An Autistic shaman shares why autistic people make good shamans

Gonzalo Benard self portrait autistic

Autism, in these ancient wise cultures, is often called “The Shaman’s disease.”

By Gonzalo Bénard

Being autistic and shaman, I always found that they actually help and complement each other. In fact, in several ancient cultures, autistic people were seen as sacred and/or shamans … the special ones.

One of our autistic common traits is verbal communication, and most media and “experts” point out most of our common traits as “issues” or even problems, but in fact, most of our “issues” can be taken as incredible ways to achieve and spread peace of mind and move forward if we listen to ourselves and work on our own balance. Most of our “issues” are in fact our greatest tools and gifts.

Stimming and humming are, as you know, common behaviours in autistic people. Curious enough you can find these two behaviours in many cultures, used to help you go into trance or find your own mindfulness helping to get focused. While in autism, stimming and humming can be a way for us to focus and distress, you can find the same behaviours in Buddhist and Islamic schools.  If you pay attention, the students often rock back and forward reading-humming the scriptures or sacred texts. This rocking back and forward gives a light trance helping to focus. As a shaman, I often find myself rocking back and forward, or side to side, humming, while getting into trance doing healing, rituals, etc. As we drum.

As autistic, to defend myself and focus on challenging tasks like going to a shopping centre (filled with overwhelming energies, lights, visual pollution, sounds, smells, people…) I often start humming from the car to the entrance or even inside walking. Humming like a low vibration OM.

If you close your eyes and start rhythmically rocking back and forward humming the OM, you will find how relaxing it is. That is the very first thing I do when wake up as well: I sit on bed, still eyes shut, and I rock back and forward “OMing.” Then I stand up and do some Tibetan rites, starting with the Spinning.

Stimming, rocking and humming are wonderful ways to go into light trance, which means connecting to your higher self, clearing your mind, finding peace and mindfulness. Like shaman drumming.

Silence, or those moments of lacking verbal communication, is also very important to us, both autistic and shaman people.

I realised not long ago, when I had guests for a week, that one day my voice didn’t come out for the full day. I have voice, but first I thought I had nothing to say. Then I realised that voicing – and I have a very deep low voice that resonates – throws an incredible amount of energy that we might need to recycle and recharge. The day that I didn’t voice myself, I needed to recharge, and that was my way. I might have had moments of humming, but humming is our body connecting itself, like an inner drumming. When you’re humming, you feel the voice vibration throughout all your body. And vibration heals. In fact, I end up saving my voice to use it as a healing tool. Not only when I guide meditation, but also when I heal someone I can do it by voicing next to the person in need, so they can feel the vibration and receive the frequency of the healing.

If you insist or impose verbal communication to an autistic person, you might be unbalancing us, making us more stressed, as we go into silence and humming to find peace and mindfulness so we can recharge and recycle, so we can connect to our higher self and consciousness.

Another of our common traits as Autistic people is our sensitive stomach… we often have allergies to foods, or most common, intolerance to gluten, etc. I always found gluten to be very difficult to digest making me feel sleepy minded. I do follow a vegetarian diet since I was a child. But I’m dairy and gluten intolerant and have some difficulty digesting heavy foods like bell pepper. I am also deadly allergic to garlic.

As shamans, we should follow a diet that keep us cleared, respectfully connected to nature itself as well as our own nature.

One of the major goals of a Shaman is to raise your own vibration, make you aware of your higher self, keeping you connected, healed and balanced with your own self. Not only for you, but also for the greater good of those surrounding you, as each one of us spread our own energy to others. So by healing and keeping you balanced, we raise our vibration and yours.

The reason that I don’t do more than two shamanic sessions per day (guided meditations, healing, counselling or soul retrievals), is for me to be able to serve you better. As I wrote, voicing requires a tremendous energy that we use for healing, so between two sessions I am recharging/recycling, raising and healing myself, so I can find better focus and balance.

Someone once asked me why I was humming and rocking… and I smiled and thought: “I’m enchanting myself so I can enchant you better.” I didn’t need to voice my answer, yet, they got it straight away.

Thoughts are our most private conversations with the universe, and when connected empathically with other people, thoughts can be our best way to communicate with them. When you find your silence, you will find your answers.

