Executive Director, Divergent Committee Co-Chair, Senior Editor
Sharon daVanport is the Founding Executive Director of Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN Network) ~ formerly known as Autism Women’s Network. Sharon is an educational speaker hosting workshops on topics including: health and wellness for women and nonbinary people with disabilities; violence against women and girls in vulnerable communities; and how to effectively use privilege when amplifying the voices and work of disabled people who experience racial and gender inequality.
Speaking invitations include the United Nations Headquarters: World Autism Awareness Day (Empowering Autistic Women & Girls); and The White House (Obama Administration), advising on topics regarding disability, healthcare, and autism. In their work as a Disability Rights Activist, Sharon also advises on numerous policy forums. Professional affiliations: Advisory Board Member at Felicity House, AWN Network Representative at Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), AWN Steering Committee Member at National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA), and a board member at Crushing Colonialism.
Honors include: Autistic Self Advocacy’s Self-Advocate of the Year Award for service to the self-advocacy movement; LSS Award for advocacy focusing on autistic women and girls; and Autism Society of America’s Outstanding Literary Award for editing, “What Every Autistic Girl Wishes her Parents Knew”. In Sharon’s spare time they enjoy traveling, research, reading, music, and spending time with family and close friends.
Morénike Giwa Onaiwu
Co-Executive Director, Autism & Race Committee Chair, Senior Editor
Morénike Giwa Onaiwu is a disabled woman of color, educator, writer, public speaker, parent, and global advocate. A proactive, resourceful individual in a multicultural, neurodiverse, serodifferent family, Morénike, who is American-born to immigrant parents and whose undergraduate and graduate degrees are in International Relations and Education, is passionate about human rights, justice, and inclusion.
She is involved in various social justice activism endeavors including HIV-related advocacy, disability rights, learning via technology, research, and gender and racial equity. A prolific writer, Morénike has written for and/or been featured in numerous blogs, abstracts, magazines, books, and other platforms, often drawing from her personal experiences as a late-diagnosed Autistic adult woman, a person of color, an Autistic parent of Autistic and non-Autistic children, and a survivor of intimate partner violence. In addition to writing, she is one of the editors (along with Lydia X.Z. Brown and E. Ashkenazy) of a groundbreaking anthology on autism and race as well as a co-coordinator of the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment.
Morénike has been an invited speaker in the White House, at the United Nations Headquarters, and a keynote speaker and/or presenter at numerous peer-reviewed advocacy, education, disability, and research conferences. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the “Advocating for Another: Health Activist of the Year” 2014 WEGO Health Award and the “Service to the Self-Advocacy Movement” 2015 Autistic Self Advocacy Network Award.
Her executive experience includes board membership of a number of national research, disability, advocacy, and family service organizations, chairperson of both a large HRSA-funded local planning body and an international NIH-funded community research network, and leadership roles within various entities in addition to her work with the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network’s Board of Directors and Chairing its Committee on Autism and Ethnicity.
Currently balancing her roles as a faculty member at a state college and as a doctoral student in an educational leadership program, Morénike considers herself a “lifelong learner” who is constantly growing and changing, hopefully for the better! She considers her wonderful children (biological and adopted and all of whom have various disabilities) to be her greatest accomplishment.
Associate Executive Director, Committee Chair for Divergent
I’m an Autistic woman who is working towards her doctoral degree in cultural anthropology. In general, my research is about communication practices that help us maintain our shared autistic identity, community, and culture. I live, work, and play in southern California.
Founder & Co-Director of the Autistic People of Color Fund, Board of Directors, Senior Editor
Lydia X. Z. Brown is a disability justice advocate, organizer, and writer whose work has largely focused on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people, especially institutionalization, incarceration, and policing. They have worked to advance transformative change through organizing in the streets, writing legislation, conducting anti-ableism workshops, testifying at regulatory and policy hearings, and disrupting institutional complacency everywhere from the academy to state agencies and the nonprofit-industrial complex. Currently, Lydia is a Justice Catalyst Fellow at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, working on defending and advancing the educational civil rights of Maryland students with psychosocial, intellectual, and developmental disabilities facing various forms of disproportionate discipline, restraint and seclusion, and school pushout.
In collaboration with E. Ashkenazy and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, Lydia is also co-editor and visionary behind All the Weight of Our Dreams, the first-ever anthology of writings and artwork by autistic people of color and otherwise negatively racialized autistic people, published by the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. Lydia is the Founder, and also co-directs with Morénike, the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment, which provides direct support, mutual aid, and community reparations to individual autistic people of color. Lydia is also a founding board member of the Alliance for Citizen-Directed Services.
