In terms of individual contributions to the autism world, Chris is way up there.
-Dr Luke Beardon, Senior Lecturer in Autism at Sheffield Hallam University.
Chris Bonnello is an autistic advocate, speaker, writer, novelist and former teacher (in both mainstream and specialist education) based in Great Britain. Since 2015, he has become a national and international speaker on autism issues, and the multi-award-winning writer behind Autistic Not Weird. He is also the author of the Underdogs novels, a near-future war series featuring autistic and otherwise neurodiverse heroes.
Bonnello was first assessed for autism in 1989, at the age of four. Despite a damning report into his deficiencies concerning speech, expressive language and social competence, he did not receive a diagnosis since he was not deemed severe enough by 1989 standards.
At the age of ten, an educational psychologist reported him as having a “slightly odd personality”. He grew up believing himself to be the weird kid, until his Asperger Syndrome diagnosis finally came at the age of 25. Since then, he has been able to turn his attitude around and define himself by his strengths rather than his weaknesses, and encourages other autistic people to see their own strengths.
Having qualified as a teacher and worked in both primary and special education, he left the profession and launched Autistic Not Weird in April 2015, to share his insights from both a personal and professional perspective. At time of writing (August 2023) autisticnotweird.com has had over three million page hits, and his Facebook community stands at over 170,000 followers.
Bonnello delivers talks (nationally and internationally), has been nominated for eight awards to date (winning four), has played chess internationally (winning nothing), can solve a Rubik’s cube in 12.009 seconds (although the 9x9x9 Rubik’s cube takes him 18 minutes), captained his local Boys’ Brigade company for 13 years, and has been a published author since 2016. He is a proud stepfather of two, and proud godfather of many. The first of his four Underdogs novels came out in May 2019, its second becoming joint runner-up in The Guardian’s 2020 Not the Booker Prize.
His personality remains slightly odd.
The staff are all raving about your training this morning. The general consensus is that it’s the best training we’ve ever had.
-Teacher, primary school in Belfast
|Shortlisted||National Diversity Awards 2017||Positive Role Model (Disability)|
|Winner||Autism Hero Awards 2017||Top Journalism Award|
|Winner||Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2018||Advocacy, Policy and Media|
|Winner||Autism Hero Awards 2018||Online Social Network Award|
|Winner||National Autistic Society Professionals Awards 2019||Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum|
|Shortlisted||BAPS SEND Blog Awards 2020||Blog Post with Biggest Impact*|
|Joint runner-up||The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2020||Underdogs: Tooth and Nail|
|Shortlisted||The Speaker Awards 2023||Sustainability and Positive Impact Speaker of the Year|
What We Love Most About Life: insights from 150 young people across the autism spectrum (non-fiction), 2016. Art/design by Nancy J. Price.
‘Hide and Seek‘ (short story), in Monster Anthology, 2016.
‘The Book of the Bystander‘ (short story), in Bystander, 2017.
Underdogs (novel), 2019. Published by Unbound.
Underdogs: Tooth and Nail (novel), 2020. Published by Unbound.
Underdogs: Acceleration (novel), 2022. Published by Unbound.
What Do You Love Most About Life? Insights from 150 autistic minds (non-fiction), to be published 2023. Art/design by Nancy J. Price.
Alfie Smith the Speedcuber (children’s story), 2023. To be published by Collins Learning.
Underdogs: Uprising (novel), 2024. To be published by Unbound.
BSc (hons) Mathematics with Education (University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 2007)
PGCE Primary Teaching (Nottingham Trent University, 2010)
MA Creative Writing (Nottingham Trent University, 2017)
ABC Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Concepts (Sherwood Psychotherapy Training Institute, 2020)