In the last 48 hours many of Y’s friends have been arrested for being part of an anti-war encampment at their college. I am shocked by the large number of college encampments across the US, but I knew this was coming because Y (who goes by they) has been discussing it for months.

We are Jewish, and like many Jewish families, our sense of activism is strong. But it wasn’t as easy for me to get my head around the pro-Palestinian rallies 0ver last six months.

My extended family has a wide range of views on the topic — there are Zionists on one end and  Y on the other. I am somewhere in the middle, which is to say I think the Israel-Hamas conflict has become horrifying and I have no idea how to fix it. This disappoints Y because the ethical discussion is so clear to them.

Before Y was born, Nino and I opened our home to a Palestinian kid who was 16 years old in NYC with nowhere to go.

His name was Tariq. It was just after 9/11 and Nino was working full time to help illegally detained people from the Middle East. Tariq’s dad was detained and Tariq had no relatives in the US.

Tariq’s dad was in the US raising money for Palestinians. I wasn’t sure what I thought about that cause, but I knew it was wrong to have the dad imprisoned for 9/11, and I knew Tariq needed a place to live until he could get back home.

Tariq had no life skills. He had spent his entire life fighting for his homeland. He learned everything about the fight from his dad, but no one taught Tariq how to make himself breakfast. We thought maybe it was that our food was unfamiliar, but actually, he had never used a stove.

He was on high alert at all times. Totally traumatized. We tried our best to support him, but we really had no idea how to cope with the level of trauma he had. Finally, someone took him back to his family in Gaza.

Periodically Nino would try to figure out where Tariq and his dad were. How they were doing. But it’s not like you can stalk them on Facebook.

Now, 25 years later, I still see no grand solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But I am sure there’s another generation of Palestinian kids never learning to cook or shop for food, because their childhood will be consumed by fighting and recovering from fighting and fearing the start of more fighting.

This is why I can support Y in their endeavors to stop the war in Gaza. Because we didn’t know if Tariq’s family was on the right or the wrong side but we knew he was a kid who needed help. And I see Y looking at the human destruction and I am not surprised by their reaction.

What did surprise me is that while Y protested their school’s financial support to Israel, Y’s Jewish identity grew.

Y’s school organizers have been careful all along to show that Jewish kids were organizing; that a person can love being Jewish and hate the war in Gaza. So when Passover came around, the kids had a seder in the encampment. Y had never gone to seder at school, so this is their first student-led seder. They said they’ve never been more proud to be Jewish. They were happy to know all the prayers and all the songs. They were happy that non-Jews participated as well. This is from the kid who announced God is not real during their bar mitzvah.

At the seder each kid had written the phone number of a lawyer on their arm in case they got arrested. But the intent was to be peaceful, so arrests were unlikely. That is, until a pro-Israel student shouted “kill the Jews” and then the state police arrested everyone because the protests had become anti-semetic. This speaks to tension on campus, for sure. But also it speaks to how savvy today’s kids are about protesting.

Anyway, the kids got out of jail fast enough to get back to campus the same day. They reorganized right away, including rotating shifts to study for finals. I love that what my kid is learning in college is how to protect free speech, how to stand up for what matters, and how to shape their own identity.

That night the group planned a Havdalah service at the encampment spot. I don’t know if Y has ever even done Havdalah. But now Y talks about it like it’s an essential part of the Jewish week: I’m kvelling.

Read more

Z went to a Duke recruiting weekend where accepted kids can get a feel for the university. He hung out with some kids who decided to go to Harvard and Stanford, and a bunch of kids who decided on Duke. What was similar about all of them? They talked openly about having autism.

At lunch one kid said to Z, “Do you know you have autism?”

And Z said, “Yeah. Do you?”

And then a bunch of the kids at the table said they had it. That’s all. Then everyone moved on to another topic.

Kids are so far ahead of parents in how they think about autism. So I’ve been trying to focus my own research on what makes autistic people so special. Why are they overrepresented among top colleges, top earners, artistic success stories? Read more

My son met a Ukrainian girl over the summer, and after telling me it was a summer fling because she barely speaks English, he started learning Russian and seeing her all the time. The relationship became a race – could she learn English before he learned Russian. Her school is in an enclave of all Russian and Ukrainian kids who escaped the war, so she is not learning English as fast as you’d expect.