Lydia recently completed a term as Chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, serving in that role from 2015 to 2017 as the youngest appointee nationally to chair any state developmental disabilities council. They also designed and taught a course on critical disability theory, public policy, and intersectional social movements as a Visiting Lecturer at Tufts University’s Experimental College. Previously, Lydia served as TASH New England’s co-president and its stakeholder representative to the Massachusetts One Care Implementation Council overseeing health care for people who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. They were formerly staff at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network for several years, working on programs and policy matters. They have also been a Holley Law Fellow at the National LGBTQ Task Force, and a Patricia Morrissey Disability Policy Fellow at the Institute for Educational Leadership.
Lydia has been honored by the White House, Washington Peace Center, National Council on Independent Living, Disability Policy Consortium of Massachusetts, National Association for Law Placement/Public Service Jobs Directory, Society for Disability Studies, and American Association of People with Disabilities. In 2015, Pacific Standard named Lydia a Top 30 Thinker under 30, and Mic named Lydia to its inaugural list of 50 impactful leaders, cultural influencers, and breakthrough innovators. Their work has been featured in scholarly publications including Disability Studies Quarterly; Addressing Ableism: Philosophical Questions via Disability Studies; Religion, Disability, and Interpersonal Violence; Barriers & Belonging: Personal Narratives of Disability; Feminist Perspectives on Orange is the New Black; Torture in Healthcare Settings; and Films for the Feminist Classroom; and community publications including The Asian American Literary Review; All In Your Head Zine: To The Bone; QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology; Criptiques; Disability Intersections; Black Girl Dangerous; hardboiled magazine; POOR Magazine; and NOS Magazine.
Lydia recently graduated from Northeastern University School of Law as a Public Interest Law Scholar. While at Northeastern, they served as an active member of the Committee Against Institutional Racism (representing the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association), the Transgender Justice Task Force, and the Faculty Appointments Committee, and are a founding core collective member of the Disability Justice Caucus. Earlier, while at Georgetown University, Lydia co-founded the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective for intersectional disability justice organizing, led multiple campaigns to reform university policies on disability access that led to creation of a dedicated pool of funding for sign language interpretation and real-time captioning as well as an access coordinator position responsible for public and non-academic programming, single-handedly founded and coordinated the first Lecture and Performance Series on Disability Justice, served two terms as Undersecretary for Disability Affairs with the Georgetown University Students Association, spurred the university to convene a Disability Justice Working Group, provided training to numerous student groups and university departments and offices, and served on the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities’ consumer advisory council.
They have served on advisory boards to a number of research projects, including the National Center for Cultural Competence’s Embedding Cultural Diversity and Cultural and Linguistic Competence: A Guide for UCEDD Curricula and Training Activities Project; a postdoctoral Advanced Rehabilitation and Research Training Program on Health and Functioning of People with Disabilities hosted at Brandeis University’s Lurie Institute for Disability Policy within the Heller School for Social Policy and Management; and Drexel University’s Ethical Autism Research Cultures and Community Engagement project. They have also served as peer reviewer for Journal of Homosexuality, Autism in Adulthood, and Disability Studies Quarterly.
Director of Web Development, Board of Directors, Founding Board Member
I am Lori. I am from New York and currently live in Baltimore, MD (US) with Karen, my wife and partner of 19 years, and our 2 cats Nikkyo and Buster.
I learned that I was autistic in 2005 after a lifetime of misdiagnoses. Since then, I have gone from thinking there was no one else like me in the world to finding a huge community of people who have had nearly identical life experiences as me. I have also been on a mission to help autistic people find each other on the internet.
I am a freelance web developer and build and maintain websites for AWN, for my clients, and for other autistic and non-profit organizations. I feel very lucky to be a part of the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network and hope that someday I will be able to do this type of work for the autism community full time.
Secretary, Treasurer, Board of Directors
My name is Mara Fritts and I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome in 2008. I have been married for fourteen years to my husband who was also diagnosed with AS in 2008. We have four children, three of which are currently on the autism spectrum.
I am currently a Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM) and homeschooling all of my children. I’d like to someday return to college for my degree in Anthropology. However with homeschooling I think I would be much better suited with a teaching degree at this point.
Before I became a SAHM I worked in Customer Service for 15 years with various insurance companies where I was involved with providing service for agents and customers in Life Insurance and Annuities where I gained extensive experience in finance.
I have been on staff at four Science Fiction Conventions, and I am in charge of registration travel arrangements with my husband’s business, as well as having been in charge of the Hospitality Suite.
I enjoy a good challenge and also love working with people. Being diagnosed with Aspergers has taught me many things. One of them is to accept people for who they are and look for the “why” in all situations. It has helped me to help my children reach their potential and teach them how to get around what some consider a disability. In our home we recognize it as a different way of thinking.
