Autism is a disorder that is not frequently spoken about and is often misunderstood. However, April is Autism Awareness Month, and one of the goals of this project is to increase awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder and confront its stigmas. In honor of this month, here are, in no particular order, 7 badass women who just so happen to have autism.
Applegate is a paralympic swimmer for Great Britain who swam in the 2012 Paralympic Summer games. She swam in the S14 classification for people with intellectual disabilities, where she took home the gold medal and set the world record. She was appointed a Member of the British Order by the Queen of England for her services to swimming in 2013, and most recently represented Britain in the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio.
After rocketing to fame in 2009 on Britain’s Got Talent, the singer has been steadily producing songs since her first album, I Dreamed a Dream, became Britain’s top-selling debut album in history. Boyle has performed for the Queen as well as sell-out audience and also spends much of her time devoted to various charitable causes.
“I want people like me to see that they shouldn’t let a disability get in the way,” Boyle said after announcing her autism diagnosis in 2013. “I want to raise awareness – I want to turn my disability into ability.”
Best known for her roles in Splash, Kill Bill, and Steel Magnolias, Daryl Hannah was diagnosed with autism as a child. The award-winning actress can now be seen on the Netflix series Sense8 as Angelica “Angel” Turig, a reoccurring character. Hannah also devotes much of her time to charity work, most notably work to protect the environment with her weekly video blog, DHLoveLife.
Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and has revolutionized the livestock industry. Named as one of Time Magazine’s Time 100 in 2010, Grandin has been one of the few people on the autism spectrum to be open about it and has, in turn, helped to decrease the stigma surrounding the disorder. Grandin thinks in pictures, which helped her to design more humane livestock containers, as well as a “hug box” to help come those with autism. Her book, Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism, was a critical and commercial success, leading to a film in which Grandin was played by actress Clare Danes.
“The word “autism” still conveys a fixed and dreadful meaning to most people—they visualize a child mute, rocking, screaming, inaccessible, cut off from human contact,” Grandin says. “And we almost always speak of autistic children, never of autistic adults, as if such children never grew up, or were somehow mysteriously spirited off the planet, out of society.”
Kuzmich is an American model best known for appearing in Cycle 9 of America’s Next Top Model, where she announced that she was diagnosed with autism at the age of 13. She currently is pursuing a degree in video game design while modeling for several top designers.
A former Miss Montana and the “America’s Choice” award winner in the 2013 Miss America pageant, Wineman was also the first openly autistic Miss American contestant. She has been named Person of the Week by ABC News, and now works as a motivational speaker for people living with autism.
“I will be successful if just one person encounters a child who is overstimulated without staring, if one teenager invites an ‘outcast’ to lunch or just smiles at him or her, or if one employer gives a job to someone who might not be able to look the interviewer in the eye,” Wineman wrote in an OpEd for CNN in 2013 while discussing her experience as an “outcast” person living with autism.
Phillipa Margaret “Pip” Brown, or better known by her stage name “Ladyhawke,” is a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter who debuted in the music scene in 2008. The indie rock artist has released three albums, the most recent of which being “Wild Things” in June of 2016.
These women prove that they are not defined by their disorder. They don’t see themselves as autistic women; they see themselves as women who thrive with their autism.