If you read most articles on Autism by “experts,” you often find them saying we lack empathy. But let me tell you that this is highly misleading. We may have lack of social empathy, but we do have a much deeper empathy: the actual empathy. We might even feel others’ pain and suffering easier than most people. This, for my practice of shamanism is in fact a great help, as I can feel others on a deeper level, which gives me better ways to heal them, going to the source.

What often makes us confused and stressed though, is indeed the social empathy. Since we may lack it, we lack social structured emotions… that is why is so hard for us to lie (a lie is a social structure), or that is why we don’t understand jealousy, greed, envy, etc.  We may also find difficult to understand face expressions. But then, since we might have a deeper empathy, we feel your emotions. Yet, if your emotions are social, those can confuse us: we feel things we don’t understand so we get stressed. Why would you be jealous or envious? If it bothers and affects you so much, and are such a waste of energy, why don’t you simply move on and focus on getting stronger yourself? As a shaman, this autistic deeper empathy helps me a lot on being a better healer, spreading peace in a more mindfulness way.

As some say, “autistic people are more soul/consciousness than body.” And the same you can say about Shamans.

I have been tutor of several autistic teenagers, and as cosmic synchronicity happens, most of my recent clients of Skype healing sessions are in the autism spectrum. This is great, as we might feel a deeper connection, or connect through a deeper empathy, making our own communication flow in a greater frequency.

We shouldn’t waste our energy fighting against who we really are, but increase our own self-worth and raise our own consciousness.

So maybe it is about time for the NT (Neurotypicals) to start “listening” to us. And Autistic people to be in contact with actual shamans, so we can increase and raise our bars, turning our “issues” into natural gifts. Stop absorbing others’ energies and start spreading our own in the best way we can. Shamans can help autistic people to be more grounded, working on our own energetic balance as well, as one of the major issues of autism is body related, not consciousness. And working on both consciousness and body, we end up working on a better mind. Mind is the result of the physical brain and consciousness.

I believe that most autistic people have healing abilities; the issue is that most autistic people are too confused with their surroundings, with NT people stress and imposing behaviours. In this case, shamanism can find a way also to protect and raise autistic healing abilities. Autistic people are often much more connected to nature and animals than NTs as well. We find peace when alone in nature or with animals. And you find that the best companion for an autistic person is in fact a dog.

That is why in most ancient cultures, the special ones, the autistic children, became the future shamans. As they are seen special, they become the shaman’s apprentices. Autism, in these ancient wise cultures, is often called “The Shaman’s disease.”

One of the most beautiful things in life is diversity. In all its ways.

Our awkwardness is sometimes our most powerful invisible gift.

And I’m talking about both: shamans and autistic people.

So we dance. And hummmOMmm along the way, rocking and clapping and drumming, to get into our own trance and mindfulness.

So we can connect to our higher self and consciousness.

Do any of you feel related to both autism and shamanism? Are you autistic with healing abilities? Let me know.

Gonzalo Bénard is a transmedia artist, shaman and author who has been producing a body of work about matters of life and death. About consciousness, spirituality, sociology, anthropology, philosophy and psychology. About rituals and rites from the several cultures: old and new. Celebrations of life with matters of death. About mind’s inner world(s) and the wonders of neurodiversity being himself autistic.

Gonzalo Bénard has been always working and expressing himself on several media: from painting to drawing, to photography and writing both with a special meaning to him since very young age. Photography and Painting have been his main way of expressing his existence in the last few years though, what surrounds him, or what he feels about society. With deep roots in shamanism and old religions, he breaks the main rules of the modern society, reminding it about the origins of life. Gonzalo Bénard writes and photographs as a need of expression. Bringing and blending his studies in the Western Europe, with Himalayas or Western Sahara, where he lived and learned with spiritual, philosophic and shamanic masters.

With his works being published in several art magazines and books, such as Eyemazing or Tames; Hudson, he has artworks in several art collections, public and private: from Serralves Foundation (Porto, Portugal) to Sir Elton John’s contemporary art photography collection. Bénard has been also featured in several Hollywood movies and TV series, like recently Rogue, or Agent X by Sharon Stone. Gonzalo Bénard has now more than 45 exhibitions in his curriculum, all around the world.

