Here Are Resources to Learn About Autism From, According to an Autistic Person
I’ve been in the field of autism for nearly half of my life now. I began autism advocacy work when I was invited to speak on a panel at the Autism Society of America conference back in 2008, when I was nearing my 13th birthday (for reference: I’m 27 as of the last update to this). Since then, I graduated college and law school, wrote several books on autism, contributed to and illustrated the cover of an original anthology, and my byline appeared in publications big and small about my experiences and the autistic community. I also have been and currently am a board member at numerous nonprofits.
Resources are the most common requests I get via email, on social media, and after an in-person speaking event. Autistic people, parents, and educators often ask me to connect them to places in their community, or which autistic writers to read, or where to donate money.
While I have opinions on what resources to showcase, I do my best to provide resources I’ve found helpful, accessible, or break down information in ways that make sense no matter your relationship to autism or level of understanding. I also find it important to share a collection of voices — parents, professionals, autistic people, and content creators, or those who exist at the intersection of multiple identities.
Note: A lot of this is geared towards neurotypicals. For my fellow autistic readers, I will likely compile some self-acceptance, self-care, and “by us for us” type resources at a later date. Most requests are from parents and educators, and we all know how crucial informed family members and allies are.
Often I am asked about different topics in the autistic community, so here are some resources for you. I mostly tried to pick online resources because money is often a concern for many parents, families, and autistic people, and good information should be freely available to whoever needs it.
I will write a separate post someday of autistic authors and writers you should be following or reading, along with what I consider their most insightful or best works because I’m afraid this post will end up being longer than intended. But definitely check out the authors I mention or whose work I cite! They’re seriously amazing humans.
- Straight from the source, here’s how Judy Singer views neurodiversity.
- Many people also love Steve Silberman’s NYT-bestselling Neurotribes. It’s the leading book on neurodiversity and autism’s history.
- In the beginner’s vein, John Elder Robison’s What is Neurodiversity article is also a good introduction to the concept of neurodiversity.
- Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement (edited by Steven Kapp) is a free, open-access anthology with all autistic contributors on different frontline neurodiversity issues.
- I also really like NOSMag if you want to explore neurodiversity culture. While NOSMag is no longer publishing, it’s one of the most diverse resources I’ve seen, and was way ahead of its time. It explores politics, policy, news, culture, and so much more.
- NeuroClastic has a lot of interesting think-pieces written by autistic contributors, and they do a fantastic job highlighting the work of non-speakers and multiply-marginalized autistics.
- I would also be remiss not to mention The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. Their Neurodiversity FAQ is very helpful for people with additional questions and myth-busting.
Language and Functioning Labels
Language is a dynamic conversation, and is always evolving on a societal level, and evolves on the individual level too .Admittedly until I knew better, I described myself as “high-functioning,” because that’s what I learned as part of my official diagnosis. But there’s many reasons that using functioning labels can be harmful. I also alternated how I described myself until I felt more comfortable calling myself ‘autistic’ (see: identity-first vs. person-first language) and in here, we’ll also touch on euphemisms for disability.
- Decoding the High-Functioning Label by Cynthia Kim explains the fluidity of functioning.
- ‘Autistic Person’ or ‘Person with Autism’: Is There a Right Way to Identify People explains the debate over language and the context behind it.
- The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network also has a guide on why it uses identity-first language.
- Rebecca Cokley also wrote Why Special Needs Is Not Helpful, which explains why the term is outdated. (Note: I have never referred to myself as ‘special needs.’).
- Lydia X.Z. Brown explains How Differently Abled Marginalizes Disabled People, and sums up the issues people have with language that dances around disability.
Understanding Disabled Bodies and Minds
The autistic mind and body is not like the neurotypical mind and body, so this is more disability-oriented than autism-oriented. I want some better executive functioning articles and perspectives to throw in here too (please reach out if you have ideas).
- Ellen Samuels’ Six Ways of Looking at Crip Time makes me think about how disabled minds and bodies adapt on different timetables than people without disabilities.
- The Spoon Theory is a classic for anyone who knows a person with a disability, because it explains why tasks can be hard. While the theory is written from the perspective of someone with lupus, it’s applicable to autism.
- Case in point: Cynthia Kim’s Conserving Spoons explains how autistic people utilize spoons.
I am not a parent to a child, let alone a pet or plant, so I’m probably ill-equipped to give consistent parenting advice. Despite that, here are some poignant essays about parenting autistic kids, written by parents (neurotypical and autistic) and non-parents alike.
Personally, I am always on the lookout for perspectives by autistic parents to both autistic and neurotypical children, so I’d love to share more resources if you have them.
- Sara Luterman’s Toxic parenting myths make life harder for people with autism. That must change. is a must-read Washington Post piece that busts the many myths surrounding marriage, divorce rates, and autism parenting.
- Shannon Des Roches Rosa’s essay in the Washington Post, How listening to autistic adults helped me understand and support my son is incredibly poignant and illustrates the importance of listening to and learning from diverse voices in the autism discourse.
- Jen Malia is an autistic mother to an autistic daughter. Her family’s story in the New York Times, My daughter and I were diagnosed with autism on the same day, is invaluable.
- I don’t really want to link my own work in here too much since I am not The Only Autistic Person Ever, and I am opinionated, but I did write an essay about how parents’ online oversharing can be problematic for autistic kids. Please be respectful of boundaries and do a good job balancing needing support with your child’s privacy.
I wrote a book about autism in college called A Freshman Survival Guide for College Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders, so it’s no wonder I get requests for different college resources. I also wrote about my time in college a little bit for HerCampus when I was a student and what I learned as an autistic college student for HuffPost.