Vice President, Board of Directors, Founding Board Member
Corina Becker is from Kingston, Ontario, Canada. As a child, she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and Learning Disabilities, and then with Asperger Syndrome in her late teens. She graduated from high school as an Ontario Scholar in 2003 and was accepted into the English Honors program at Wilfrid Laurier University. While at school, she lives both in dorm and off-campus student housing, and fulfilled duties as Media Coordinator for an on-campus club. She graduated in Fall 2008 with a Bachelor’s of Art in English and is now taking Distance Education courses in the Library and Information Technician Program at Mohawk College.
In 2005 and 2006, Corina worked at Kerry’s Place Autism Services as part of the Community Education and Awareness Team, organizing the Spectrum Art Show. Now, she is the Autism Women’s Network Forum Moderator, and runs her own blog No Stereotypes Here as well as giving autism awareness presentations with Kerry’s Place. In between moderating, blogging and schoolwork, Corina writes two novels, one comic, writes and draws two webcomics (Lord of the Shepherd and Amhelaki Misadventures), paints, knits, plays flute, tries to read/watch as much manga/anime as possible, and occasionally plays a little DnD.
Advisory Committee, Senior Editor, Project Manager
Elesia Ashkenazy lives in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about Disability Rights and self-advocacy, and seeks to promote widespread understanding of the needs and rights of autistic individuals, especially females. She is also a parent of a son on the spectrum.
Elesia is the Community Council Chair and Research Assistant for Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE). She is also a member of the Community Advisory Board for the Partnering with People with Developmental Disabilities to Address Violence Project via the University of Montana Rural Institute.
Elesia worked as the Chapter & Outreach Coordinator for Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) for several years and is also a former Board member. In addition, she has served as a member of the Screening Identification and Assessment Subcommittee for the Oregon Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Outside of her advocacy and public speaking work, Elesia aspires to be a published author of Young Adult fiction. She is also a classically trained ballet dancer who continues to take class several times a week and performs whenever the opportunity arises. Elesia is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and is also a cochlear implant recipient. Be sure to check out her blog, Aspitude.
Community Outreach Coordinator
Lei Wiley-Mydske is an Autistic activist, wife and home schooling mom. After being misdiagnosed for many years, Lei was diagnosed as Autistic when she was in her thirties.
Lei is the co-founder of a special education advisory committee in her school district, where she focuses on finding ways to promote authentic inclusion, making schools and events more accessible for students of all abilities, and implementing disability history into the curriculum.
Lei is also the director and founder of the Ed Wiley Autism Acceptance Lending Library, which serves the communities of Stanwood & Camano Island, WA by lending books and materials that promote the ideas of autism acceptance, social justice, disability rights and neurodiversity. She is an administrator on the popular Facebook page “Parenting Autistic Children With Love & Acceptance“.
In her spare time, Lei enjoys reading, painting, cooking, hiking, science fiction, comic books, and just spending time with her allistic husband and amazing Autistic son.
Emily Paige Ballou
Senior Editor, Publications Committee, Online Content Moderator
Emily Paige Ballou grew up near Kansas City, Missouri and attended the University of Georgia, earning dual degrees in drama and biology. She currently lives in New York City where she works professionally as a stage manager. She has had writing published at: Stick Your Neck Out, NeuroQueer, and Barking Sycamores; and co-moderates the blog We Are Like Your Child.
Diagnosed with Asperger’s in her 20’s, she identifies as queer and autistic. In her marginal free time, she enjoys reading, writing, coffee shop lurking, Doctor Who, and walks in Riverside Park.
I am an Autistic activist. I also have epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
I write poetry – I published three small books – and articles on autism, disabilities, being autistic and advocacy.
I type to communicate. I began typing when I was eight years old, but for many years I did not type much because of seizures that made me very tired all the time, and because of lack of support. Today I cannot imagine being silenced again.
In 2012 I was a presenter at the Conference “Reclaiming our Bodies and Minds” at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Also in 2012 I began serving on the board of directors at Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST).
I hope to be a good advocate for my community and a friend to parents and allies.
I blog for Ollibean (Ollibean.com)
Court (Alison) Falk
Content Creator, Moderator, Writer
Court (Alison) Falk is a chronically ill, autistic, multiply neurodivergent disability activist. They are a parent to three amazing autistic children. Court was the editor of the literary magazine in high school and college and really enjoys writing. They are a lifelong learner who left a creative writing major in college to work full time as a nanny. Court currently lives with their family in the D.C. area. They have been involved in online advocacy and disability activism since 2012.
Court is a contributing writer for Respectfully Connected, their own new blog NeuroDefiant, as well as spending years co-creating and moderating multiple ND respectful parenting groups. Court is a parent advocate who has a passion for communicating with parents of newly identified autistic children and sharing with them about the neurodiversity paradigm. Court has spent much of the past 5 years communicating with parents and sharing resources, promoting acceptance rather than the path of childhood robbing, intensive therapy autistic children are expected to take.
