AWN March Newsletter

Happy Women’s History Month! This March, AWN is proud to celebrate the many amazing autistic women and girls in our global community. We salute elders such as longtime cross-disability activist Anita Cameron; young adults such as Kayla “Being Me” Smith, founder of #BlackAutisticPride; and youth such as Paris and Riley Nelson, daughters of Natasha “Supernova Momma.”

Reproductive and sexual health is a vital yet under-addressed issue that affects autistic women and girls in unique ways, and I am proud to be part of AWN’s work as a leader in reproductive justice. Recently, I co-authored an article reviewing the barriers autistics face when accessing reproductive healthcare in pediatric and OB-GYN settings and how to improve our access to care. I also served as an Advisory Board member of the Carrie Buck Distinguished Fellowship, which supports disabled activists who are battling systemic ableism in reproductive health policy.

AWN recently represented the autistic community alongside our partner organization the Autistic People of Color Fund at the inaugural Spring 2024 Women Enabled International US Gender and Disability Justice Alliance (“The Alliance”) convening in Washington, DC. Both of our organizations are founding members of The Alliance, and provide ongoing policy leadership. It was a joyful occasion to be surrounded by AWN staff, consultants, board members, and fellows past and present including Sharon daVanport, Lydia XZ Brown, Elio McCabe, Nina Stroller, and Kayla Rodriguez (who was the closing event speaker), along with other disabled leaders including Finn Gardiner and Oluwatobi Odugunwan of the Autistic People of Color Fund. 

Lydia XZ Brown, Sharon daVanport, Kayla Rodriguez, and other participants at US Gender and Disability Justice Alliance convening gathered in conference room and in a Zoom meeting. Everyone is wearing masks.

The first day of the two-day hybrid (in-person and virtual) convening of The Alliance consisted of training on disability health policy, storytelling project activities, and brainstorming followed by scheduled visits with legislators on Capitol Hill. Important topics addressed included access to sexual, reproductive, and gender-affirming healthcare, access to home and community-based services, and employment. The second day featured an AWN luncheon, a tour of the Capital, and a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture! I was proud to be part of such a historic moment for our community.

I hope you’ll join me in congratulating our former Policy Fellow Lauren Proby, who has been named by the Truman Foundation as one of the 2024 Finalists (from a pool of over 700 applicants) in consideration for a Truman Scholarship! To be considered, candidates must demonstrate leadership skills, commitment to public service, and academic excellence. Lauren was chosen as a finalist based on her intersectional disability policy work during her time with AWN. We wish her luck in the next round!

AWN is mourning the tragic death of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary genderfluid Choctaw student from Owasso, Oklahoma. As their supportive mother Sue Benedict wrote in their memory “Nex had a light in them that was so big, they had so many dreams.” AWN issued a statement celebrating their life and condemning the violent acts that took their life, including Oklahoma’s Senate Bill 615 and all anti-trans legislation. This legislation must be recognized for what it actually is: purposely harmful and deadly. We are also outraged at the police killing of Black autistic teenager Ryan Gainer. Ryan’s death demonstrates the ways in which police violence and anti-Blackness disproportionately affect disabled people. As AWN fights for transgender justice, we also fight for abolition and racial justice.

Quote from Sincerely Your Autistic Child "There so much that autistic women and girls can give to each other, including love, laughter, joy, kind smiles, critical thought, understanding, and true safety. -Jean Winegardner. Order Your Copy Today

March 30th is the three-year anniversary of the publication of AWN’s edited collection Sincerely, Your Autistic Child: What People on the Autism Spectrum Wish Their Parents Knew About Growing Up, Acceptance, and Identity with Beacon Press. We are grateful that the book is currently in over 800 libraries around the world and continues to amass sales! AWN has committed 50% of all proceeds from sales of the book to support the autistic community since its publication in 2021. You can buy a copy of the book or borrow it from a library by clicking one of these two buttons: 

AWN also recently collaborated with the US Governmental Accountability Office  (GAO) to help develop a critical 2024 GAO report entitled “Assessment of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Role in Supporting Coordination of Federal Autism Activities Compared with Leading Practices for Interagency Coordination.” As AWN has regularly attended Interagency Autism Coordination Committee (IACC) quarterly meetings since its inception, emphasizing the many disparities and unmet needs autistic people face and encouraging our community to submit public comments, we welcomed this opportunity to collaborate further. The report describes the IACC’s considerable progress in establishing, enhancing, and sustaining collaborative efforts. An Easy Read version of the report can be accessed here

Autism Acceptance Month, April 2024, is just around the corner, and all of us at AWN are busy preparing!

I hope you’ll consider making a donation today in honor of this special time of year to support our ongoing efforts for autism acceptance.

Thank you for (metaphorically) marching alongside us this month and every month!


Morénike Giwa Onaiwu
Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
Equity, Justice, & Representation Chair

Morénike Giwa Onaiwu smiling Black autistic woman with long black hair wearing a black cardigan