What Teaching Autistic Children Can Teach You About Leadership with Amanda Yuill

Amanda Yuill made a counter-intuitive choice many years ago: to become a full-time occasional teacher.

In Ontario, by law, you have to be an occasional (supply) teacher before you can be hired into a permanent role. Most new teachers strive to find a permanent classroom to call their own, but that wasn’t in the cards for Amanda.

Her atypical career move provided her with the flexibility and opportunity to research gaps she saw in the education system and work on writing and publishing books.

“The topic of my first book was substitute teaching, because I did it and I loved it,” Amanda says on the Leading With Nice Interview Series podcast. “And I didn’t know anyone else who loved it. Like, I really love the job. I love going in and meeting new classes and getting the kids on my side and having fun with them. And they had a fun day. And that wasn’t the normal experience. And I thought, you know what? This can change this culture. It needs to change. It can change.”

Amanda’s latest book — What’s the Difference?: Building on Autism Strengths, Skills and Talents in Your Classrooms — provides teachers with tools and strategies to help autistic students be at their best.

“We have such a small definition of normal and everything outside it was specialized, but now our definition of normal is growing,” Amanda says. “And so how do we include our autistic students and help normalize the autism in our class? Because truthfully, we probably have autistic friends and didn’t know they were autistic. There are people out there who have been inventing things, business leaders who are autistic, and we didn’t know it. I hope part of what the book does is just increase the awareness that autism is more normal than what we thought.”

But beneath that, Amanda’s book also provides some great lessons on leadership and developing a posture of deeper understanding. We get to all of that and more in the episode below.