We've been to this world for a while now. We're all on the spectrum, yet each of us has a unique personality, character structure and reasons for joy and sadness. We've got a lot in common - yet there are obvious differences, which we are aware of. Some of us were born as women, but do not identify with feminine gender. Some of us are in long-term relationships (with men or women), whereas others are single. Some of us have children and some contribute to bringing up their partners' children. We have different passions and hobbies. Depending on circumstances, we may be in employment. Some of us consider themselves disabled, whereas others may oppose that view.
We've all been through a lot.
March 8th is the International Women's Day, but this year we don't have flowers, chocolate or perfume for you. Instead, we'd like to share our stories collected in this letter with you. If you choose to consider its content, you can avoid obstacles, which we had to overcome to survive.
1. On your way, you may have experienced many unpleasant situations. You may have felt guilty or worthless. Try to see yourself in a different light. Notice your strengths. Make an effort to stop perceiving yourself as a person, who owes a lot to others with little or no positive contribution to their lives. You can make a conscious effort to part with your sense of guilt. You can consciously start building your life, without a constant fear that your gestures, words or behaviours may be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Like everyone else, you, too, have your strengths and your weaknesses. Focus on what you can do. There are no impossible things, but there may be things, which you decide not to pursue as they would require too much pointless effort. Don't be afraid that giving up on them would expose your weakness. Don't feel guilty having said 'no'. Use all your resources to be happy.
2. You're a valuable person and if anyone challenges this fact by telling you or implying that you're worthless, you have a right to tell them to stop - or you may simply choose not to hang out with them any longer. Don't let anyone convince you that your life will only be full and happy when you pursue their ideas or plans. Your mind is truly unique and it belongs to you.
3. Nobody can demand more from you than what you are willing to offer them. Women with autism are vulnerable to manipulation; they may even detect it, yet the desire to fit in and hunger for closeness make them give up their limits. If you are a trusting, or even a bit naive person, that's your very right. Remember that people can be really cruel. Your reality checks will help you. If something seems too good to be true, it's probably the case: it's not true.
4. You may be wary and defensive, which provides some sense of security. However, interpersonal conflicts are unavoidable. What matters and shows our real nature is how we approach and solve them. Avoiding to say out loud what you think or how you feel is not a healthy solution. Exaggerating or minimising the existing differences, as well as blaming the other person for them are not constructive options, either. What may help you enjoy the variety and variability of the world is to acknowledge that you've got the right to differ as well as to understand and respect another person and their views. When the other person fails to approach it this way and chooses to fuel rather than resolve a conflict, leaving them to go your own way may be a healthier option.
5. Respect your passions. They are truly important and valuable, regardless of what anyone else may say. Amongst us, there are girls and women with different interests and hobbies and many of us experienced times, when others tried to convince us that whatever our passion might be, it was worthless. Let yourself enjoy what is important to you and do not listen to negative comments.
6. Each of us have our limits and we’re entitled to having them. It's good to be aware of your own boundaries. Think of what you accept in relationships with other people. You deserve and have a right to be respected. Beware of the effect of your own impulsivity on others. Remember that others may be impulsive, too. Give yourself time and space to think and reflect and let others do the same. Do not let other people's impulsivity push your limits.
7. Passive aggression is a particularly treacherous phenomenon, difficult for an autistic woman to cope with. You probably think logically, so it's difficult for you to understand double messages, whereas passive aggression is nothing more than sending you a bunch of contradictory messages. Beware if someone ostentatiously demonstrates their lack of interest in you and your views, whilst actively seeking information about them from other sources. Be sensitive to such subtle signals as manipulating your time - notorious lateness, no response to your calls/ texts/ emails etc., especially if they are accompanied by demanding your full reliability in each and every situation.
8. Pay attention to the situations where positive and negative message meet in the same sentence, like in "For someone with no talents, you've done pretty well". Don't agree to that. Such behaviour, when experienced often, will leave you emotionally wounded and scarred.
9. Your gifts and talents, quick thinking, analytical skills or the ability to notice details and patterns are likely to be spotted and praised by others, whereas you may have disregarded and underestimated your intellectual potential for years. It's vital for you to build awareness of your strengths. Otherwise, you may attract dangerous individuals - who just want to use your potential, hurting you, taking control over your life and expecting you to submit to them. The best protection against them is to learn and acknowledge your real value.
10. Whether you're right at the doorstep to adulthood, a young adult or a slightly older adult, you're not a child anymore. Many women on the spectrum appear younger than they really are. This image is additionally facilitated by our social immaturity. Yet, remember - you're not a child anymore. Nobody should, therefore, treat you as a child and, in particular, punish you in a relationship. Unfortunately, it is a trap that autistic women tend to fall into quite often. Such punishment may take different forms - learn to recognise them and take firm steps to protect yourself. You have a right to make mistakes and learn from them. Do not let others "bring you up". You are an autonomous person.
11. What you need to be careful of is the psychological effect of projection, another common trap. We tend to accept what others tell us at face value, whereas people may attribute someone else's - most likely their own - intentions, mistakes or imperfections to you. Don't believe in it. See yourself separately from others. Trust yourself.
12. How people speak of others reflects what they are. When someone idealises you whilst complaining about others and distrusting them, you may be tempted to believe that you have a lot in common... This is an example of a toxic relationship, which women on the spectrum experience far too often. The reality, though, is that if someone keeps on telling you how useless and nasty others were to them, with you being the only exception... it's sheer manipulation, aiming at winning your trust and gratitude. The price it pays is high.