Actively integrate various types of information.

She told him he should be in high school instead of homeschooling. I didn’t say to her, “The only reason he learned Russian in six months is because he doesn’t go to school.”

I agreed to be her “experiential learning mentor” and signed on a dotted line that she’s my intern. My son warned me not to interrupt and talk over her: “She’s not your coaching client!”

The internship became me listening to her stories. Her city was one of the first to be bombed by Russia and in one day all but one of her friends died. She was one of the only Ukrainians able to take a train to Poland: only women with children so someone gave her a child to hold.

Repeat back to the person what they say. In their words, not yours.

Of course I try to squash my penchant for confrontation and just listen. But we talk for hours and one day I point out that the she always says “I’m European.” But the only people in the world who say that are Ukrainian. Europeans identify themselves by their country.

The girlfriend says Ukrainians have “a different sense of their own country” because they define themselves only in terms of not Russia. She said the train was stuck for more than a day because the tracks were blown up, but almost no one talked because they didn’t want to speak Russian but most didn’t know Ukrainian.

While the person is talking do not rehearse what you’ll say next.

While she is studying for finals, my son signs up for extra sessions with the Russian tutor. The Russian tutor teaches my son the word borscht and says, “Do you know that word?”

My son says, “Yes! I’ve had borscht. It’s a Ukrainian beet soup.”

The tutor says, “No. It’s a Russian soup.”

My son laughs. I do not tell him to get a new tutor.

While the girlfriend does homework all weekend, my son finds a Russian book that teaches odd grammar by way of propaganda posters. The girlfriend tells him to get a regular grammar book. I do not say the book is genius.

Make time and space that is free of distractions.

I make tea and the girlfriend and I sit at the kitchen table.  She tells me that Poland did not want Ukrainians to stay unless they were willing to do the job Polish people cannot: talk to old people in nursing homes who only speak Russian. The girlfriend went to Latvia to go to school but the school would not let her speak Russian. She didn’t know Latvian so at the end of each lesson she’d ask a kid next to her to write down the homework. At home she used google to translate the Latvian to Russian so she could do the homework, then she’d translate her Russian back to Latvian and turn in the homework. She got straight A’s.

Convey interest and comprehension so they’ll continue sharing information.

My son cooks her meals to quell her anxiety that he is not learning enough as a homeschooler. She does her homework in bed and he finds things to do so he can be next to her. He finds He tells her boyfriend and girlfriend were not widely used until the 1990s. It’s hard to charm her with language: in her mind the five languages she speaks are souvenirs of war.

While she’s in school he shows me slopes of word usage to see how words are invented. We find that the word dad didn’t get real traction until millenniels.

I tell him girlfriend and boyfriend are probably the result of gen x not being parented. And dad is a result of parents spending more time with kids.

My son tells me we don’t have to turn everything into me giving a lesson.  Which brings us back to the girlfriend.

They break up before spring break. I tell myself it was a good experience for him to see how much time kids waste in school.

He tells me, “It was a good experience because I got to see you try hard to be a good listener.”





I thought the good friend test was who do I tell that I got a job at Harvard. But I ended up telling everyone. Then I thought maybe the good friend test was who can I reach out to when I’m having a total breakdown? But again, the answer is everyone, because no one solo person can actually deal with me calling them, repeatedly, so I have to just tell you all, here on my blog. Read more

In the 70s my family’s knowledge of plastic exceeded our knowledge of gerbils, so we bought two girl gerbils  and a plastic Habitrail cage because it didn’t look like a cage at all. The two girls made babies, and started eating them. We thought that meant the cage was too small, so we bought more Habitrail stuff. Read more

Vaginal rejuvination, feminism, dog whistle, dog whistle

The first time I heard about vaginal rejuvenation surgery was at a brunch when I was in my late 30s. I love brunch because it feels Jewish. After I typed this I googled it to make sure I wasn’t crazy. And it turns out that while there is no causation, there is correlation: the more Jews there are in location in the US, the more brunches there are. Read more

My Autism Workshop runs Dec. 3, 4, 5, 6 from 8-9pm Eastern. The cost is $150 now and $195 after Thanksgiving weekend. You should join.

