Awareness of and rights for neurodivergent women

KATIE NEWMAN | University of Bristol | Arts, Activism and Social Justice Summer School | Bristol, United Kingdom | Bristol

My big vision and goal I hope in my future career to promote awareness of and rights for neurodivergent women. A As a short-term goal, I wish to inform members of various institutions and the general public of the ‘female’ phenotype of neurodivergence, masking behaviours, how individuals with neurodivergence are affected by their environment and interactions, even if this doesn’t show.

The actions I will take Conduct in-depth research regarding neurodivergence in women and use surveys or interviews with individuals in the Bristol University Neurodiversity Society. Speak to local charities who are working in this field to gain community knowledge and inspiration. Create posters to disseminate around the university to raise awareness within the student body. To promote awareness within the faculty, speak to the course representative and personal tutor to work out the best approach.

My reasoning I am in individual with undiagnosed autism, I was assessed at the age of fourteen however, due to my masking behaviours, I did not receive a diagnosis. My first piece of course work for my degree was an essay discussing the differences in manifestation of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) in males and females. From this I not only realised I have autism, but I also gained an understanding as to why I remain undiagnosed. I know many women who are in a similar situation to me and although awareness is growing there is still far more that needs to be done. I have chosen to begin my campaign within the university as it in an institution I am already part of and have easy access to the resources I will need to achieve my goal. There are many members of the student body who are neurodivergent, and I believe they will support me in promoting awareness and equity within the university. The faculty and students all work and socialise with individuals with neurodivergence, and this demographic enables further dissemination of the message to third parties. Although the university is already promoting decolonisation, it hosts events promoting gender equality and takes part in neurodiversity celebration week, there is still more to be done. There is room to enhance awareness of and equity for those with neurodivergence, especially those who are undiagnosed or express masking behaviours.

Areas for improvement and counterarguments Conducting this campaign within the university may limit the demographic that this information will reach, however I believe it is a good place to start before moving into other institutions and communities. The focus on individuals who identify as female or those who mask may seem to exclude other members of the neurodivergent community. However, much of the existing awareness around ASD is based upon the male phenotype and does not discuss the ways in which it manifests differently in females, what masking is, how individuals can still be affected internally even though they are not externally expressing any difficulty. It could be argued that applying labels is reductive, (which I do agree with), but the primary goal is to raise awareness of individual needs, and how people can better support those with ASD. When creating the poster there will be a strong awareness of the need to avoid stereotyping and assumptions. Everyone is different and those differences need to be embraced and understood.

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