Bénard has also several written works published, including the book “On Consciousness – journeys, rituals and meditations.    Gonzalo Bénard’s website is

Header: Gonzalo Bénard “Self-Portrait”

25 replies on “An Autistic shaman shares why autistic people make good shamans”
    1. Thank you Nicole.
      Curious enough, I’ve read some posts on ActuallyAutistic forums, that most of us are not religious (following theology/god/dogmas of institutionalised religions), but very spiritual, connected with nature, at the same time that we’re very into science. But then, most institutionalised religions come from shamanism and old pagan cultures, which are deeply connected with nature, as we are. And this should be worked indeed, giving us more opportunities to go deeper on this connection: nature.

  1. says: David Goren

    Dear Gonzalo Bénard,

    We are brothers in spirit.

    When I read your article, I feel that I wrote it myself (except that I like cats, and am not allergic).

    I am on the spectrum though never diagnosed (on purpose).

    I am currently about to finish writing a book which I have been working on for three years now, about Siddhartha’s life till becoming enlightened and becoming the Buddha.

    My book describes him and his life vividly as a person on the spectrum, which I believe he was, though the term is never mentioned in the book.

    The book describes him from the moment he was born, as a baby including his experiences as a baby, as a child including his experiences as a child, as a teenager with his experiences, as a man with his experiences, the true story of how he left the palace, his six years in the forests of India in great detail, till and including his Nibbana and becoming the Buddha.

    I had no experience or much knowledge of Shamanism before, but after reading your article I find it to be not just similar, but exactly the same thing.

    Dr. David Goren

    PS: I allowed myself to publish your amazing article as is, under your name of course, in my Facebook.

    1. Hello David,
      Thank you. Please let me know when you have the book published.
      (BTW, where did you read that I’m allergic to cats? I am, but I can’t find here that reference).

      As I understand, your approach to Buddhism is on the original Indian Buddhism. The Tibetan Buddhism is a merge of the Indian original Buddhism with the Tibetan Bon tradition of shamanism. After being in the Buddhist monastery in Himalayas (a monastery school of arts, philosophy and dance), I headed to the higher lands to be with the Bonpos (the Tibetan shamans) and learn from them. I don’t know much about other lineages of Buddhism as I ended up focusing more on Tibetan Bon/Buddhism.
      Buddhism can be very diverse in the different lineages/cultures, and even though is not a religion, I dare to compare with the different Christian schools (from catholics to all the others) in their diversity.
      If you need references for the book, let me know if I can help.

      I just added you as friend of facebook.

  2. says: martin katon

    Yes, i agree with this, nonverbal autistic art students of mine, will speak to me if i ask questions about what they are doing while they paint …… with both hands at the same time and beautifully creating excellent landscapes …..and tell me the left hand paints light colors better and the right hand paints darker colors better.

    1. Hello Martin,
      painting, specially outside in open fields, give me indeed a deep feeling of peace and mindfulness. And one thing I love, is that when I’m painting in open field, I often have “visitors”: birds, dogs, foxes… whatever animal comes and just stays there, as I guess I end up spreading this mindfulness and peace energy. I just let it go, as in a light trance, not trying to rationalise what I’m painting. So yes, while creating we do feel a deeper connection with ourselves and nature.

      1. says: martin katon

        Yes, Gonzalo, thankyou, and when i ask a “nonverbal” autistic student to help another “normal student” finish a painting , they will verbalize instructions to them , repeating every word i have ever used in the last three years of teaching. Autistic nonverbal students paint works i have never imagined in 50 years of painting for museums and galleries, I love it.

        1. We do catch everything, literally. We have anxiety if you confront us with conversation as if we’re being tested. But give us a simple command with trust, and we go for it if it’s a good challenge. (do never say anything that make us lose the trust on you, or you’re “doomed” for life… ups). Conversation is a social structure, which requires extra effort and lots of energy. But I’m perfectly OK to teach or give a talk to an audience.
          Painting, the act itself, can be our way to express, and we can have amazing (non verbal) conversations with the work we’re doing. Expressing for us is hard, so when we find our voice in arts, we do focus in what we’re doing and the world can fall apart next to us: we’re safe with our imaginary friend, our own creation 😉