People say to me, “Why does it matter if I have autism or not?” The answer is you can transform your life by using what we know about autism to your benefit.

Experience the intellectual jolt of an autistic group. We have a love/hate relationship with groups; We hate forced participation but we love watching and listening. When we learn about autism on our own, by reading, we engage in selective learning and we miss a lot. However in a group, we are great at seeing what other people need to learn, so we see better for ourselves as well.

Spend less energy trying to appear normal. My whole life I knew I was different and I kept trying to figure out how things work and why people do what they do. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs as a child studying the adults just like that girl from the Norman Rockwell painting. I memorized body language, workplace rules, dating rules, and diet rules, all the rules I could find. Now we have a word for this process: Camouflaging. It’s exhausting to camouflage, but scientists can tell us how to be the most successful at camouflaging using the least amount of energy.

Leverage your erratic behavior instead of being upset about it. A lot of my self-knowledge comes from close calls. Like, I get by at work by doing nothing for days and then I accomplish ten times more than anyone else in a single day. I deal with social situations by refusing to leave my apartment. Then if I must socialize I’ve saved up enough energy to be fascinating all evening long. But I have to not let anyone spend too much time with me or they’d see how difficult I am.

Find your true personality type by overlaying your autistic strengths. Autism shifts our personality type preferences and our strengths. When we understand these shifts we can gain a more clear picture of our true type and what we have to offer.

Here are other questions people ask me:

Will you record the sessions?
Yes. If you can’t join live, you can watch the recordings in your own time.

What if I don’t think I am autistic?
People who don’t think they are autistic will fit in great in this workshop, because every autistic person once thought they were not autistic. In fact, they spent most of their life not even knowing the word. You’ve read this far. You’re at least very autism-curious. Sign up now.

I kept this picture to remind myself that when I don’t want to get out of bed and I do anyway, I’m glad I did. The picture doesn’t inspire me, so I’m putting it here to remind us all that tricks for self-discipline that work for most people do not work for people with autism.

Luckily there are lots of ways we can make our lives easier, we just need to use different methods. Therefore: my 7-week workshop about autism! Each week, I’ll summarize research on the topic then we’ll discuss how to apply it in our own lives. In between meetings we’ll continue those discussions on a private forum, where I’ll be available to answer questions and share stories.

I know I’m getting serious about this because I have slides for each session, which I’ve never done in the past. I’m not saying that I’m going to be perfectly organized – I know my limits. But at least if you can’t make it to one of the sessions, you can watch it on video.

This is the plan for what we’ll cover:

Week 1

Autism testing is a Ponzi scheme.  Schools don’t teach how to test a woman for autism so test yourself instead of going to a self-described testing expert. Scientists have created tests for autistic women to test themselves in order to sidestep the red tape of testing experts. And once you see the sidestepping process, you’ll be an unstoppable resource for friends and family.

How to get test results that matter. The autism test is unactionable – that is, there’s nothing to do with the results. Schools don’t even accept autism as a reason to give extra help. So you need to learn practical testing like how to ace an IEP, and how to talk to psychiatrists to get medicine.

Week 2

Autistic inertia is real. The autistic brain has a self-control malfunction; during early development our excessive IQ took over where our self-control would have been. Really! This means we need new solutions to succeed when a situation requires executive function, self-management, or sensory overload.

How to get out of bed. Behavioral therapy is a non-starter for us. But learning to recognize why we’re tired helps a lot. You know how the Inuit have a lot of words for snow? Autistic women have a lot of words for tired. Because we can have excitement for one thing and no energy for other things. At the same time. That’s autistic tired. And we can work around that. Even from bed.

Week 3

Epigenetic autism is the troublemaker. Having an autistic brain comes with lots of perks, and it’s fun to be smart. What makes autism truly difficult is families have been hiding it for generations. Seeing the impact our parents’ autism had on our childhood allows us to separate autistic trauma from simply having an autistic brain. Autism can flourish when autistic trauma ends.

