Did you think that autism only affected men? So did a lot of people — but that's about to change, as a team of autistic schoolgirls have written a book about female autism. Four times as many men are diagnosed with autism as women, and so books about autistic women are few and far between. Novels like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Rosie Project have done wonderful things in helping us all understand autism and Asperger's more generally, and now M is for Autism is going to totally change the conversation once again.
Beth Worboys spent her childhood feeling anxious about why she was different from her friends. When she was 17, she had the idea of writing a novel about an autistic girl, so that other girls like her wouldn’t have to struggle through it alone. Autism can cause difficulties in communication, so writing a novel becomes an incredibly challenging task (and it’s not exactly easy to begin with!). In an amazing collaboration, all 72 pupils at Limpsfield Grange, Beth’s school for autistic girls, co-wrote the novel through a series of workshops which allowed them to make their voices heard. M is for Autism, which was published in July, is a coming-of-age novel about a 13-year-old autistic girl named M, and draws from many of the real-life experiences of the autistic students who helped to create it.
There are currently many undiagnosed cases of autism in women, and by challenging our perceptions of the condition, this book may prompt women to realise they are autistic. Sarah Wild, the headteacher of Limpsfield Grange, explains that autistic women are generally better at “social masking,” which allows them to hide their condition by copying others’ behavior in social situations without necessarily understanding why. This must be incredibly isolating, and a book that can relieve some of the anxiety they must be feeling could completely change their lives for the better.