Autistic Women’s Collective is a new online forum developed by Jen Saunders of Wild Sister Magazine, Tara Doyle and Silver Huang. It is an exclusive online community for women with autism, and for women who are raising girls on the autism spectrum.
Recent research has shown that Aspergers Syndrome, a form of Autism also known as Autism Spectrum Condition, presents
differently in females than it does in males. Due to existing male gender bias in Autism research, there is a very real lack of support for Autistic women. As a result, it’s common for women to go undiagnosed or even misdiagnosed for much of their lives.
This is truly a new frontier in the autism community, which until now, has been mostly geared towards males. In keeping with the spirit of our “Inspiring Women with Autism” series, Autism Daily Newscast has been granted an interview with Jen Saunders and Tara Doyle regarding their new endeavor.
ADN: What Made you decide to build an online community for women with autism?
Jen: After I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, I became frustrated with the lack of resources and support for Autistic women. While there are some great blogs and articles online about Aspergers and women, I couldn’t find anywhere to go where I could talk to other women on the spectrum, which made me feel quite isolated, and to be honest, ignored.
After writing about my diagnosis experience on my blog, Autistic women from all over the world started to contact me, and I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one feeling alone and frustrated, so I decided to team up with two of these women and do something about it.
Tara: The idea had been brewing in me since I started researching issues for my daughter. Time and time again I came across places where autistic women were speaking conversationally, but the voices were interrupted and subsequently seemingly silenced by the male presence in the community. I very much felt that we autistic women needed to have a place where we could talk about issues that only pertain to us and feel safe talking about those things. The issue hindering me in that, though, was not knowing just ‘how’ to put that community together. I lacked the know-how and just wished someone would do it. Then I saw Jen’s “coming-out” post and contacted her.
ADN: Do you agree with the general idea that males are more likely to have autism than females, or do you think that females are under-diagnosed?
Jen: Personally, I think it’s a mix of both. Females are definitely under-diagnosed, due to it not being very widely known that women can be Aspergian/Autistic. I’ve heard too many women say that their own doctors told them that they couldn’t be autistic because they are female, can make eye contact, did well in school, etc., all of which just isn’t true.
Tara: Females are certainly under-diagnosed! I am not sure if males are more likely than females to be autistic, I think it may be more that females are likely to mask than males.
ADN: At what age were you diagnosed/ started to suspect that you had autism?
Jen: I began to suspect it last year, at age 26, and was diagnosed this year, the day before my 27th birthday.
Tara: I was “unofficially” diagnosed at the age of 31 by an Aspie psychologist after my daughter had been diagnosed.
For more information on the Autistic Women’s Collective visit their web site here.