ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)

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Friday, July 14, 2006: 10:45 AM-12:00 PM
Ballroom D
#2289- Women with Autism Differences SPEAK
There is a new truth; there are many, many females on the autism specturm than previously thought. Although there is limited research on this, the autism community knows this. Participants will have the extraordinary opportunity to hear from six women with autism differences ranging in age from 16 to 50. We will discuss substantive topics including: under, late and misdiagnosis; cultural implications, sexual abuse, and finally, recommendations from those thriving now with a life including autism.

Presenters:Dena Gassner, MSW, Center for Understanding, Director - Dena Gassner, MSW diagnostic evaluation; provider of professional developmental training; mental health/school advocacy and national autism consultation. Board member, Autism Society of Middle TN; advisory board member, ASA; GRASP. Member; Vanderbilt University Post-secondary Task Force. Many seek her uncanny professional and personal insight into success embracing one’s authentic autistic self.

Sondra K. Williams, Adult, with, Autism, None, Parent, Advocate, Speaker, Presenter - Sondra Williams is an adult with autism in the state of Ohio. She is married and has four kids all diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. She is the author of the book titled Reflections of Self and a DVD titled "Define Me."

Kassiane A. Sibley, Autism Consutant/ Individual with autism - Kassianne Sibley is a young adult with high functioning autism who is well known for her voice in autism advocacy, consultative work, and writing (a contributing author to Ask and Tell, 2004). Her intelligence, eloquence, courage and persistence is an unbeatable combination to behold.

Brigid A. Rankowski, College Student, Person with Asperger's Syndrome - Brigid Rankowski is a sophomore at Cornell College. She is currently going for a double major in Psychology and English. She is a Resident Assistant, serves as the Disability Liasion for the Cornell Coalition for Change, and holds various other leadership positions on campus. She is diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.

Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D., Open Center for Autism, Co-Founder - Valerie Paradiz is the author of the memoir, Elijah's Cup. Her programs for children and adults with ASDs have been featured in the New York Times, Redbook Magazine, The Guardian, and on Japanese Television (NHK). Valerie is a member of the board of directors of the Autism Society of America.

Temple- Ph.D., Grandin, Author, educator, writer and presenter - Temple is inarguably the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world. She has been featured on major television programs, such as "ABC's Primetime Live", the "Today Show", "Larry King Live", "48 Hours" and "20/20" and written up in national publications, such as Time magazine, People magazine, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, and New York Times. Dr. Grandin's current best seller is Animals in Translation. She also authored the best seller - Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports From My Life With Autism and produced videos - "Visual Thinking," "Sensory," "Careers" and "Medications" VHS; and Dr. Temple Grandin (DVD)

Girls and women with autism differences remain one of the most commonly ‘missed' segments of the autism population. Either they are ‘missed' in the diagnostic process or in supports which are designed for men. Today, six dynamic women will discuss the impact of autism on their lives. The first area of difficulty is the barrier all women experience in the medical community; gender bias. From medication, to diagnostic symptoms to seatbelts, this is a world designed for men. Each day, thousands of girls are perceived as inattentive or hyperactive. They are learning disabled, ‘slow' or shy. They have ADHD, sensory processing issues and are ‘too social' and nothing happens for them. Later in life, many are sucked into the mental health population and when inappropriately medicated, become pharmaceutically institutionalized. Some more obviously manifesting do not benefit from diagnosis because of the narrow diagnostic skills of well-intentioned professionals who don't consider the female segment of the population. Some mired in the mental health community become permanently regressed or overmedicated. Some leave the world violently through suicide or domestic violence. They are the silent voices for whom we speak. Many autism professionals (Attwood; Myles) agree that women on the spectrum generally have inherent, gender based differences in comparison with male counterparts that may interfere with diagnosis. While some appear autistic from the beginning, others share a higher competency for social mimicry, enhanced language and high intelligence which many professionals can mistakenly rule out as autism spectrum disorder. This often results in extremely late diagnosis and delayed intervention. Many women are not diagnosed until adolescence when the world comes crashing down and their coping skills simply are insufficient under the pressure of adolescent development. Others (like many on the panel) are not diagnosed until far in adulthood. This, and the domino effect it creates, remains one of the most significant barriers to success for us. Co-existing with the diagnostic difficulties, are other factors. In our culture, women are objectified in attitudes and media. The vulnerability this creates for all women is exponentially increased for women on the spectrum whose inherent social naiveté' interferes with social interaction. Some have decided to avoid intimate social relationships totally. Some have attempted and have found their life partner. Others have found that their social vulnerability and need for love and acceptance have combined into a dangerous cocktail resulting in date rape, emotional abuse and domestic violence. We will discuss all these perspectives and our individual recoveries. All of us experience challenges in coping with everyday relationships as well. Our culture places the woman in the role of Head Organizer, Social Secretary, Chief of Executive Function for the entire family unit. And unlike men, who can work and often be ‘ok' in their singular role of “Provider”, women who are unable to do this intensive kind of multi-tasking are vilified by the community as a whole. No single family member experiences the impact of “Keeping up with the Joneses” like the mother. Daughters and mothers will discuss how this affects our lives. We will discuss education and what works. We will discuss the use of technology and other coping strategies essential for accessing educational curriculum. We will discuss what some of us know and what others of us wish we had known. Lastly, we will discuss how we survive and maintain balance. WE will explore various interventions and why it works for us. We will close with a question/answer segment with prepared questions from the audience.

See more of The ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)