Peter Vermeulen 20



With more than 10 scientific articles per day, autism (as synonym for autism spectrum disorder) is just about the most studied condition in the world. However, all the research and all the information about how different, specific and unique autism is, has made us forget that people with autism are not only different, but that they share more than we think with all the other people, especially when it comes to basic needs such as happiness.

Accepting neurodiversity is fine, but it emphasizes the differences between people. While it is a big step towards more acceptance of autism as one of the many ways a brain can operate, it is only the first step in our commitment to a better world and more well-being for children, youngsters and adults with autism. We should also focus on what connects people with autism with the rest of the human species: the pursuit of happiness.

Happiness has received little attention in the field of autism spectrum disorders. Outcome and effect studies, for instance, rarely take emotional well-being as a desired outcome. And when the focus is on well-being, it is often from a negative perspective, namely the lack of well-being and quality of life in autism. It is time to take a U-turn in our approach and change from an exclusive focus on what makes autism so different and from a negative, clinical and medical approach of happiness in people with autism towards a shared and positive focus (we all want to be happy). In other words: let’s move from neurodiversity to neuroharmony.

In the presentation we will explore how we can increase the well-being of autistic children, youngsters and adults, in schools, at work, at home in the family. We will talk about having a positive focus and promoting positive feelings but also about life satisfaction and contentment as main sources of emotional well-being. And we will illustrate this with the story of Thijs, a boy we diagnosed back in the eighties and now a happy adult. His story will show how we can move from neurodiversity to neuroharmony, an inclusive world where autistic and non-autistic people are living in harmony.

The presentation contains many practical tips for parents, teachers, care takers, other professionals, decision makers and – last but not least – people who have an autism spectrum diagnosis.


Peter Vermeulen, PhD in Psychology and Clinical Educational Sciences, has more than 35 years of experience in the field of autism. Founder of “Autism in Context”, where autism is understood in context. Peter is an internationally respected lecturer/trainer and he presents all over the world. Peter wrote more than 15 books and several articles on autism, some of them translated into more than 10 languages. For his +30 years of work in the field of autism, he received in 2019 a Lifetime Achievement Award.