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14 Amazing Women with Autism

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“Autism’s a very important part of who I am. I like the way I think, and I wouldn’t want to change that.” — Temple Grandin

We wanted to highlight some amazing women with autism who have accomplished some incredible things.

According to the Autism Society, “Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a ‘spectrum disorder’ that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism…”

Some facts and statistics from the Autism Society include:

  • About one percent of the population of children in the U.S. ages 3-17 have an autism spectrum disorder.
  • Prevalence is estimated at one in 68 births.
  • One to 1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder.

Many of the women described being treated differently and not getting the same opportunities because they think and act differently. As MAKERS has found, time and again, there is no DNA of a MAKER. We salute these women for their creative thinking and drive, succeeding in ways people never thought they could.

While we are still learning more about autism, what we do know is that “you can’t be what you can’t see,” and every young girl should have an amazing role model to look up to.

1. Henriett Seth

Henriett is autistic savant writer, artist, and poet. She was born in Hungary on October 27, 1980, and as a child struggled to communicate or make eye contact. When she applied to primary school in 1987, all of the schools in her town refused to accept her due to her communication problems. Despite these setbacks, Henriett learned to express herself through art. She began playing the flute at age seven, and took up the contra bass at 11. By 13, Henriett was world renowned for her abstract and surrealist paintings and her poetry. At 18, Henriett won the Geza Gardoni prize for her art and poetry. She has since studied psychology and wrote the celebrated book Closed into Myself with Autism.

2. Jessica Applegate

Jessica Applegate was born on August 22, 1996, and is a British Paralympic swimmer. Jessica has Asperger’s syndrome and began her swimming career as a child when her mother brought her to a local swimming Club. By 13, Jessica began setting records and was selected to join a UK talent program. She qualified for the 2012 Paralympics, where she set a world record and won the gold medal for the 200m freestyle. In 2013, Jessica competed in the IPC World Championships in Montreal. There, Jessica won 3 medals: gold in the 200m freestyle, silver in the 200m medley, and a bronze medal in the 100m freestyle.

3. Lucy Blackman

Lucy Blackman is an Australian author with autism. She was born in 1972 in Melbourne Australia, and used typed communication through adolescence, becoming an independent typist at the age of 14. Lucy graduated from the Deakin University with a degree in Literary Studies and published her book, Lucy’s Story in 2001. Lucy was the first non-verbal Australian with autism to become a published author. As an adult, Lucy gives talks about the importance of facilitated communication and how it has allowed her to express herself.

4. Amanda Baggs

Amanda Baggs is an American autism rights activist. She was born in 1980 in California and reportedly cannot speak verbally. In January 2007, Amanda’s Youtube video “In My Language” went viral. CNN wrote several articles about this video and Amanda wrote her own post about the video for Anderson Cooper’s blog. Today, Amanda has her own blog where she discusses her disabilities. You can read Amanda’s blog here.

5. Donna Williams

Donna Williams is an Australian writer, artist, and singer. She was born in October 1963, and although Donna suffered hearing problems as a child, she was not diagnosed with autism until 1991. In her twenties, Donna wrote Nobody Nowhere, an international bestseller. She wrote two sequels, and is an accomplished sculptor painter and composer. Today, she is an international public speaker and an autism consultant.

6. Liane Holliday Willey

Liane Holliday Willey is an author and an avid equestrian. Liane was born in 1959 and was not diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome until 1999. Liane has written numerous books discussing autism and has taught at the university level for over 15 years. She supports equine therapy, is the editor of the Autism Spectrum Quarterly, and founded the Asperger Society of Michigan.

7. Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle is a Scottish singer who became a sensation after appearing on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent in April 2009. By November of that same year, Susan had released her first album, which became the number one bestselling album on charts around the world. In 2013, Susan wrote an essay for the Daily Beast detailing her diagnosis with Asperger’s syndrome. Susan described being bullied as a child, nicknamed “Simple Susie” and was hugely relieved when she finally received a diagnosis at 51. Susan has been nominated for two Grammy’s and won the 2013 Radio Forth Icon Award.

8. Phillipa Margaret Brown “LadyHawke”

Phillipa Margaret Brown, more commonly known by her stage name “LadyHawke,” is a New Zealand singer and songwriter. Phillipa has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, one of the reasons she believes she became so absorbed in music as a child. Phillipa was a member of various bands until she forged her own solo career in 2008. Naming herself “Ladyhawke” after a character played by Michelle Pfeiffer in the 1985 film by the same name, Phillipa has exploded on the New Zealand music scene. She won 6 awards at the 2009 New Zealand Music Awards and continues to record music.

9. Lizzy Clark

Lizzy Clark is a British actress who is most popular for her role in the TV movie Dustbin Baby. Both Lizzy and the fictional character she played, Poppy, have Asperger’s syndrome. Lizzy was the first actress with Asperger’s disease to play a character with the condition, causing her mother, Nicola, to start a campaign against actors “playing disabled.” Nicola’s campaign, “Don’t Play me, Pay me” sets up forums for mentally disabled actors and requests schools to encourage students with disabilities to act.

10. Heather Kuzmich

Heather is an American model who was born in Chicago in 1986. She became famous as a contestant of American’s Next Top Model, Cycle 9, where she finished as the fourth runner-up. On the show, Heather discussed having Asperger’s syndrome, a diagnosis she received at the age of 15. After the show, Heather had a talk show appearance on Good Morning America, an article in the New York Times, and was featured on the cover of Spectrum Magazine, a magazine for families and individuals who have autism. Heather continues to model.

11. Dawn Prince Hughes

Dawn Prince-Hughes is an American anthropologist. Dawn struggled in elementary school, specifically with fine motor skills and was not diagnosed with autism until high school. Despite her early struggles, Dawn’s fascination with animals, specifically gorillas, lead to her success. Working with gorillas at Woodland Park Zoo led Dawn to write one of her most acclaimed books Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism. She argues that working with gorillas helped her develop coping mechanisms to deal with Asperger’s syndrome.

12. Valerie Paradiz

Valerie Paradiz is an austism activist. Valerie was diagnosed with autism after the birth and diagnosis of her son. She is the director of Valerie Paradiz LLC, a consulting organization that provides services to schools and corporations that support individuals with disabilities. She speaks nationally and internationally about autism, emphasizing the talents of people with autism. Valerie also works at the Autism Research Institute, an international hub providing information about autism for parents and professionals.

13. Daryl Hannah

Daryl Hannah is an American actress who is most famous for her roles in Splash, Kill Bill, Wall Street, and Steel Magnolias. In 2013, Daryl revealed that she had been struggling with Asperger’s syndrome for years, causing extreme social anxiety. When she was diagnosed as a child, Daryl recounts doctors prescribing numerous medications and suggesting institutionalization. Instead, Daryl focused on her passions, acting, ballet, and more recently campaigning for the environment.

14. Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin is world-famous for using insights gained from her autism to revolutionize the livestock industry. A professor at Colorado State for more than 20 years, Grandin is a celebrated speaker who lectures internationally on autism and livestock handling.

This was originally posted on Makers.

Photo: Bethany Clarke / Getty Images


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