Pete Wharmby's new book shines a light on life with autism
Former Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) student, Pete Wharmby, has published his second book, "Untypical: How the World Isn't Built for Autistic People and What We Should All Do About It".
The speaker and writer explores the topic of autism and the autistic experience. His work seeks to elevate the public's awareness of autism and highlight the unique challenges faced by autistic individuals in a world that does not always accommodate their needs.
At the age of 14, Pete moved to Lincolnshire with his family. After completing his teacher training in English and Drama at BGU in 2008, he spent the next 13 years teaching, including at schools around Lincolnshire. It wasn't until 2017 that he received his autism diagnosis, which came as a turning point in his life.
According to Pete, his diagnosis allowed him to finally understand why he had always felt different. He said: "It was a profound sense of relief to have my diagnosis confirmed. All the miscommunications and hyper fixations I'd had started to make sense.
"I also realised that I had been able to connect so well with the autistic students I had taught because we had the same type of brain. I continued to teach with a renewed determination to create safe and welcoming spaces for my students, particularly those with autism."
With a newfound understanding of his condition, he began to explore and share his experiences, which culminated in his first book, "What I Want to Talk About: How Autistic Special Interests Shape a Life" in 2022. The inaugural publication takes readers on a journey through his special interests, illuminating the challenges of autistic experience along the way.
According to Pete, there's a significant lack of knowledge surrounding autism, and even well-meaning people can make common mistakes around communicating with autistic people. His second book, Untypical, seeks to shine a light on the condition for non-autistic people, offering suggestions of how people can better support the individuals in their life with autism.
Preferring to offer a "warts-and-all" portrayal of autism, Pete promotes an authentic representation of what it is like to live with the condition, although he acknowledges that every autistic person will have different experiences. He aims to dispel myths and misconceptions and inspire open discussion around neurodiversity. Pete said: "It's actually quite handy being known as an autistic person, because I don't have to mask when I first meet people.
"I did one public talk where I had an autistic meltdown just before I was due to speak. I could've cancelled it at the last minute, but instead I took it as an opportunity to share the experience with the audience; to speak about what had happened and the emotions I was experiencing."
Pete regularly speaks at conferences and events, often as the keynote speaker, on topics such as autism in education, the experience of autistic students and teachers, the importance of monotropism and special interests and much more.