Achievements of Women with Autism Spectrum Disorders
March 20, 2012 Prism Newsletter
By Amy Goodman
March is also National Women’s History Month. Each year, a special Presidential Proclamation honors the achievements of American women, and I wanted to honor the incredible achievements of a few women who have autism or another developmental disability. We should celebrate their achievements, and remember that all people can achieve success, regardless of label or diagnosis.
When I think about all the women I’ve read about who are on the autism spectrum, the most famous is Temple Grandin. When she was in high school, her science teacher introduced her to the exciting scientific world. Since this meeting, Temple has engaged in innovation and scientific studies. While still in high school, she invented the squeeze machine (aka the hug machine), a device used with people with autism that she found helps calm people down by providing them pressure stimulation. This device is still used by children and adults with autism today. She also earned a doctoral degree in animal science and has worked to develop innovations to make more humane slaughtering processes at livestock facilities. Temple’s work and achievements are very important because she blazed a trail for people with autism, proving how successful people with autism can be. Learn more about Temple on her official website.
Dawn was not diagnosed with autism until high school. As a result, she struggled academically in the mainstream classroom because teachers did not understand the challenges that she had as well as her difficulties with fine motor skills. Though she had some struggles early on, Dawn used her fascination with animals, especially with gorillas, to achieve success. One of her most notable books is Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism. In this book, Dawn describes how she learned coping techniques for Asperger syndrome by observance and working with gorillas at the Woodland Park Zoo. Read more about Dawn’s book Gorilla Nation on Amazon.
Diagnosed at the age of 40 after her son was also diagnosed with autism, Valerie has worked hard to promote the interests of people with autism. Valerie has spoken national and internationally on many subjects relating to autism, including parenting strategies, preparing for college, and encouraging various talents of people with autism. Valerie also works at the Autism Research Institute, an international hub for information and research findings available to parents and professionals concerned with autism. Learn more about Valerie on her official website.
Liane Holliday Willey
As a child, Liane had difficulties with social skills, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, math dyslexia, literal thinking, and sensory integration disorder. Though Liane had a psychiatric evaluation when she was four, she did not receive a diagnosis of having an autism spectrum disorder she was forty. Even though she did not receive the diagnosis, her parents supported her to help her have the kinds of strategies and skills experts now recognize as essential for children with autism. Since her diagnosis and the diagnosis of one of her three daughters, she has spent significant time learning about autism and different interventions. She wrote several books on subjects relating to autism, developmental disabilities, communication disorders, and interventions for people with autism spectrum disorders. One example of this is her best-selling book, Pretending to be Normal: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome. Learn more about Liane on her official website.
Amy Goodman is the Co-Director of the Autism NOW Center.