The month of March is Women’s History Month. Women with autism face many challenges, but they also have so many gifts to offer others if they’re able to embrace their neurodiversity. Today, I want to talk about ways you can embrace your autism and honor your unique skills and perspective to change the world around you.
Women with Autism are Misunderstood
Many women with autistic traits report that one of the biggest struggles is being constantly misunderstood and invalidated. Women with autism often do not have the same traits or characteristics as their male counterparts. And, because they are so skilled at masking, many people never know their internal conflict.
For example, many people assume individuals with autism are not social, but that is not always the case. Especially for women. In fact, some women with autism are overly social as a way of trying to mask their autism and replicate the behavior they see from their neurotypical peers.
But, the toll of constantly mimicking others, is exhausting, and it takes its toll on one’s mental health. After doing it for long periods of time, some women become exhausted and so overwhelmed that they experience autistic burnout and completely shut down. It may also cause other mental health issues including trauma and PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Women with Autism, Embrace Your Autistic Traits
When the dust settles after an episode of autistic burnout, many women with autism find themselves at a crossroads. They can either choose to go back to the way things were and mask their autism again, or they can embrace their autistic identity and find a supportive community.
As an autism therapist, who specializes in autism in women, my hope for you is that you will choose the path of honoring your uniqueness and your neurodiversity. These traits are the things that make you special. Your perspective is worth honoring. But, I recognize that may be easier said than done. Just know that taking pride in your neurodiversity can actually help you avoid autistic burnout because you’re confident in yourself and ready to advocate for your needs.
Finding Your Support System
I encourage you to take baby steps and first find a supportive community to lift you up during your journey. It’s really important to have people in your life that truly understand and can validate your autism identity. These are the people who can help you stay sane in a neurotypical world.
Sometimes, you may find that your family can’t accept your identity, then that’s very unfortunate. I am so sorry they cannot see you for the amazing individual you are. But, when this happens, there are options. You can share with loved ones some opportunities to learn more about neurodiversity. Other options include finding other sources of support.
For people who have known you for a while, it may be hard for them at first to accept and adjust to a new framework for understanding you. It could be a confusing and distressing process for them. They might push back hard, and say things like “You can’t be autistic!” Ultimately, it will benefit them to see you in this new light. But, unfortunately we can’t control people and how fast they process and accept your neurodivergent identity. What you do have say over is the level of patience you bring and whether you choose to pursue other supportive relationships.
If you’re looking for ways to help family and friends better understand your autism identity I suggest sharing some blog articles on autism that resonate with you. Send them some research or resources. Or consider asking them to try autism family therapy with you. But, it’s very important that you remember that they should meet you halfway. If they’re not willing to try, then going to great lengths to build a relationship with them may leave you feeling upset, invalidated, and frustrated.
Ultimately, it’s important to keep looking forward. You cannot always change the minds of the people who did not support you in the past, but you can surround yourself with supportive people in the future.
Autistic Peer Support
In my opinion, this is best done by meeting and befriending some other women with autism. They share an autism identity and can empathize with the struggles you experience. Even if they have not shared the same struggles and pain, they understand the overall feeling you’re having. Therefore, they can offer you empathy as well as advice. But, most of all they can offer you support and friendship. And, that support helps gives you the power to embrace your neurodiversity and go after your goals and the things that matter most to you
One great place to build a supportive network of neurodiverse peers is an autistic support group or social skills group. In support groups, you will experience the validation that comes from being amongst other women who get you at a deep level. In social skills groups you will learn and practice useful social skills, to help you effectively communicate with people in your life and better advocate for your needs. Our autism therapy office in California offers a variety of online groups that combine the essence of a support group and social skills group, and strategies to promote emotional wellbeing:
- Autistic Women Group
- Neurodiverse Working Professionals Group
- Neurodiverse College Group
- College Transition Summer Group (offered summer 2020)
- Neurodivergent Young Adults Group (Post-College)
Begin Online Autism Therapy in California:
If you’re looking for online autism therapy or online autism group therapy. We would love to speak with you about our services. We offer a variety of autism therapy options to individuals residing in the state of California. To begin online autism therapy, follow these steps:
- Contact us for a free phone consultation using this link. You will meet with our client care coordinator.
- Like us on Facebook. On our page, we post useful information about our practice
- Sign up to receive our newsletter.
Other Services offered at Open Doors Therapy:
Our autism therapy clinic located in the South Bay Area serves teens and adults on the spectrum. We help high functioning individuals who identify as having Aspergers, high functioning autism, undiagnosed ASD traits, and their families.
Right now, we are providing all our autism counseling services online. Our autism therapists offer a variety of counseling services including individual counseling for autistic teens and adults, parent counseling, and group therapy. Also, we run several different social skills groups for neurodiverse working professionals, college students with autistic traits, gifted youth & caregivers, neurodiverse adults, women who identify as neurodiverse, a summer social skills college transition training program for youth transitioning to college, teens & caregivers, and a mothers group. Contact our therapy office for more information on our services or to schedule a consultation.
About the Author
Dr. Tasha Oswald is a trained developmental and clinical psychologist. She is also is the founder and director of Open Doors Therapy, a private practice specializing in autism therapy services in the South Bay Area, near San Francisco, CA. Dr. Oswald specializes in helping neurodiverse teens and adults and facilitating social skills groups.