Autism, women and social success

As an educator who focuses on autism, and as a woman, I found this recent article in the New York Times Magazine to be a call to action.

Author Emily Bazelon gives testimony to the significant needs of young women with high-skilled autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. The emotional distress, anxiety and depression young women with autism experience are all described. Apparently, the unique nature of being female can increase the challenges of this disability.

Every woman can reflect back on and describe the social navigation nightmare of adolescence.

Who can forget the experience of not being asked to the dance?

Or the horror of wearing the Adidas tennis shoes instead of the Nikes?

Or the flower patterned underwear underneath your white pants – who knew it would show through?

Yes, all of these are memories for me that still ring loud and clear.

Fortunately, I have the social acumen that allowed for recovery from these experiences. Young women with autism may not have easy access to these compensatory strategies.  

Specialized social skills instruction may be able to help alleviate some of the challenges for adolescents with autism. However, autism occurs four times more often in males than females. This diagnostic rate leads to low representation of girls in programs for individuals with autism, perhaps leading to even greater feelings of isolation.

As a feminist, I believe in social, political and economic equality for women. I strive to ensure that women have equal opportunity to achieve in these three areas. Soren’s article reminded me that to achieve social equality for women with autism, I have some extra responsibility.

One of the girls quoted in Soren’s article is named Caitlyn. Given proper supports, every girl with autism can echo her words: “Sometimes I feel like I’m weird and ugly – but I’m not going to today. I’m confident!”

I want girls with and without autism to be able to say this everyday.


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  1. Patricia Wright Says:

    Aspie Bird – just got a chance to check-out your blog ( So appreciate that the title includes the word “fun.” Your posts certainly address some of the challenges that you experience as a woman with Asperger’s but your joy for life is also present. As a professional people often ask me about how I learn about people with autism. Among other strategies, I share that I like to read autobiographies written by people on the Autism Spectrum. Now with blogs I have one more way to learn about the expereiences of individuals on the Spectrum. Thanks for visiting our site. I encourage others to check-out your blog.

  2. Aspie Bird Says:

    Good blogpost.

    Having Aspergers Syndrome myself I would like to get to know my web-log The Art of Being Asperger Woman.

    Since 2006 I write about several issues such as being a woman with autism.

    Maybe you like my blog,
    All the Best
    Aspie Bird

  3. Patricia Wright Says:

    Janet – I believe that individuals (with and without autism) are most succesful seeking employment in an area where they have strong interest. I would like all people with autism to have the opporutnity to be employed in an environment where there is a personal passion. Hagner and Cooney (2005) did some research to determine what promotes success for individuals with autism at work. Effective job modifications, proper supervision, excellent support services and promoting good co-worker relationships are all imperative components of succesful supported employment for individuals with autism.

  4. Patricia Wright Says:

    Ana – employment for individuals with autism is an area of significant need. Easter Seals provides job development and employment in many geographic regions. You can learn more about these services at under the services menu.

    APSE is a professional organziation dedicated to the employment of persons with disabilities ( APSE could be another resource for developing employment options. Just recently APSE and the Autism Society of America partnered to present a conference focusing on the employment needs of people with autism.

    Thanks for your comment and interest in autism.

  5. Terry Blackwell Says:

    Well written posting. Been a while since I took a look @ the Easter Seals blog, glad to see your notes re: females with ASD.

    I attended a recent presentation by Dr. Avi Klin of the Yale Child study center in New Haven, where he asked and noted some of the same information you touch on in your blog. Are the rates really 4 to 1? Or, is the rate we know of simply a by product of the persons who are presented for treatment? Thinking back to the early days of the “cold mothering” theory of causation, it wouldn’t be the first time that females were slighted by the field when it came to ASD….

    The aspect of your posting that got my attention and caused me to think a bit more than usual at this hour of the morning, was the inference to the hidden costs, both socially and societally for not addressing ASD in higher functioning persons, whether that be male or female. I attended a presentation @ the ABA International conference with a professor from Virginia Tech, who asked that same question. Essentially having arrived in San Diego only a few weeks after walking off his campus that looked like a battle field in the aftermath of a rampage by a young man widely acclaimed by the media to be “untreated for Asperger’s”; this professor to his credit had the guts to ask several of the same questions your posting asks.

    FAPE is a good place to start with intervention, if indeed we can remind the key stakeholders, that keeping their budgets constrained is not the key issue in the right to effective individualized education for all persons.


  6. ana Says:

    hi patricia,
    my name is ana and i have a friend that has a son that has autisim. He is around 50. She wants to create a non profit org for adults w autisim or some kind of program that will create jobs for adults so they can have a job.
    please if you know someone or your self that could help her.
    let me know
    thank you

  7. janet jones Says:

    I would like to know more about career paths for young women with autism.

    Janet Jones

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