There's a great resource out there for anybody concerned with issues of women on the autism spectrum. It's called the Autism Women's Network. I asked Sharon daVanport; the AWN's Executive Director &
Radio Show Host; if she would mind answers a few questions. She was more than happy to:
How would you describe what the Autism Women's Network is?
Our mission is to provide effective supports to autistic females of all ages through a sense of community, advocacy and resources.
The Autism Women's Network is a networking community of autistic females, their families, friends, and supporters who can share their experiences amongst a diverse, inclusive, and supportive environment. Our website publishes wide variety of articles relevant to the autism community as a whole. Some of the articles are original stories and others are contributed to AWN from our members who originally posted them on their blogs or web pages. Please let us know if you are interested in submitting a story to AWN; we are always interested in reviewing material from Contributing Writers. You can reach us at: AWN Contact Form.
What inspired you to create the Autism Women's Network?
With a diagnosis of Asperger's, I made most of my initial contacts with the autism community through primarily Asperger's Groups. For the better part of 2009 I was continually challenged to raise awareness for all females on the spectrum as opposed to only those with AS. It didn't take me long to realize that I was better suited for a more inclusive environment.
In addition, an overwhelming consensus from females on the spectrum was their desire to be part of a non-judgmental networking community. They believed it was essential if they were to continue moving forward toward solutions and answers pertaining to matters specific to females. We looked hard at the issues which had not been working in the past, and we developed a strategy to move forward in a new and positive direction.
You must be very excited about the official launch of the forums! Who would you encourage to join the forums?
Most definitely females on the spectrum. In addition, family members, friends, educators, psychologists, and anyone in a supportive role to females on the spectrum.
Typically the males who join will pop over to the forum & say a quick hello with a brief introduction. It's nice to have a show of support from others in the autism community who may not intend on utilizing the forum personally, but will take the time to send their encouragement and well wishes our way.
What kind of topics are discussed on the forums?
AWN Forum topics are designed to inspire meaningful discussions which focus on issues relevant to females on the autism spectrum. It is our goal to successfully accomplish a portion of AWN's mission by building an interactive community whereby these discussions can take place.
Some of the forum topics are: Ask a NT, Special Interests, Art Gallery, Potpourri, Parent's Palace, Bullies and toxic People We Encounter, and many more. A few more topics which cover discussions on food, autism news, and relationships are:
Bon Appétit Share your favorite recipes, cooking tips, GF/CF info., & all things food related.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it... Autism news around the world.
Relationships A place to share your experiences, advice, & suggestions regarding family, dating, friends, & coworkers, etc.
An new addition which is coming soon to our forum is E-Mentoring. This will be under the leadership of AWN's International Director form Australia, Katharine Annear. E-Mentoring will give people the chance to have one-to-one support, advice and guidance from a volunteer who is independent from their ordinary life.
E-mentoring allows mentors and mentees to keep in touch by having conversations online, through a website. The mentoring relationship is facilitated by a safe and stimulating web-based environment (AWN Forum) which allows mentors and mentees to:
• Post messages
• Share information
• Discuss news items
• Access resources
** We are finalizing details on another Discussion Board for the Forum which will address issues of domestic violence, abuse, and the vulnerabilities of females on the spectrum as it pertains to these serious matters. Stay tuned for these additions to the Forum coming soon.
What is your online radio show about?
AWN Radio allows our organization to keep the lines of communication open pertaining to autism news, hot topics, authors, parents, educators, and individuals on the spectrum who come from all walks of life. AWN Radio allows us to reach a larger audience with participation from our listeners via the chat room and phone lines.
Though we strive to keep our programming consistent with our mission, we aren't exclusive to topics pertaining to only autistic females. We definitely have a diverse guest list which include males, females, autistics, and neuro-typicals.
Do you have any events coming up?
AWN is currently planning a few community events for April during Autism Awareness Month. Details will be posted on our website just as soon as the events are finalized.
Several AWN Directors will be speaking at conferences, workshops, and support groups throughout 2010. The Autism Women's Network will also be in attendance at numerous autism functions for networking purposes throughout the year.
Considering the statistics of only 1 in 4 autistics being female; do you think autistic women's concerns are taken seriously?
I believe we are slowly making progress in this respect; however, it is undeniable that we still have a long way to go.
AWN is dedicated to educating others about the unique qualities specific to autistic females. Recognized experts agree that furthering our knowledge specific to these issues will lead us to a greater understanding of the spectrum as a whole.
It would therefore benefit all of us to heighten awareness with regards to these matters. AWN is dedicated to keeping the focus on matters specific to females on the autism spectrum, and we extend an invitation for our community to join us.