Autism and Sensing: The Unlost Instinct by Donna Williams

Can someone appear unaware, even unable to retain, reason or reflect, yet actually have capabilities even they didn't know they had?  This book demonstrates how and why this is sometimes possible and will change the way you think about hidden potential and how to help them release it.

Published in 1998, this highly controversial and challenging book was the first internationally published text book by a person diagnosed with autism on the importance of understanding apperception and the system of sensing in autistic individuals.

The realm of sensing is the place we have all come from: that world before mind was thought of as 'me, before body became 'mine', that time when we 'knew' because we FELT the nature of things, the feel of them- when we sensed. This was before we had learned to interpret and see the world not as it was but through our concepts and ideas of what it was.

Autism is seen as a disability in a world where interpretation is highly valued, where the realm of mind, of imposed meaning, of words, becomes the place of trust, of proof, a world in which the System of Sensing becomes progressively redundant, devalued, discredited, even discouraged. This book is a journey into a unique way of experiencing the world, suggesting how this unlost instinct has much to teach us about the assumption of so called 'normality'. 

My World = One's Own World. This is our first world. Before all of its later cladding and contortions, it is at first a place of sensing, beingness, the preconscious mind and unknown knowing. It is the place where we understand self in others and others in self through the skill of mergence.

The External World = The physical world known through our sensory experiences as processed through our bodies/brains and experienced as sensations, thoughts, emotions, connections. This is a directly hands on world where sensing and beingness may be relatively strongly intact.

The Interpretive World = the world of applied
meaning to incoming experiences that progressively builds mental structures and frameworks that ultimately filter our direct sensed experiences of the physical world and develops conscious mind as the primary guide.

Ego World = Ego contortion that further clads, alters and filters the logical meaning we get from experiences of the physical world and further buries our original capacity for sensing and beingness. This can be indoctrination, culture, economics, identifications, rewards, honed addictions and competition for social, economic, cultural 'currency'.



  • 1. Origins
  • 2. Who's 'Me'?
  • 3. The Essence of Social
  • 4. The Everything of Nothing
  • 5. The Mechanics of Sensing
  • 6. In Resonance
  • 7. Giving Self a Chance to Answer
  • 8. The Getting of Clever
  • 9. Seeing Ghosts
  • 10. War or Growth?
  • 11. Blah Blah and Ideas
  • 12. Progress?
  • 13. Beyond an Exchange of Cultures
  • 14. Multiplicity
  • 15. Psychic?
  • 16. Why Nobody's Talking 
  • 17. Imagine


* Those living or working with people who are 'meaning deaf'/'meaning blind'
* Those living or working with people who navigate through pattern, theme, feel
* Those living or working with people who learn through physical patterning
* Those living or working with those who are highly aware but appear tuned out
* Those living or working with those who primarily sense more than interpret their world

What readers said:

I am a philosopher and expert hypnotist, and this book is the finest exposition of 'low-level' perception and apperception that I have ever read. Anyone interested in issues of consciousness and altered states of awareness should read this superbly well-written book. - J Falicki


Perhaps it is one of the most provacative books on autism as it gets into the core of what's going on with many people--though certainly not all--on the spectrum. It was an incredible window into my daughter's world that helped me to understand and make sense of what I felt I knew about my daughter but couldn't put into words. Donna found those words beautifully and effectively. -HomeschoolingASDmom


To date, this is absolutely the most fascinating and wonderful book about Autism! Donna has an amazing gift to explain an entirely different world. This book has given me extraordinary insight and understanding for my friends who live with Autism. I think this is a must read for everyone! - L Holmes


You can order this book from the publishers

The current publishers for Autism and Sensing; The Unlost Instinct are listed here

If in Australia you can order this book from the distributor, Footprint Books here

If you're a publisher looking to acquire other foreign language rights, please contact JKP to discuss acquisition.