How to make a big difference fast. We’re the first generation to have information to trace epigenetic autism, and we’re the first generation who can pass down autism in a careful way. But we have to start now, and scientists are scared to talk to us about this. So we have to talk to each other. We can change autism from being a risk factor for childhood trauma to being a family treasure.

Week 4

Camouflaging works at home not at work.  Masking is ubiquitous among autistic women. But costs of camouflaging are high, and the research about how unsuccessful we are at camouflaging is surprising. So camouflaging in most places only serves to keep people from helping us, but camouflaging inside the home is essential for everyone’s emotionally stability.

How to tell what gives you away. Autistic women who are camouflaging still have rhythms and tics that are small enough that we don’t notice. But they’re large enough that at six weeks old, a scientists can tell if a baby has an autistic mother. Learning when and where to camouflage decreases stress levels measurably for not only us but the people around us.

Week 5

Female friendship has a timeline, we’re not on it. In elementary school a friend acts as a our social skills guide. In high school we have a hard time knowing who are real friends because we don’t understand reciprocity. In our 20s and 30s we fall so far behind in the ways people form friendships that by our 40s we’re in sync with only each other.

How to tell who’s a real friend. There’s a friendship scale that scientists use to measure connection. Most autistic women are so far off that scale with friendships that it almost doesn’t apply. But we can learn why the scale matters and adjust to it. And there’s a ripple effect; changing one friendship changes them all.

Week 6

Finding a theory of mind. This is a label for how much we can tell what other people know. It’s a deficit we have, but the nature of the deficit is that we don’t know we have it. So it’s one of the most difficult parts of autism to understand. But one of the biggest opportunities.

How to stop wishing people would change. Most conflict in autistic relationships comes down to theory of mind. Once we get that arguments are about blind spots, we become much more accepting of the people we love; they’re not being difficult/selfish/stupid. They just don’t see. And this is true for us, sometimes, as well. Understanding autism means living a kinder life with it.

Week 7

Autism means gifted. Labels like synesthesia, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and hyperlexia connote gifted ways of seeing, thinking and hearing. Traits like unique personal memory and perfect ear for dialogue make us built for memoir. We see see questions and answers that others don’t because we see patterns everywhere, and we see far outside social norms.

How to make sure you’re leveraging your gifts. Many of us have been using our gifts all along, but in hiding, so we never see our genius. When we understand our autistic identity we can best use our autistic gift. We can be more forgiving of ourselves by understanding we have inconsistent energy that comes in bursts. — because we are autistic geniuses even when we can’t get out of bed.


First class is March 15. Sign up now.

The sessions will be every Wednesday for seven weeks at either 2pm or 8pm Eastern (you pick). The forum will be active the whole seven weeks.

The cost is $195.

There are recordings of the sessions in case you have to miss any. But hopefully you won’t; I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone better.


My earliest memory is when I learned to read. I was three. I sat in a tiny rocking chair in my grandma’s house with Dick and Jane. And it just clicked. I didn’t know how I read the words, but I did.

In kindergarten a teacher asked, “Who knows what elamenopee means?” I could already read long books but I didn’t know what I was singing with L-M-N-O-P.

In first grade, I told the teacher I can already read. She gave me the dictionary and told me to read it. I read it. She asked me what it meant. I said I didn’t know. To me it was not obvious that reading and understanding went together. Now I know autistic girls have poor reading comprehension.

The only time I felt like it mattered was fifth grade when I got put in the gifted program. We read The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I spent three weeks trying to understand the first two pages and was relieved to be removed from the program.

My first semester in college my professor announced I got the highest grade in a class of 200 kids where I was the only freshman. I didn’t do any of the reading. At some point I realized there is no correlation between reading the material and understanding the material.

Those famously long books like Anna Karenina and One Hundred Years of Solitude? I threw them away.

I like a book I can read in one day. When I walk into a book store, I shop the spines. I know the authors who write short — because I feel like they write for me. Jamaica Kincaid. Sandra Cisneros. Susan Minot. Susana Kaysen. Who cares that teachers sprinkle these books across eighth-grade reading lists?