13. Most women on the autistic spectrum experience a number of difficulties in everyday life. You may find it challenging to run errands or remember your obligations and deadlines. You may experience anxiety when in a public space and you may need help and support at times... We would like you to know that you have a right to need that support, there's nothing wrong in needing help and asking for it - often, it's the only way to keep you going. Isolating yourself when in trouble is emotionally draining and usually worsens the situation. Remember that all good support is unconditional and matches your real needs. If someone makes you solve your problems their way, they are controlling rather than helpful.
14. Because of your neurodiversity, you may have (unfortunately) been judged by others, such as parents, teachers or therapists… As a result, women on the spectrum don't know what to do when they are judged or criticized in public. This makes them particularly vulnerable to irony, taunting, sarcasm and nasty comments, whilst unable to return the criticism. Learn to detect warning signs of it and you'll spare yourself a lot of pain and agony.
15. We live in a world of lie. You may have been taught that it is wrong to lie, yet perhaps you have noticed how common lie is in our culture. Try to spot it in everyday relationships. Beware of those, who seem to believe every lie, confabulation and distorted fact they have produced. These ones are particularly dangerous, as they try to convince others to believe their story and they are bloody good at it.
16. Trust your emotions and we know it's a tough thing to do. Most autistic women have experienced their emotions being disregarded or rejected. Remember - if you feel constantly low, anxious or don't know what happens next in a relationship, you really feel it, so trust your emotions.
17. Finally, the most important and the most difficult thing. The vast majority of women with autism spectrum condition have experienced sexual violence or abuse. Please remember that you have every right not to want or accept something, to refuse and to say no in this domain of your life. Nobody can force you to do things you don't want to do, reason with you or negotiate how you feel, blackmail or manipulate your self-esteem. Nobody.
18. There are different forms of abuse and violence. You can encounter them anywhere - including your closest community. All forms of abuse and violence affect how you think about yourself and may increase a gap between how you perceive yourself and what you really are. Any form of abuse may impact on your sense of identity, so learning to recognise early warning signs makes sense.
19. You have a right to mature at your own pace. You don't have to compare yourself to anyone or let anyone compare you to others. Some experiences taste better after you've waited for them, for example a true friendship is worth waiting for. When we're very young, we have very little chance to consciously choose who we associate or make friends with. There are plenty of people around us, who just happen to be there - like neighbours or schoolmates. The older you get, the more control you have of who you meet and keep in touch with. Your friends don't have to be your age. Your best friend doesn't have to be a woman. Many of us have found real friends in men.
Most of us feel the need to belong and form relationships, but the relationships are only healthy when they don't destroy your self-esteem and self-confidence. Social identity makes sense only when it acknowledges and respects the needs of an individual - yours, mine, of all of us. To say it short: you are a valuable person and deserve respect the way you are.
You are a unique woman. You have autism spectrum condition, which means that you perceive things and think differently than most people do. Every young girl will benefit from the things that we have included in this letter. However, we know from experience, that sometimes we realise them too late. Some of us have come to understand how important these simple truths were in our forties or even later. The price we paid for this lesson learned so late was depression, anxiety or psychosomatic complaints. Some of us have had to battle post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), although we've never been to a war. Don't let your life turn into a battlefield. We know well how difficult it is for a person on a spectrum to learn from someone else's experience. The key difficulty is to see the analogy to your own experience. You may struggle to find it in this letter, too. This is why we tried to explain all key, albeit painful, issues in detail.
There is something else we want to tell you: it makes a lot of sense to seek support of those who may have experienced some of what you are now going through. You don't have to be alone. You have a right to enjoy a decent, happy life.
Ps.: If you’re an adult woman on the autism spectrum, you can help by sending your signature to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alicja, violinist, happy wife and mother with Asperger syndrome
Ania, happy wife and mother, doctor with Asperger syndrome
Małgorzata, lover of anime and nature, a person in the autism spectrum, sexually non-binary, in a constant relationship with a person from the spectrum
Joanna, mother, educator, scientist with Asperger syndrome
Ola, mother with Asperger syndrome, wife, manager in an autistic home
Bożena, human on the spectrum, educator, researcher
Agnieszka, artist/IT specialist/Star Trek maniac/ASD
Aldona, mother, educator and therapist, researcher, guardian of an autistic home focus, woman on the spectrum
Ewa, girl in the spectrum, feminist activist, lesbian
Kamila, paramedic, woman in the spectrum, mother
Angie, woman in the spectrum
Emilia, woman in the spectrum, mother
Joasia, woman with spectrum with experiences like in a letter
Ola, mother, wife, workaholic-perfectionist, woman in IT
Olga, woman with Asperger syndrome, an enthusiast of ornithology and Wikipedia editing, a person from LGBT + area
Ludmiła, person on spectrum
Gosia, a woman living happily and happily in the autism spectrum;
Ania, woman in the spectrum
Dominika, proud autistic
Kinga, coming out of the darkness of non-existence
Weronika, lover of the life, proud mix of the spectrum and women of flesh and blood
Dagmara/Something tasty and inexpensive/I love to cook 😃 Aspi ❤
Aleksandra – Engineer, lab technician and rollercoaster lover
Natalia, recently diagnosed, she learns herself again
Ewa, mom who discovered herself through the child's diagnosis
Katka, eternal seeker, undiagnosed, but thanks to my two sons with Asperger Syndrome, I met and accepted myself
Natasza 😀 mom, wife, medical rescuer! I have asperger and I'm good with it !!!!
Dagmara, happy mother and wife
Language: Are you woman on spectrum? Are you man on spectrum? Are you "neurotypical"?
This letter is an action of adults women on spectrum directed to the young girls and woman on spectrum. The content of the message may be distributed any way, but we do not accept any modification of its content.
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help raise awareness about the situation of women with autism
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Are you woman on spectrum?
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Are you "neurotypical"?