PHILADELPHIA - In 2021, the month of April went from being Autism Awareness Month to Autism Acceptance Month in an effort to make society more accepting of differences and one local woman is focused on doing just that.
More women are being diagnosed with autism as adults, including Sarah Nannery, the Director of Development for Autism Programming at Drexel University.
She was diagnosed at the age of 31 when she was already a college graduate, married and a mother.
"I went all through childhood just sort of being on the sidelines. I had a wonderful childhood, but there were just some differences that I never could really get a handle on," she told FOX 29.
After she and her husband realized she needed more help and support in executive functioning and being the person she wanted to be, she took the steps to get a diagnosis despite fear.
Nannery says she was scared of an autism diagnosis because of society's view of the condition and the possible changes it potentially could have brought to her life and marriage, but she says it helped her.
"The diagnosis helped me to know more about myself and know more about what tools I could use to be a better me," she said. "It was like the sky opened up really."
Growing up, Nannery says she was hiding many of her autistic traits and finding ways to mimic societal norms.
She was forced to unlearn those behaviors to move forward with her diagnosis.
According to Elisabeth Sheridan, the Director of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, research historically focused on autism in young boys.
Sheridan says autism is a developmental condition but with young girls, the idea of masking and fitting into societal expectations is something researchers are learning more about.
Nannery wrote a book about her experiences with her diagnosis titled What to Say Next to help people on the Autism spectrum navigate work, life and love.
She hopes people will stop viewing the autism spectrum as a line and more like an infinity loop because it impacts everyone differently.
"They say if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism. You really have to understand it's a very wide spectrum," she said. "People are not on one end or the other. They just have whatever traits they have that come out to make the whole."
Now, Nannery takes pride in her diagnosis despite the struggles she endures. She's focused on acknowledging the strengths that come with her condition.
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