Court’s strongest interests include intersectional activism, transgender rights, peaceful parenting, radical unschooling, the neurodiversity movement and smashing ableism. They have a passion for disability advocacy, children’s rights, body autonomy, and support for under-supported Autistic girls and adults. Court dreams of taking down the ABA machine and helping ensure Autistic children have the respectful, free lives they deserve.
Court’s free time is spent info dumping about any of the above passions, watching Star Wars and Marvel shows/movies, researching current interests, and sleeping, Court is currently building a Neurodiversity lending library and really excited about fulfilling a 5 year dream of volunteering for AWN as well as Divergent.
Erin Human is an autistic woman and married mother of two children. She grew up in New England and attended Rhode Island School of Design before graduating with a BA in Art and Writing from Marlboro College in Vermont. She and her spouse moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 2006.
Erin writes a personal blog called The E is for Erin where she writes about being autistic, parenting, unschooling, and other topics of interest. She also works from home as a cartoonist and shares her cartooning work on Human Illustrations. Her passions include reading, writing, drawing, social media, alternative education, and the neurodiversity movement.
Reese Piper is a New York based writer and performer who travels often for work and fun. Her work has appeared in the Establishment, Upworthy, Ravishly, and BUST. She discovered she was autistic when she was 25 and it’s changed her world for the better. She’s now working on a book about learning to embrace her messy and unorganized self.
Hannah attends North Carolina State University, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with a minor in Psychology. She is currently a senior set to graduate in May 2019. When she is not programming or volunteering, Hannah enjoys reading, knitting, and playing video games.
C.L. is an autistic person who enjoys art, games, and aquatic animals.
Social Media Content Moderator
Kit Mead is an Autistic disability activist based out of Atlanta, GA, where they run the Atlanta Chapter for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and graduated from Agnes Scott College in May ’15 with a B.A. in History.
Kit hopes to do disability advocacy as a career and isn’t sure where that will take them, though hopes to work to bring self advocacy and activism to the forefront of Southern U.S. advocacy; to this effect, Kit enjoys grassroots organizing, social media, and communications and publications aspects especially.
They identify as AFAB and nonbinary. They also attempt to bring multiple intersections into their work, and strive to be inclusive of all identities, especially the marginalized. Kit blogs at: PAGINATION IMAGINATION.
Nadine Silber is an Autistic Jewish woman and considers both to be important parts of her identity. She holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and practiced as a child advocate and as a public defender. She has retired from her legal career and is now a full-time writer and educator. She lives with her husband and two children in the Philadelphia area.
I am many things, including a mother to three boys, a wife, a writer, a stay-at-home mom, part of a neurodiverse household, and an autistic woman. I also like rodents a lot. I do much of my online writing as Stimey.
My three kids are wonderful, unique individuals, one with an ADHD diagnosis, one with a PDD-NOS diagnosis, and one whom we are currently calling quirky, but who might be formally inducted into the land of the diagnosed before too long. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 38, after having identified as an autism parent for many years. I have, of course, been autistic since I was born.
As mentioned, one of my special interests is rodents, especially gerbils and mice, because, c’mon, they’re awesome. I am also a fan of zombie entertainment and post-apocalyptic fiction—and was before it was cool, thank you very much. I intend to enjoy it long after it has lost its caché as well. I don’t like saying that I love zombies though, because who really loves zombies themselves? I also like funny things. If you make me laugh and you’re kind, I’m yours forever.
I write a personal blog at www.Stimeyland.com and run an autism events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at www.AutMont.com. I am @Stimey on Twitter and have a Stimeyland Facebook page. I am thrilled to be a contributor to Autism Women’s Network.
Social Media Content Moderator
Kate is passionate about supporting and campaigning for Autistic people’s rights.
Kate is also a parent of two Autistic children, married to an autistic man and is also autistic herself, Kate was not diagnosed at 40 years old. Kate found her younger self in her children, suddenly Kate’s life all made sense. The feeling of being and experiencing the world, so different to other people, now that all clicked into place why! Kate felt like she was finally home, now understanding that she is autistic and that’s ok!
Kate writes a blog and manages multiple social media platforms including Girls Autistic Journey-Nonbinary Acceptance which is a Facebook based page, sharing information relating to Autism and living an authentic autistic lifestyle; so, it’s not about changing the way autistic people are, instead it’s about enabling autistic people to be the best they can be. Through developing person-centered support strategies.
Skills & Abilities
- NCFE Level 2 Certificate in understanding Autism
- NCFE Level 2 Certificate in understanding working with people with Mental Health Needs
- AQA Understanding Counseling Level 1
- AQA Counseling Skills Level 2
- Talked for my local Specialist Autism Teaching team- Essex County Council
- I am currently studying Degree in Psychology and Counselling