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      Helping autistic women thrive

      Advances in Autism

      Emerald Publishing

      Autism, Interventions, Women, Diagnosis

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          There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.



          The purpose of this paper is to outline a clinical framework developed for autistic women. INVEST (Identify Needs, Validate, Educate, Strengthen and Thrive) is a strengths-based neurodiversity therapeutic approach. Autistic individuals are treated with respect and are believed to have the capacity to make meaningful changes in their lives.


          The author’s clinical experiences working as an individual, couple and family therapist specializing in girls and women with autism inform this paper. The innovative therapeutic approach will be described including reasons for seeking therapy, the theoretical underpinnings and case examples that bring each component of INVEST to life.


          Women with autism are very responsive to a therapeutic process that validates their experiences. Helping individuals and their support systems learn more about autism and their unique profile can enhance understanding and self-acceptance. Strategies to increase emotional awareness and reduce victimization are emphasized. Understanding sensory triggers and executive functioning challenges enable individuals to make useful adaptations. Building skills and setting parameters on time and energy help to stave off autistic burnout.

          Practical implications

          The impact of the INVEST model goes beyond the therapist’s office and can be applied to multiple settings. All professionals have the opportunity to treat autistic women with respect, validation and an assumption of competence.


          Clinical program are scarce for individuals with autism, especially women. The INVEST model is the beginning of a discussion of what can help autistic women thrive.

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          Most cited references 28

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          Is Open Access

          Suicidal ideation and suicide plans or attempts in adults with Asperger's syndrome attending a specialist diagnostic clinic: a clinical cohort study.

          Asperger's syndrome in adulthood is frequently associated with depression, but few studies have explored the lifetime experience of self-reported suicidal ideation and suicide plans or attempts in this clinical group. We aimed to assess this prevalence in a clinical cohort of patients in the UK.
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            Missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis? Girls and women on the autism spectrum

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              Group cognitive behavioural therapy program shows potential in reducing symptoms of depression and stress among young people with ASD.

              We examined the efficacy of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) delivered in groups on the reduction of symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress in young people on the autism spectrum. Utilising a quasi-experimental design, comparisons were made between individuals allocated to a group intervention program and individuals allocated to a waitlist. Following the intervention program, participants who were initially symptomatic reported significantly lower depression and stress scores on the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales in comparison to individuals on the waitlist. There was no significant change in anxiety related symptoms. The benefits were maintained at 3 and 9 month follow-up. Our findings demonstrate the potential of CBT in a small group setting for assisting young people with ASD who have symptoms of depression and stress.

                Author and article information

                Advances in Autism
                Emerald Publishing
                26 March 2019
                11 June 2019
                : 5
                Issue : 3 Issue title : Women, girls, and autism spectrum disorders: part II Issue title : Women, girls, and autism: part I
                : 143-156
                Toronto, Canada
                Author notes
                Dori Zener can be contacted at: dori@dorizener.com
                623592 AIA-10-2018-0042.pdf AIA-10-2018-0042
                © Emerald Publishing Limited
                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 3, Equations: 0, References: 23, Pages: 14, Words: 7592
                case-report, Case study
                cat-HSC, Health & social care
                cat-LID, Learning & intellectual disabilities
                Custom metadata

                Health & Social care

                Diagnosis, Interventions, Women, Autism


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