While I can’t tell you what services or supports are available at every individual college or university, I highly recommend looking at what a college’s disability services offers and if there are any support groups, specialized counseling, or student-led organizations that help students with disabilities or autistic students in some way (I think social support is great).
- OAR’s Finding Your Way: A College Guide for Students on the Spectrum is a wonderful downloadable resource. I did get to contribute to it, but I promise, I’m not biased.
- ASAN also has Navigating College for those personal perspectives.
- There are a lot of parent books I’ve read on the subject of college too, and your mileage may vary. Again, I’m not a parent, so I didn’t get as much out of those books as you might if you are a parent.
Autism & Women
I get asked a lot about autistic women. I am an autistic woman, so that probably explains why. I’ll mention it later in the Organizations section, but the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN) is an excellent first place to start because it’s autistic-run, and has resources like a database on autistic women’s healthcare providers, for instance, as well as other affirming projects.
- AWN’s anthology Sincerely, Your Autistic Child, is a collection of stories, thoughts, and ideas from autistic women and non-binary people for parents. I wrote an essay during college for this, and I illustrated the cover, so naturally this collection has a special place in my heart.
- Spectrum Women Walking To The Beat of Autism is a must-read about the autistic women’s experience. I know most of the contributors, and their authenticity and strength shines through every page of this book. It’s also super empowering.
- This BBC piece, It all made sense when we found out we were autistic, showcases the later-in-life diagnoses of women.
- This feature from Spectrum explains masking and camouflaging, and why autistic women often go undiagnosed.
- If you want to watch a good portrayal on TV of autistic women, check out Freeform’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay.” The teenage autistic character is played by an autistic actress, which makes it infinitely cooler.
- Some other books I like: Drama Queen by Sara Gibbs, I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder by Sarah Kurchak.
Here are resources I simply enjoy, or haven’t quite put together a full category for.
- All Cats Are on the Autism Spectrum is probably one of my favorite books ever because it explains autism beautifully for people of all ages. Full disclosure: I got to be a fangirl and write the forward for it.
- Steve Asbell’s Stimmy Kitty comic illustrates simply what the autistic experience is like and I know I’ve nodded along to several of these.
- All The Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism taught me so much about the intersection of autism and race (and is also an AWN production). It’s one of those books that made me reexamine my experiences and privilege and work to become a better ally and advocate.
Social Media Conversations
- #AskingAutistics is a great way for allies and autistic people alike to engage with one another and ask questions; interacting with #AskingAutistics has made me feel connected and I know many parents and educators who have also learned a lot from it.
- #ActuallyAutistic is primarily used by people on the spectrum to discuss their own stories and experiences, but it’s a great tag to observe to learn more.
- #AllAutistics was created by black autistics to be inclusive of all people on the autism spectrum.
- #AutisticWhileBlack is a black autistic hashtag that wonderfully shares the realities of the intersection between race and autism.
- #SoyAutista is an autistic hashtag for Spanish speaking communities.
- #NeurodiverseSquad, began in the ADHD community, but it’s taught me a lot about executive functioning and also autistic people who have ADHD too.
- Every Sunday at 4PM ET, #Autchat is a chat that autistics utilize to get support, network, and talk about prescribed topics. It’s a great place to observe and learn.
- There are plenty of more general tags I really like for disability overall (i.e, #CripTheVote, a nonpartisan campaign to engage both voters and politicians in a productive discussion about disability issues). Don’t be afraid to check out #DisCo, #DisabilityTwitter, and for the chronic illness community, #NEISVoid
Organizations are probably the resources that matter most to people looking to get involved or participate in policymaking, volunteering, or understanding more about autism in their local communities or countries.
I recommend you spend some time exploring some of these organizations. They each serve unique and important roles in our community.
I’m often asked about charitable giving. While I do not like to make a singular endorsement, I highly recommend you ask yourself a few questions, such as if the organization has helped you/a loved one/friend/etc., who makes up the leadership, and if you support the work they do.
Also, check out Guidestar for more information on giving, or take a look at a nonprofit’s 990 forms to see where the money goes.
I live in Florida, so naturally I get asked for Florida autism resources more often than anything else. All of these organizations work with people on the autism spectrum or people with disabilities. These are orgs I have experience with and provide services, resources, guidance, advocacy, or other supports within local and statewide communities.
- Unicorn Children’s Foundation (full disclosure: I am the former Junior Board Chair)
- University of Miami-Nova Southeastern Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (full disclosure: I am on the constituency board) — the Florida statewide CARD system also has CARD affiliates at FAU, FSU, USF, UCF, UF.
- Dan Marino Foundation
- Autism Society of Florida
- Disability Rights Florida
- Florida Developmental Disabilities Council
National Organizations (U.S. based)
National organizations all have different goals — whether it’s policy, education, support, or whatnot. Please keep in mind direct services are likely much more localized. If I was compiling generalized disability resources, this list would be about fifty times longer filled with organizations doing important work, but I am sticking primarily within the autism sphere.
- The Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
- The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network
- Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered
- Different Brains (*full disclosure: I host a podcast with them and am a former board member)
- Felicity House
- The Arc
All states have a statewide developmental disability council. This is a great resource to learn about policy, education, and different happenings in your state. If you’re looking to get more involved, many DD Councils run a program called “Partners in Policymaking” to get people with disabilities and stakeholders to learn about disability policies.
Congress has also established the National Disability Rights Network and each jurisdiction has a Protection & Advocacy Network. Each state has a Disability Rights organization (for instance, Floridians like me have Disability Rights Florida).
Admittedly, I am US-based, but I know our friends across the globe can also use some support in their communities.