In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality is running a series of Monday articles focusing on the triumphs and challenges those diagnosed with autism face as related to their finances and careers. Today’s post is the second in the series.
Neurodiversity is a beautiful thing. When we think differently from each other, we each have the opportunity to do good in our own unique way.
Today we’ll look at six autistic women who are forging their own paths. They’re creating meaningful art. They’re creating jobs. They’re creating a better world.
At just eleven years old, Dani Bowman established an animation company called DaniMation Entertainment. Today that company is not only going strong, but also employs others on the spectrum. By recognizing and utilizing the talent in her own community, she has assembled a team that’s produced award-winning animated shorts for five consecutive years.
On top of building a successful company and tapping into the immense talent pool within the autistic community, Bowman works to develop that talent pool further by running summer camps focused on animation and empowerment.
Morénike Giwa Onaiwu
Morénike Giwa Onaiwu has a long history of working in advocacy and empowerment movements. She started her career in the nonprofit sector, and has since served in a various volunteer capacities, including positions within the Division of AIDS at NIH.
Within the autism community, she serves as the Autism and Race Committee Chair for the Autism Women’s Network. As a black woman, her voice is much needed as an advocate who can speak personally to the bias-centric hurdles autistic women of color face on a daily basis.
In 2011, Jen Saunders started an extremely successful magazine called Wild Sister. Birthed out of a trying time in Saunders’ life, the aim of the publication is to empower women to pursue their dreams rather than become victims of their circumstance.
In 2015, she received a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. These late diagnoses are becoming more and more common for adult women as we understand and identify autism not as a institutional disease, but as a sign of neurodiversity.
Women are socialized differently than men in our culture, leading some to argue that the symptoms of autism are not as visible with them. This difference in socialization and cultural expectations either creates the illusion of or is compounded by the assumed fact that the occurrence of autism is lower in females than it is in males.
As we’ve gotten better at identifying autism in women, more are being diagnosed later in life. Saunders used her diagnosis as an opportunity to reach out to women with a similar life experience and founded the Autistic Women’s Collective–a global social network for women on the spectrum and parents of daughters on the spectrum.
Many of the women on this list are on a point of the spectrum where their communication isn’t necessarily limited by their autism. But just because verbal expression is not your preferred modality doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to the world in meaningful ways.
Kim Miller is a living example of that. She was non-verbal as a child, but was able to express herself through art. She would draw pictures to communicate her wants and needs to her family, and her comprehension to teachers at school.
Today she uses art as a powerful form of self-expression. She, and many others on the spectrum, are visual learners. This lends itself to pictorial processing rather than thinking in a string of sentential lexemes.
Her art, which has been featured in many different publications, portrays a full and rich interpretation of the world. She’s earning through her talents, and at the same time making the world a more beautiful and understanding place.
Currently, you can purchase works which have not had their copyright purchased by outside publishers through the Kimpressions online storefront.
In the US, we have a lot of supports for children with autism. But when it comes time to transition to adulthood, many states don’t have the proper systems in place to continue this support.
One place where this evidences itself is in the college experience. Not only do the intense and new social situations tend to be more difficult to navigate when you have autism, but the workload combined with an inclination towards completing tasks immediately rather than pacing make the entire experience extremely anxiety-inducing for those on the spectrum.
In an effort to up student retention rates in the autistic community, Amy Gravino started A.S.C.O.T. Coaching, LLC. On the spectrum herself, she is uniquely qualified to guide and support students through the transition to college life with concrete skills and true empathy.
Most readers will be familiar with Temple Grandin. Her name is known for her work in autism advocacy, and for good reason. But prior to this effort, she revolutionized slaughterhouses.
Her keen attention to detail, heightened sensory sensitivities and empathic compassion towards animals enabled her to design systems that kept cattle calmer as they were literally being led to the slaughter, and gave them kinder deaths.
Not only have her designs made our systems more humane, but they’ve also saved a ton of money in a massive industry.
All of these women are changing the world, and they’re doing it as career women and entrepreneurs.
At this point, it’s easy and common to feel stirred to a point of inspirational pity.
Let’s not do the common thing. You’ll note that every single one of these women isn’t successful in spite of her autism. They’re each successful because of it.
That’s what Autism Acceptance Month is about. It’s not about wiping out neurodiversity by finding a cure in order to eradicate the challenges of autism. Those challenges, which are real and sometimes large, do need to be addressed. But to cure autism itself would also remove many of these important contributions to society.
Rather, this month is about celebrating those differences, and recognizing that we, as a society, are better because they exist.