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. 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

  2. janet jones Says:

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

    Janet Jones