Shadia starting their first day of high school.

Transitioning to high school:


Shadia with rescue horse Rein.

#TakeTheMaskOff Campaign:

Life Behind Glass by Wenn Lawson: A Personal Account of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Wenn Lawson is on the autism spectrum. Considered to be intellectually disabled and ‘almost incapable of doing as he is told’ at school, he was later misdiagnosed as schizophrenic – a label that stuck with him for more than 25 years. He then had low sense of self, but now Wenn is a mother of four with two university degrees; he is a social social, adult educator, and operates his own business. He is also a poet and a writer, sharing his understanding of Autism with others to help ‘build a bridge from my world to theirs’. Wenn’s unique insights and experiences growing up Autistic are useful for Autistic individuals trying to find their place within the world and learning more about what Autism means for them. It provides a window into the world of Autism, as well as personal insights that are important for parents and educators to hear.


Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

The history of autism is explored in depth in Steve Silbermans’ Neurotribes. He discusses why the number of diagnoses of Autism have increased in recent years, going back to the earliest days of Autism research, defined by Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger. Silberman then explains the concept of neurodiversity, and the importance of viewing neurological differences such as Autism, dyslexia, and ADHD as not errors of nature or products of the toxic modern world, but the result of natural variation. Silberman also pays tribute to heroes in the neurodiversity community such as British pioneer Dr Lorna Wing, the parent and psychiatrist responsible for the idea that autism is a spectrum. Silberman emphasises the need for autistic self-advocacy and reframing Autism as a “difference” to be accepted and understood, rather than eradicated or conquered. A great insight for parents, educators, and Autistic individuals to learn about the in depth history of Autism and the neurodiversity movement.


Women and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Understanding Life Experiences from Early Childhood to Old Age by Sarah Hendrickx

Being a female on the Autism spectrum and seeking diagnosis has been largely unresearched and unreported until recently. In this book, Sarah Hendrickx discusses academic research and personal stories in depth about autistic girls and women to provide a view into their feelings, thoughts and experiences in different stages of their lives. The book looks at experiencing diagnosis, childhood, education, adolescence, friendships, sexuality, employment, pregnancy and parenting, and what will likely impact the autistic woman throughout their lifespan. It is a wonderful resource for professionals in learning how to support girls and women on the spectrum, and will offer Autistic women a window into interpreting and understanding their own personal experiences through the experiences of others.


Aspergirls by Rudy Simone

Girls on the spectrum are less frequently diagnosed than boys, due to differences in symptoms and presentation. Girls on the spectrum at a range of ages are often skilled at masking difficulties, challenges, and isolation. Aspergirls is a great resource for girls with Asperger’s Syndrome, written by a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome herself. Aspergirls provides valuable perspectives and specific advice and strategies for parents that will help them navigate personal and professional life of their Asperger daughter. The text includes the reflections of over 35 women diagnosed on the spectrums, as well as partners and parents. Simone draws on her personal experiences being on the spectrum to provide guidance on recurring struggles and areas where Aspergirls need support, information and advice. The differences between males and females on the spectrum are highlighted throughout the book, as well as the message of positivity and empowerment. Aspergirls will be of interest to educators working with Aspergirls and provides a window into the Aspie experience.


Look me in the eye by John Elder Robison

Since he was a child, John Robison yearned to connected with other people, but by the time he reached adolescence, his eccentric habits, such as avoiding eye contact and dismantling radios, had people labelling him a “social deviant”. Growing up in a dysfunctional family environment, he naturally gravitated to machines, which at least were reliable. Robison dropped out of highschool and fleed from his parents, expanding on his ability to visualise electronic circuits. This landed him a job with the band KISS, for whom he created their legendary fire-breathing guitars. Later on, he became an engineer for a major toy company. However, he found he had to sacrifice too much of his identity in order to appear “normal” and try and communicate, which he had found a lifelong struggle. At the age of 40, he was told by a therapist he has Asperger’s Syndrome. ‘Look me in the Eye’ is a moving story of growing up on the autism spectrum at a time when diagnosis was not available, and where Robison was regarded as “defective”. Robison talks about his journey to fatherhood, navigating relationships, and learning to communicate more effectively with others. This autobiography is inspiring for Autistic individuals processing their diagnosis, especially adults recently diagnosed.


The Five Roles of a Master Herder by Linda Kohanov

Author and teacher Linda Kohanov has explored in depth “the way of the horse”, an experiential wisdom gained by studying the nonpredatory power of horses. In The Five Roles of a Master Herder, Kohanov adapts insights inspired by the way of the horse into useful tools for developing collaborative leadership and managing change. She writes about the history of master herders in nomadic herding cultures, and developing a multifaceted, socially intelligent form of leadership combining the five roles of Dominant, Leader, Sentinel, Nurturer/Companion, and Predator. The interplay of these roles allows interspecies communities to move across vast landscapes, dealing with predators and changing climates, and protecting and nurturing the herd without the benefit of fences and very little reliance on restraints. Included is an innovative assessment tool that helps determine which roles you are currently overemphasising and which roles you are ignoring or actively avoiding. Through identifying times of overemphasising and ignoring roles, Kohanov will help guide you through identifying, and utilising all five roles in the modern tribes of your workplace, family, and other social gatherings. The Five Roles of a Master Herder will be beneficial for Autistic individuals wishing to learn how to more effectively communicate with others, navigating the workplace, and interpreting the roles and actions of others.


Temple Grandin Film

‘Temple Grandin’ is a biopic of the famous autistic advocate, a women who has become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock industry. Grandin did not speak until the age of four, and had difficulty with her sensory issues and dealing with other people throughout high school. Her mother was extremely supportive as well as a few key teachers. Despite her mother being told that Grandin would have to be institutionalised, she used her difficulties to better relate to cattle. Her unique perspective of the world helped revolutionalise the humane treatment of cattle in processing plants throughout America. Grandin is now a professor at Colorado State University and well known speaker on autism and animal handling. ‘Temple Grandin’ sends a wonderful message to Autistic individuals; that you can do anything you set your mind to, despite limitations imposed by others.


Rebecca Burgess’ Depiction of the Autism Spectrum:

Rebecca Burgess’ representation of the Autism Spectrum is one of Shadia’s favourite interpretations. It promotes the theme of neurodiversity and cautions against the use of high functioning and low functioning labels, viewing the spectrum as non-linear. This comic may prove valuable to Autistic individuals in explaining how they view the condition to others.