Harry Potter and the Chamber of Autism

What can reading a Harry Potter book teach us about autism? Well, ask a teenager with autism who also happens to be a Harry Potter fan — he can tell you!

James Williams is 18 years old and speaks about autism regularly at conferences. He spoke at the Autism Society of America (ASA) conference I recently attended with others from Easter Seals. The speech James gave at the ASA conference was about being “In Search of the Proper Autistic Friend”.

The transcripts to all of the speeches James gives are available at his Web site – that’s where I found out how someone with autism could relate to the characters in Harry Potter books. In his cleverly-titled speech, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Autism”, James describes how Harry Potter sometimes has trouble approaching his friends. James can relate. He also relates to Hermione, who obsesses over wizardry, fixates on specifics and is often accused of being a know-it-all.

Most importantly, James says that Harry’s feelings of relief after being “diagnosed” as a wizard are similar to his own feelings of relief being diagnosed with autism. Before Hagrid told Harry that he was a wizard, Harry had no idea that wizards who are angry tend to use magic even if they do not want to.

“Kids with autism often make things happen that they can’t explain,” James says. “And if they don’t know they have autism, they don’t know why, no matter how hard they try, they are always getting in trouble.”

Harry did well when working with teachers who acknowledged and worked with his special talents and needs. James can relate.


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  1. Jenny Says:

    Great book- Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet

  2. Jenny Says:

    Two other children’s series that come to mind re: kids fitting in, are the Hank Zipper books by Henry Winkler and Joey Pigza books by Jack Gantos

  3. Marilee Says:

    Wow! I never made that connection! I can’t wait to return to school and discuss this with our Varying Exceptionalities Teachers and our Media Specialist. This could provide a variety of learning and thinking activities for our students- thank you for the insight!

  4. Cindy P Says:

    What a great insight! As I delve into the world of communication and neurodifferences, I have 4 children that all love Harry Potter! (So do my husband & I) My 5 year old daughter has found her true soul-mate recently in “Franny K. Stein: Mad Scientist” series for early readers. In this family being “weird” has always been a positive. Thanks for bringing this out! -Sorry! Always long-winded.- Cin in NE

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