FANN stands for Female Autism Network of the Netherlands
This is a nationwide, interdisciplinary network for professionals (therapists such as psychologists and psychiatrists, and researchers), who are committed to improve diagnostics and treatment of girls and women with autism of average and higher intelligence. Experience experts also take part in this network. All the members of FANN are experts in the field of autism in girls and/or women.
My name is Els Blijd-Hoogewys. I am a clinical psychologist working at INTER-PSY, a mental health institution in Groningen. Over there, I am a treatment manager, responsible for the specialist teams, such as the Expertise Team Young Child, Autism, and FASD. I diagnose and treat adults with psychological problems and specialise in autism in women. I also conduct a lot of scientific research on autism, publish about this and am involved in several PhD projects.
Besides my work, I am chairman of FANN, chairman of CASS18+ and organiser of the National Autism Congress. In March 2017, Marleen Bezemer and I founded FANN. Soon Audrey Mol, Annelies Spek and Patricia van Wijngaarden joined the board. We have found each other in our drive to make the world a better place for autistic girls and women. And we don't do that all by ourselves... We have an enthusiastic group of core group members who develop all kinds of products. And we have an active group on social media (here on Insta, but also on LinkedIn).
Our book 'Lifehacks voor meiden met autisme' was published in 2021. We are working on the next book 'Lifehacks voor vrouwen met autisme' (due in late 2023).
My wish for all autistic girls and autistic women is that they can stay true to themselves, find a place in society that suits them and dare to ask for help when they need it. Actually, I just wish that for everyone ... 'be yourself'.
My name is Marleen Bezemer. I am a health care psychologists and work at INTER-PSY, a mental health institute in Groningen. There I see patients for diagnostics and treatment, including women with (suspected) autism. In addition, I do scientific research, largely on children and adults with autism. This is a great combination with the clinical work.
Together with Els Blijd-Hoogewys I founded FANN in March 2017. Together with Audrey Mol, Annelies Spek and Patricia van Wijngaarden, we are the board, and our goal is to further professionalise the knowledge about autism in girls and women. Hopefully this can lead to more attention for them, and help improve care. I still feel very enthusiastic and motivated when I see how, together with all the members that have subsequently joined, we have passion for this subject, and commit ourselves to produce various projects and products. We publicize blogs on our website with personal accounts (often written by women with autism), there are usuful flyers developed for women with autism which can help with communication with aid workers, and we have written, together with many enthusiastic authors, the book ‘Lifehacks for girls with autism’. In the mean time we are working on a book for adult women!
I wish for girls and women with autism, that their autism will sooner be detected, so they can develop a deeper understanding of themselves and hopefully be themselves more in their daily lives. So they can shape it to fit themselves , and they no longer only need to survive, but also be able to enjoy things that make them happy, and develop their talents.
Annelies Spek is a clinical psychologist and head of the Autism Expertise Centre and the Autisme Academy. She has a PhD in autism in adults and has written several articles on autism in women. She also addresses themes such as purpose and acceptance in her publications. Annelies regularly lectures on autism and also teaches on diagnosis and treatment in persons with autism, with a specific attention to how autism manifests itself in women.
Besides being an editorial board member of the Scientific Journal of Autism and Psychologist, Annelies is also a board member of FANN. In doing so, she aims to increase, but above all spread, knowledge about autism in women in the Netherlands.
My name is Patricia J.M. van Wijngaarden-Cremers. I am a psychiatrist/psychotherapist, and am working as an expert for the expertise centre SCOS (specialist centre developmental disorders) combined with Youth Mental Healthcare.
For years I have been interested in gender differences in autism, I frequently give lectures and refresher training, and I do research in this area. In 2015 I took my master’s degree in gender differences in developmental disorders, especially the interaction between gender, developmental disorders and environmental factors (such as socialisation, upbringing, stress, substance use) , leading to psychopathology and autism in particular. So, it didn’t take me long to consider joining the board of FANN, when I was asked for this function.
I am also an active boardmember of various national and international organisations that pursue improving the mental health of women (a.o. FANN, IAWMH), I am a founding member and chairperson of the Dutch branch of the IAWMH, the Alliance gender and mental health. With FANN we are committed to a better and faster detection of autism in girls and women.
My name is Audrey Mol. I am a clinical psychologist, and I work with pleasure at the dr. Leo Kannerhuis in Amsterdam, an outpatient clinic for people with (suspected) autism. In this function I have a variety of tasks, such as treatment, diagnostics, and guiding and supervising colleagues in training. I am also involved in a doctoral research into camouflage, a subject that is often connected to autism, especially in women. Autism in women has been my interest for a long time, and that’s why I loved it when Els and Marleen took the initiative five years ago to found FANN, and it was an honour when they asked me for the board.
With FANN we aim to improve the diagnostics and treatment of girls and women with autism. And it’s special to me that we do this with counsellors with and without experience expertise. We have already produced quite a few fine products, of which I have to say I’m most proud on the book ‘Lifehacks voor meiden met autisme’ (En: 'Lifehacks for girls with autism), which has reached its fifth edition!
I wish for every girl and woman with autism to feel they have enough space to be themselves, and they receive enough attention for what they need and what is important to them, and to be able to realise this with or without aid and support. All of the above from the position and belief you are fine just the way you are.