For the first 42 years of her life, Sharon daVanport assumed that everyone finds the lights at the grocery store overwhelming. As a child, she knew it was unusual that she rocked back and forth and banged her head on her bedroom wall after school, but she didn’t worry about it. Even after her youngest son, J.D., was diagnosed with autism at age 5, she did not draw any parallels between his behavior, which also included rocking, and her own—although her mother did notice some similarities between them.
Then, 12 years ago, when her autistic son was 12, daVanport learned she too has autism. And then she understood all sorts of things—including why she had trouble relating to the other parents in the online communities she sought out after J.D.’s diagnosis. She began searching for a new kind of support network, one for autistic adults.
Her quest quickly snowballed into a new life. After befriending several women online, daVanport helped create a website and discussion forum that evolved into a nonprofit, the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. She became its executive director.
[For more on this story by EMILY SOHN and SPECTRUM, go to https://www.theatlantic.com/he...es-women-out/584854/]