Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum (Paperback)
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Autism in Heels, an intimate memoir and Wall Street Journal bestseller, 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.
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.
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 sits on the professional panel of the Autism Society of America and is a go-to contributor to the girl power site Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. She was diagnosed with autism in 2011. She has three children on the spectrum and resides in North Carolina.
Navah Paskowitz-Asner has been working with special needs families since her youngest son was diagnosed in 2012. She is a cofounder of the Ed Asner Family Center as well as a life coach and the creator of the Balance family conferences. Navah is a devoted wife and the mother of six kids, including three boys with autism. She resides in southern California.
“I just got finished reading Jennifer O'Toole's book. It gave me great insight into a woman with autism who has aspects of her life that are [both] similar and totally different than me…Autism in Heels will help other women navigate a risky world.” —Temple Grandin, author, Thinking in Pictures
“I am blown away. Never has a book on autism captured the female perspective with so much accuracy, grit, and flair. The perspective of the girl who models herself after typical girls but never quite fits in, and feels fraudulent, is a common but never before clearly articulated phenomenon for women with autism. Jennifer’s stories will resonate with women on the spectrum and women everywhere trying to find their identities and find their way navigating their life journeys. I literally could not put this book down and would recommend it to all women, those on and off the spectrum, and the men who want to better understand them. —Wendy Ross, MD, CNN Hero, Autism Society of America Person of the Year, founder of Autism Inclusion Resources
“Witty, frank, and full of insight, Jennifer O’Toole’s Autism in Heels is a major addition to a growing body of literature on the distinctive experience of women on the autism spectrum, long overlooked by researchers and clinicians. After helping to pioneer the genre with her groundbreaking Sisterhood of the Spectrum, O’Toole takes us deep into her often harrowing process of becoming self-aware in a world built for non-autistics, guiding us through her search for meaning and identity in a voice that is disarmingly candid, appealingly warm, and often hilariously funny. O’Toole is a natural storyteller. Autism in Heels is a great book.” —Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction
“I have always considered Jennifer an Aspie mentor in terms of her insights and wisdom on life as experienced by a woman who has autism. She is a natural talent who, in Autism in Heels, has indeed written a love letter to all women. Her memoir will change our perception of autism and how those with autism will perceive themselves.” —Tony Attwood, PhD, bestselling author, international speaker
“Funny, moving, compelling, deep . . . Autism in Heels is an absolute must-read not only for women on the spectrum, or people who love them, but anyone who likes a good conversation with an utterly brilliant mind.”“ —Maia Szavalitz, bestselling author and award-winning journalist covering neuroscience and addiction for Time, Scientific American, and more
“Jennifer O’Toole allows us to witness the workings of her beautiful, brilliant mind, to share in her vulnerability, and to be thoroughly entertained by her storytelling. Through both her content and style we get a glimpse of the intense empathy and passion that is so often misunderstood about autism, and in particular, about the unique experience of women on the spectrum. Ultimately this is a book for everyone. —Jed Baker, PhD, bestselling author, international speaker
“Autism in Heels is a compelling must-read that proves autism doesn’t have a set appearance. Witty and full of real-life experience, readers will love O’Toole’s writing. She inspires hope, individuality, and certainty for those of us on the spectrum that we are not limited by our uniqueness. We really can do anything we set our minds to.” —Rachel Barcellona, autism self-advocate, Miss Southeast International, Unicorn Children’s Foundation Ambassador
“Autism in Heels hit me to the core. Exposing the pain of perfectionism, anorexia, bullying, abuse, and loneliness, Jennifer outlines the sheer need for this memoir in exposing the vulnerability that many girls face from being gifted, talented, and on the autism spectrum. This is an incredible, necessary book that will change lives for the better.” —Barb Cook, editor and author of Spectrum Women, founder and editor in chief at Spectrum Women Magazine
“Told like no other, this book leaves all of us, autistic or not, better human beings for having known Jennifer O’Toole.” —Sharon Lee Cummings, copublisher/editor at large of Zoom Autism Magazine, Autism Society of Virginia board member
“I was immediately captivated by Jennifer’s intimate story telling. Autism in Heels is a story of honesty and empowerment, and is a must read for women with and without autism.” —Michelle Dean, assistant professor of special education at California State University, Channel Islands, technical consultant for the Netflix/Sony show Atypical
“Autism in Heels is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of an autistic woman. It’s a must-read for anyone without autism to learn a new side of tolerance and inclusion. And for my fellow autistic women, you’ll hopefully find parts of her life that parallel your own, as I did, and know you are not alone.” —Carly Fulgham, Autism Society of California board member, Art of Autism board member
“Honest, raw, intimate. Jennifer O’Toole’s description of the female autistic life experience will resonate with many generatons of autistic women to come. —Christa Holmans, autistic author and advocate, Neurodivergent Rebel Blog
“Jennifer O’Toole spares nothing of her experiences and methodically dissects the internal and external realities of what it’s really like to be an Aspie female. I urgently recommend this book to clinicians, parents, self-identified, self-curious humans. Reading it will increase your knowledge, your sensitivity, your worldview, and your love.” —Carol Moog, PhD., clinical psychologist and co-author of The Autism Playbook for Teens”
“An essential read that I cannot wait to share. Writing with a radiating kind of aliveness and breathless honesty, O’Toole tackles all the tough issues—trauma, eating disorders, self-harm, depression, self-doubt—alongside the grace, hope, and joy of a life lived full of meaning and self-discovery.” —Shana Nichols, PhD, clinical psychologist specializing in female ASD, lead author of Girls Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum
“Thanks to Jennifer O’Toole, we have established a sturdy, hard-won narrative tradition that has the power to change hearts and minds.” —Valerie Paradiz, PhD., Autism Speaks board member; Director, National Autism Leadership Institute
“Jennifer O’Toole systematically examines issues faced by this group and illustrates with examples from her own journey. . . . Although Jennifer accentuates the positives, she does not sugarcoat vulnerabilities, dangers, and despair that women on the spectrum are likely to face. Her powerfully punching wit and insight are of a beauty and efficacy that only a spectrum mind could imagine.” —Lars Perner, PhD, Autism Society of America executive board member
“This slice of life on the spectrum illustrates just how diverse our lives can be, and how different our inner realities may be from what observers assume.” —John Elder Robison, bestselling author, advisor to the US Department of Health and Human Services, World Health Organization Autism Advisor, Institute for Autism Research co-chair
“Brave, warm, and fiercely honest, Jennifer has broken the autism mold open with her riveting story. From anxiety and eating disorders to relationships and self-doubt, Autism in Heels will provide invaluable relief for girls and women around the world who have too-long struggled to fit in. A jewel of a book!” —Susan Stifleman, PhD., bestselling author, Huffington Post columnist, Today Show contributor
“In this chipper memoir–cum–inspirational guide . . . O’Toole’s compassion and enthusiasm are infectious.” —Publisher’s Weekly