I love telling you about books because I love telling you about words. But the price of that is autism — reading words early cost me reading faces later.

Autistic brains are full of imbalances. For example, our brains are extraordinary at retrieving past events that happened to us. But just like our lack of executive function means we have a flat hierarchy for our to do lists, we also have a flat hierarchy for our memories — we have categories rather than chronology.

Now I see why nitpickers say I’m not a reliable narrator. It’s not about reliability it’s about relatability — their memories don’t match my patterns.

Neurotypical people have the type of autobiographical memory that creates a chronological unfolding of events. Autistic people have episodic memory which is nonlinear.

In literature, autobiographical memory is canonized in the narrative arc. We describe that like epic (Odyssey), philosophical discussion (War and Peace), or the Great American Novel (Moby Dick).

Nonlinear writing by men commands serious words like stream-of-consciousness (As I Lay Dying) or just The Longest (Proust). Nonlinear writing by women receives diminutive labels like flash fiction (Lydia Davis) and slice-of-life (Annie Ernaux).

This is why, when Annie Ernaux won the Nobel Prize in Literature, I cried. The spines of her books are thin. Her chapters are short and the sentences slide across the white of the page.

The Nobel committee commended Annie Ernaux’s courageous approach to personal memory. I hear this as a call to arms for autistic women to write our stories.

Because there is no body of work from women describing the autistic experience. We have not known about autism long enough. Annie Ernaux reflects our sensibilities but not our context. She provides a blueprint and the literary legitimacy, but it’s up to us to create a canon of consciously autistic literature for the next generation to look to as they grow from autistic girls into autistic women.

The more memories we have the more compelled we should feel to write them down. And we up to the task. Because just like autistic men dominate math, autistic women dominate memoir.

Autism workshop/seminar/discussion magnum opus coursus.

Designed by Lisa Be for Project Vortex

As you may know, I’m doing research at a lab at Harvard where I focus on autistic women. One thing I’ve learned is there are lots of easy, objective tests we can give ourselves to determine if we have biological markers for autism. I’m excited to share those with you so we don’t have to have any more discussions about everyone asking themselves do I have or don’t I?

I also notice the news that will help women the most is very slow to get to the public. So I’m offering a workshop to give autistic women groundbreaking research into their lives right now. The workshop will meet once a week for ten weeks, starting this week. Here are some topics we’ll cover:

  1. Use the same techniques that labs do to quickly diagnose female subjects for autism. It’s easy and fun. You can try it out on everyone.
  2. Question people who say they improve executive function. Science says only two things work, and they’re really weird things.
  3. What to do about a speech delay when research shows it’s more important to decrease the mother’s stress levels than get a kid into speech therapy.
  4. Don’t look for friends, look for special interests, the friends will follow. Neurotypical girls make friends their special interest; no wonder we were lost in junior high.
  5. Find out the one thing autistic women do that makes all camouflaging fail. But also, does this mean we can all stop trying to mask?
  6. The biggest problem autistic women have is emotional isolation. If an autistic woman isn’t feeling that then her kids are; understanding why helps you understand what drives you.

We’ll also have a discussion board to talk about any topic that interests you as it relates to women and autism. I’ll drop in each day to shed some light — or some tears — because it’s always in the free-for-all where I learn the most.

Closeup you see that we’ve all had to navigate the world in similar ways as autistic girls and women — knowing there was something wrong but we didn’t know what. Some researchers call us the lost generation of autism but talking with you all makes me feel like the found generation.

People are joining from all over the world, so the meeting times accommodate a range of time zones:

Tuesday 9pm Eastern
Wednesday 8am Eastern
Thursday 5pm Eastern

The deadline to sign up is this weekend. The cost is $150.

Sign up here.

And one more thing. I’m going to send videos of me and my friends talking about autism. This video is me with Caitlin. You get it without even signing up; in the middle she talks about a group of autistic women we created a few years ago that was so transformative to her. How could you listen to that and not sign up now? Really?