  3. says: Kristy & Eve

    Beautifully scriptured , I have a daughter who you have described very well & have always felt her gifts that many see only as label of autism & clouded by stigma & of it, Standing ovations brother in sharing what gifts & healing many people with autism, alough in our castle, we prefer to call it more to it’s true source , awesomism for better relation to all that we see it as goes way beyond just that & yet so many miss the entire point of soul of autism this is something we as parents have been very specific with how we raise, or share in her upbringing to support her soul in home schooling & helping her stay true to what she is without having the ramifications of well meaning “proffessionals” going against the grain of her natural instict & ways inwhich we have always felt her preforming & aligining us & herself to highest purpose & profound healing on many levels of conciosiness , she has only on the last 2 years found a voice ( Besides the chanting & viberational clicking &her own tribal tounge ) one of the first things she wrote to us on her Letter Board when i asked her what if anything we can do to support her & what her soul purpose needs she replied “ I have come with a message & to help others heal on their existance” along with many other messages all about what is possible for the planet & multiverse & rasining our viberations of the planet & awaking our conciousness, you sure have a little sister by your own very heart here, we would love to connect with you & share so much more, You are such a Blessing to this world, stay blessed & we send you our love & blessings upon blessings

    1. Hello Kristy,
      I’ve read you and it seems that you’re doing indeed an awesome work with Eve! Thank you for your comment, if I can be of any help let me know.

  4. says: Brandy Lee


    I’m Brandy Lee and my almost ten year old was diagnosed with autism, ADHD, sensory issues, and developmental delays at the age of four. He is currently taking 2 types of ADHD medications as he is extremely hyper and full of energy. I’d like to know, if you were in his shoes, what would be the most beneficial thing I can do for him. I’ve never attempted a certain diet for him because he’s so picky that I’m happy when he does eat something. He still is unable to have a conversation with people but he can vocally request things he wants and he can answer simple questions. I’d appreciate any feedback or advice you can give me.

    1. Hello Brandy,
      with 4yo I was not talking yet, I was hoping that others would read my mind without me doing the effort. Talking is a huge effort, which requires a lot of energy for us. Even more a conversation, because it requires reading social cues: interpretation of your expression, your talking, etc and anxiety on us giving the right feedback. I felt since very young that I was being “tested” on my answers, and that would give me anxiety. I’m perfectly OK now teaching/talking to a full audience, just letting go my thoughts… but if there’s public Q&A, I might have some anxiety. We do catch things in the air though… so instead of direct talking, which give us anxiety, talk positive “to the air” next to him. “This broccolis are so good, I’m sure (son’s name) loves it if he dares to try”.
      Even though we do not like being touched, if he is too hyper, sit yourself comfortable on the floor, make sure you’re at peace, open your arms and say “I would love so much to have (son’s name) here in my arms…”. We do love to help and be kind, we do everything possible to make our loved ones happy. As long as we’re not confronted. So verbalise yourself wishes next to him.
      As for food, we are indeed very picky… but mostly with certain textures. And we don’t go with mixed colours/shapes/foods. Put them apart. A green broccoli here, a bit of white rice there, etc. Check what are the textures he leaves. For example, I can’t stand the texture of “purée” things… I don’t understand it, it’s not to drink or bite, I feel like having the mouth full of toothpaste, and it simple doesn’t go down.
      Check how he reacts when you give gluten, it’s often very difficult for us to digest and makes us heavy sleepy mind-tired. Check if he has any kind of allergy. It’s one of our “issues”: stomach sensitivity. I fully rejected meat since the first time I saw in the plate, so I’ve been always vegetarian: that was probably the first memory of me asking something “is this from the body of the veal we saw yesterday jumping in the filed? she might be hurt then. Can you put it back?”.
      We take everything you say literally, so be careful with the choice of words, some (normal to you) can hurt and will stay forever. We need our beloved one to boost our confidence, always choose the positive affirmations.
      And most important of all: we do have deep empathy, which means that we feel what you’re feeling. And that sometimes confuses us deeply. If you’re feeling something social structured (jealousy, work stress, etc), we will feel it the same as you, but we have no idea what’s that, so we get confused and agitated. This means that when you’re next to him, you’re “zen”… 🙂
      If you ever need, you can always use my email

  5. says: Sarah Kaplan

    “Autism, in these ancient wise cultures, is often called ‘the Shaman’s disease’”.
    This quote captures such an interesting perspective and demonstrates a sort of wisdom that we seem to have lost in modern society. Shamans are poorly understood in today’s world, yet I believe they embody a form of ‘indigenous science’, so to speak. A traditional practitioner may not have had access to a fancy laboratory or double-blind randomized controlled trial, but what they did have was an acute sensitivity to the world around them and a desire to connect with and help others. There is an incredible amount we can learn from them, ranging from ecological knowledge to the importance of lifecycle rituals.
    I have a close friend who has been studying under a shaman for the past ten years, and his ability to use traditional healing practices is fascinating to see. Unfortunately, the modern medical establishment likely wouldn’t even consider learning from him because it doesn’t look like “modern science”. However, there is much that we can learn from the past, and we shouldn’t be so quick as a society to dismiss the intergenerational knowledge transfer that our ancestors accumulate and passed on over countless millennia.

