autism and the silent aloof child, however, it became very clear that some of the children were certainly not silent or aloof.
What do you like best about your work?
I think that the greatest enjoyment is seeing the progress of individuals that I have known for a number of years, in terms of self understanding, abilities and circumstances. I also enjoy the compliments and feedback from people with Asperger’s syndrome, their parents and other professionals for the knowledge that I have and the strategies that I have acquired over the years to encourage particular abilities.
Who or what inspires you?
I have the greatest inspiration from those with Asperger’s syndrome. I think they are heroes for the way they cope with the challenges they face in their daily life. I am also inspired by those who support the person with Asperger’s syndrome from parents and partner to teachers and therapists.
What do you hope for the future for Asperger’s Syndrome?
I think, in the long term, I would hope that people with Asperger’s syndrome have a greater understanding of their qualities and difficulties. I would also hope that there is a change in attitude from seeing Asperger’s syndrome as a tragedy to a different way of thinking.
What is your favourite book and film?
I have really enjoyed the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. Although they were originally written for children I think that they are an inspiration for people of all ages. I particularly enjoy the wisdom of various characters especially Dumbledore. I have also enjoyed the film versions of the Harry Potter books for the special effects and ability to entrance the audience. I do realise that Harry Potter is not everyone’s favourite taste but I have read each book twice, which I have not done since I was at school having to read the English literature text for the GCE ‘O’ Level. One day I would like to meet J. K. Rowling to express my appreciation for her imagination and writing such enthralling books.