Why We Need More Men in Autism-Related Careers

Joint Play Father and Daughter
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Women tend to predominate in careers that involve children, disabilities, and care giving.

  • There are more women than men teaching school (especially in the younger grades and preschool). 
  • There are more women than men providing therapy to children on the spectrum (though men seem to be just as involved in theories and research).
  • There are far more women than men involved with social skills, speech, occupational, and related therapies.
  • More women go into pediatrics and developmental pediatrics than almost any field of medicine.
  • More women than men are child psychologists or psychiatrists.
  • In general, mothers are more involved with the day to day activities of their autistic children than fathers are.

As a result, autistic people -- and autistic children in particular -- live in a world of women.

Why might this be a problem?  Well, in some cases, it really isn't.  But I would like to make the argument that kids, teens, and adults on the spectrum need to see, learn from, and engage with more men! Here's why:

  1. There are four times as many boys as girls diagnosed with autism. Those boys need to learn skills, body language, and social communication from people who used to be boys -- and not exclusively from people who used to be girls.
  2. Women and girls use language differently from men and boys. They talk more. They talk about more personal topics. They move their faces and bodies differently. Women who teach social skills to autistic boys rarely investigate typical "boy" behaviors before teaching back-and-forth conversational skills.
  1. In a general way, men who teach tend to be focused in a laser-like manner on practical outcomes.  A  child with autism may find a man's direct, pragmatic approach easier to follow.
  2. Men and boys tend to be comfortable with physical games that involve chasing, climbing, and making loud noises. These are just the sorts of games that many children with autism find engaging. As a result, some men can engage with autistic children that women find harder to reach.
  1. Men know more than women about the skills other men need to be accepted in a school or social setting. When choosing which skills to focus on, therefore, they are better equipped to choose the most critical skills.
  2. A fast-growing number of autistic boys are growing up to be autistic men.  Autistic men need male peers with whom to socialize and from whom to learn appropriate adult male behavior.
  3. While women can teach the basics of sex and sexuality, most men need to hear from other men about how their bodies work.  And the truth is that women simply can't answer some sexuality-related questions!
  4. Girls on the autism spectrum, like their male counterparts, have little opportunity to interact with men. Girls, of course, also need the opportunity to learn from men -- and about men. In addition, some of the more direct teaching methods used by men are as effective for autistic girls as boys.
  5. Fathers of children on the spectrum, when they do get involved with their child's education and therapy, are often overwhelmed by a sea of women.  While most men understand that women are in the majority in child-related, psychology-related, and disabilities-related fields, it can be much easier for fathers when they are not the ONLY man in the room.  What's more, male teachers and therapists may be better equipped to coach other men in how best to engage with and relate to their autistic child.

    Do you know a man or teen who is seriously considering a career related to autism? If so, I' hope you'll share this article with him!

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