Family portrait

Three generations of women "somewhere on the autistic spectrum"
(as depicted by the baby woman) circa 1994

Judy Singer is an Australian sociologist credited with coining the term “Neurodiversity” in 1997-8 while completing an Honours Thesis at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her thesis, subtitled “a personal exploration of a new social movement based on “neurological diversity”, was the first non- psychomedical academic work to map out what was proving to be the last great civil rights movement to emerge from the 20th century. The movement was based on the pioneering work of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Movement, which was being joined by other neurological minorities who clearly needed a catchy, authoritative banner term

The idea grew out of her lived experience in middle of 3 generations of women whom she then described as “somewhere on the autistic spectrum”.

Like many people “on the spectrum” and especially as a woman seeking work in the early 1970s, Judy experienced difficulty finding employment. Fortunately, like many autistics, she was able to find a career in the burgeoning new field of IT which opened up a new world of opportunities for women.

When Judy became a parent with a child who appeared to have a “mysterious” disability, her carer responsibilities compelled her to give up her career. Instead she went back to University to pursue her true interests: anthropology and sociology.

Judy has a long career in community organizing: she was the founder, via the internet, of the world's first support group for people raised by autistic parent, became the secretary of Sydney’s largest support group for the parents of autistic children and a co-founder of Sydney’s only independent social club for teenagers on the spectrum. She was elected a director of Shelter NSW, Australia’s peak body for housing justice but since the rediscovery of her work in 2017, she has been fully occupied with advocacy within the Neurodiversity discourse.

A more recent portrait of 3 generations of the Singer women