Barb Cook

Books: Health | Neurodiversity | ASD

Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism (2018) 

Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism (2018) edited by Barb Cook & Michelle Garnett

Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of AutismA collection of essays where autistic women describe life from a female autistic perspective, and present empowering, helpful and supportive insights from their personal experience for fellow autistic women.

Why would a collection of essays written by autistic women for autistic women be important?

Autism as a diagnostic category is historically recent. In the early 1960s, Lorna Wing conceptualized autism as a spectrum, brought the work of Hans Asperger to world attention and created the diagnosis of Asperger syndrome for individuals not otherwise learning-disabled or speech-delayed. Even although autistic women (who once were girls) have been "out there" in full public view over the years, autism has long been thought of as a "male condition." Autistic females have been invisible in terms of recognition, research, strategic planning, and service provision.

Because women are consistently under-diagnosed with ASD and ADHD, many not receiving their diagnoses until well into adulthood.

Unfortunately, too many adolescent girls and young women on the spectrum have collected many mental health labels prior to being accurately diagnosed with having an ASD. These labels may include, but are not limited to, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorder, schizotypal disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. An unfortunate consequence of this experience can be to align with psychopathology and to interpret one's self only in the context of dysfunction.

This collection, at the time I read it, was a bit hit-and-miss. There is a lot of ground covered here, on a variety of topics, some of which were not relevant to me at the time, but might be later.

However, many chapters focused on the inter-sectionality of ASD/ADHD and depression/anxiety. This is important because for many, neurodiversity was misdiagnosed as mental illness.

Dealing with persistent anxiety, too much socializing, and overwhelming sensory experiences on a daily basis with no concession or understanding from others is a recipe for exhaustion. Exhaustion leads to depression and a lack of emotional regulation.

I found the discussion on Executive Functioning to be particularly helpful, as the descriptions in other books only confused me.

Executive functioning is generally seen as a group of abilities that allow you to manage your thoughts, emotions, and actions in order to get things done. It is responsible for skills such as organizing and planning, initiating and managing tasks, paying attention, regulating emotions, and self-monitoring (keeping track of what you're doing and modifying your behavior accordingly).

And how it might manifest.

I often found that I understood the concept of what was being asked, but what the first step should be and how to make my mind or body actually take it was overwhelming.

I found the ways ADHD can manifest in women to be especially helpful.

This is a collection I will need to reread as I continue to learn more about my diagnoses and discover how I have been working around my symptoms for my entire life.

Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Rating: 8/10