Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum

Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum


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The face of autism is changing. And more often than we realize, that face is wearing lipstick.

Autism in Heels, an intimate memoir, reveals the woman inside one of autism’s most prominent figures, Jennifer O'Toole. At the age of thirty-five, Jennifer was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, and for the first time in her life, things made sense. Now, Jennifer exposes the constant struggle between carefully crafted persona and authentic existence, editing the autism script with wit, candor, passion, and power. Her journey is one of reverse-self-discovery not only as an Aspie but—more importantly—as a thoroughly modern woman.

Beyond being a memoir, Autism in Heels is a love letter to all women. It’s a conversation starter. A game changer. And a firsthand account of what it is to walk in Jennifer's shoes (especially those iconic red stilettos).

Whether it's bad perms or body image, sexuality or self-esteem, Jennifer's is as much a human journey as one on the spectrum. Because autism "looks a bit different in pink," most girls and women who fit the profile are not identified, facing years of avoidable anxiety, eating disorders, volatile relationships, self-harm, and stunted independence. Jennifer has been there, too. Autism in Heels takes that message to the mainstream.

From her own struggles and self-discovery, she has built an empire of empowerment, inspiring women the world over to realize they aren't mistakes. They are misunderstood miracles.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781510732841
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 12/04/2018
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 197,085
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Jennifer O’Toole is the author of ASA's 2014 Outstanding Literary Work and bestselling Asperkids series. One of Tony Attwood's "Top Aspie Mentors" and winner of the Temple Grandin Award for Global Contributions, Jennifer has advised the President's Council on Disabilities and keynotes internationally. She was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2010.

Table of Contents

Foreword Navah Paskowitz-Asner xi

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xvi

Introduction: Thirty-Four Years xviii

Chapter 1 Backwards in Heels: My Story in Reverse 1

Background Check 1

The Missing Link: Family Connections 3

Cracking the Diagnostic Code 4

What Ifs 13

Bell(e) Curve 14

Chapter 2 Camouflage: Hiding in Plain Sight 18

A World You Don't See: Synesthesia 19

Sketch the Portraits: The Masks We Wear 22

Tell the Stories: Behind the Mask 28

See and Be Seen 31

Labelish, Much? 33

The Chick-List Checklist 40

Chapter 3 Life with the Volume Turned Up: Intense Minds, Intense … Everything 45

Splat! People 47

Championing the Human Spectrum: Intellectual Intensity 49

Song of Myself 52

The Name Game 54

The Wonder Bread Crisis 56

The Unexpected Redhead 59

Context Clues 62

Make-A-Wish 63

A Million Shards of Sand: Sensorial Intensity 68

Just Go Play! 71

Chapter 4 Executive, Functioning: Girls Can Be Professors, Too 74

Fault Lines (Through No Fault of Our Own) 76

Invisible on the Monopoly Board 78

I Can't Believe I'm About to Teach Brain Science in Public 83

Santa: Executive, Functioning 85

Brain Transplant 86

Executive Functions 87

Organization Function Skills 88

Regulation Function Skills 90

Trains and Fireflies 93

Functional Cruise Directors 95

Pivot Point 97

Chapter 5 Mythbusters: Open Heart Emotion 100

Can You Feel Me Now? 103

How Do I Look? 104

Alexa, Tell Me How I Feel 107

Poison, Dipped in Sugar 108

Cognitive Empathy, Theory of Mind, and Mary Poppins 111

Affective/Emotional Empathy: What Happens Once We Know 121

Ouch: Your Hurt Hurts Me 123

Why Not You-Or Me? 127

My Father's Daughter 129

Chapter 6 The Land of Anywhere But Here: Predators and Fandom Families 131

The Theory of My Mind 134

Little Blue Men in the Hands of Predators 137

Catching the Rain 146

Unlikely Heroes 148

Long Ago and Far Away 150

Chapter 7 The Statue of Venus: Friends, Rules, and Red High Heels 156

The Teachers' Lounge 156

That's What Friends Are For 162

Something Beautiful out of Something Broken 167

Bottoms Up 170

How to Be a Girl 171

Red High Heels 176

Chapter 8 So This Is Love: Autism by Gaslight 180

This. Wow. This. 180

Hands Off, Boys 182

An "Us" instead of a "Them" 185

A Cumulative Panic 187

The Poor Flower 189

A Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss 191

A Sisterly Aside 193

(A Little Rough Sometimes) 195

Finger Paint Bruises 198

The Piss Jar 201

Autism by Gaslight 203

For Good 208

Chapter 9 Hurts So Good: Our Epidemic of Self-Harm 212

The Woman I Almost Knew 212

Again and Again and Again 217

The Wandering Years 222

If Anyone Had Known 224

Salads and Spreadsheets 225

Kathryn's Birthday Present 230

Chapter 10 Semicolon: The Story of a Sisterhood 232

The Yank Meets the Princess 233

Thelma and Anne-Louise 235

Lola 239

Works Cited 245

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