I am currently writing a companion book [to her earlier work, Girls Growing Up on
the Autism Spectrum] for pre-teen and teen girls themselves to read titled A Girl's Guide to Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum. My co-author, Brigid Rankowski, is a college student with AS. This book is under contract with Jessica Kingsley Publishers, and at this time we are looking for short contributions from girls and women.
If you (as an adult on the spectrum) or your daughter would be interested in sharing an experience, or advice related to growing up as a female with an ASD, I would love to hear from you. We are looking for 50-200 word narratives about any topic related to growing up. Some examples include:
We are also interested in poetry and possibly art work.
- What it's like being a girl/woman with an ASD
- Having your period; gynecological exams
- Getting a first bra
- Friendships and mean girls; bullying; fitting in
- Eating issues
- Self-esteem and feeling good about yourself
- Being true to who you are
- Mood and anxiety
- Relationships and dating
- Media, popularity
- Life goals and pursuing your dreams
- Special interests
I like this project --- especially when we're that young, there's so much we know but can't articulate about how we're different, particularly the growing suspicion that certain things that are very, very hard for us are as simple as breathing to most people, and thus that most people can't even tell we're struggling, because what could we possibly be struggling with? It might be helpful to have stuff written down by adults who've already figured out ways to cope with some of the really thorny, hard-to-name problems like inertia, executive dysfunction, sensory hypersensitivities, etc. Even if the solutions they describe aren't practical for the young person reading the book, they can at least show the essay to their parents and say, "See this? The problem she talks about? I have it, too."
I know I had to wait a very long time before I could describe most of the things that now seem to matter a great deal to me, and greatly affect my day-to-day welfare.
I'm not sure to what extent a guidebook written by autistic adults/other adolescents would've helped me, though, because many of my biggest problems either had little or nothing to do with autism (example: chronic, recurring nausea and other gastrointestinal issues) or my solutions to the problem required a freedom to arrange my life around my body's own needs and rhythms that most teenagers don't have (example: if I can wait a few hours before eating anything, I'll have a lot fewer problems than if I have to wake up, eat, and rush out the door). (As you can see from my choice of examples, sometimes both of those things are true at the same time).
I would also not have much, if anything, to say about many of the topics on their sample list, as many of them did not apply to me. I don't remember puberty --- at least, I don't remember menarche, and the other changes were gradual (and slight!) enough to be non-issues.
Similarly, getting a bra was not a memorable occasion for me; I wore training bras, and only ever "graduated" to sports bras.
Mean girls? What mean girls? The bullies I worried about were all boys, and I wasn't worried about being ostracized or gossiped about so much as I was worried about physical violence. (That never actually happened, but it's always a possibility when you are one gawky social outcast and your harassers are many teenage boys. I feared it, at any rate).
I was also so socially obtuse at that point in my life that many characteristic "mean girl" tactics would probably have been wasted on me.
However. There is one thing that could have made a world of difference if I'd been explicitly told this sometime during middle school, or at the beginning of freshman year of high school: that it's okay to say no to any form of sexual contact just because you don't want to do it. In other words, I wish I'd been given a Talk about consent. I wish it very much, because my not-rape in high school happened because I didn't know I could say no, so I allowed all sorts of stuff I didn't enjoy to be done to me by a boy I didn't even like.
I might write something about that, if I can get it short enough, coherent enough, and I don't think I'd be being too much of a Debbie Downer sending it in.