    1. Hello Sarah!,
      you’re right, but it’s getting better. I always loved science since I was a child… my first books were mainly scientific. So it is very good when I see science eventually confirming centuries old shamanic practices and theories. Including neuroscience. In my book “On Consciousness – Journeys, Rituals and Meditations” I often bring examples of scientific “discoveries” confirming shamanic practices.
      Maybe you will enjoy reading my book 🙂
      (you can find the links to it on )

  6. says: Steve Staniek

    Warm greetings from cold Canada (It’s winter here).

    Thank you very much for bringing yourself, your experiences, and hard to find information out to the world.

    I’m a 70 year old, autistic student of core shamanism, learning to navigate the path of the heart. After a lifetime of seeking answers along many roads, I find myself most at home on the shamanic path, and I sense that I have come full circle, back to my roots to the natural spiritual practices that sprang from this planet, and used in many cases spontaneously and intuitively by humanity since the stone age.
    I was tested in grade school and diagnosed with Tourettes. A lot of therapy has helped to calm me down, but when I test myself now I’m moderately Asperger’s.

    I believe its because autistic people are so highly spiritual that we struggle with the physicality of life in this heavy, confining density. We do not fit well into these bodies. Our wiring seems to work against us, especially in social environments, but it could have a plus side. Since childhood, my perception is so different from NTs, that I often find myself on the opposite side of issues from the start. When great literary thinkers like Hemmingway say that the “Sun Also Rises”, I say that the world actually descends. I see “sovereignty” in reverse, that is: the creature least dependent on the rest of the heirarchy, (so that’s the creature at the bottom of the pyramid) is most sovereign because it exists independently and therefore needs no others to exist. Now that’s true sovereignty.

    Our odd wiring may allow us to sense and see things that NTs don’t. While reviewing accounts of spiritual encounters I noticed that many of these situations involve autistic children, who seem to either attract more entities, or their autistic eyes may simply be able to see more entities in these situations.

    I’ve written an article describing my experiences, and it’s been published in New Dawn magazine. I would like to send it to you if you’re interested.

    once again, thanks for your valuable work,
    with warm regards,

    1. Hello Steve!,
      I guess I can send you warmer greetings from where I am (southern Europe)… even though it’s winter here as well, it is not as cold as it is in Canada. Today was 18C sunny.
      Pity we didn’t know, as I was there in Toronto where I did an exhibition of my work and some healing performances. I will let you know for my next art-exhibition.
      Sure, would love to read your article. You’ll find my email at

  7. says: Karla

    Many blessings,
    I thank you for writing this. I was born into a shamanic lineage. At times, I’m so overwhelmed with living the materialistic and fast paced life. There, are no more old people to teach me. Each day, I float or stumble. I will keep searching for others with similar paths. Each one, I run across helps to keep me on my path. The “norms” seem to get envious of me but i honestly don’t see it. I had to share. Once again, many blessings to all.

  8. says: Yolette Stewart

    Thank you Gon for this very interesting article. My 6yo boy is autistic yet, in my view, comes from a very spiritual lineage of people – mixtures of Judaism, Christianity, Ba’hai and so I know deep down he will respond to a spiritual calling. Your article really helped me frame some concepts for my boy – many thankyous and blessings to you –
    Yolette Stewart

  9. says: Sara Williams

    I throughly enjoyed your article. My 5yo daughter has nonverbal autism. She hums, rocks, and sways ALL THE TIME!! There are several times throughout the day that she appears to be in her own little world. But she’s happy and content in her world. She has zero concerns with the outside world or the opinions of others. I think we could all stand to learn a lot from the autistic community. She has definitely changed my world. In all the best ways. I hope that our paths will cross one day and you can meet her. She amazes me everyday. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with us.

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