FANN - Female Autism Network Netherlands

The FANN is a Dutch interdisciplinary network for professionals (psychologists, psychiatrists, researchers, etc.) who are committed to improve the diagnostic and treatment of females of all ages with the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), through a variety of instruments, tools and research. 


ASD in women is not or poorly recognised, as women often do not seem to match with usual symptoms that accompany ASD. However, this condition is not less severe for women. It just means women are usually better at assimilating and hiding these symptoms. The stress and fatigue that are caused by the effort to hide their condition, are therefore misdiagnosed as depression or borderline comportment. According to online research done by the FANN, there are only two articles worldwide that touch upon the specific issue of women with ASD and burn-outs. 

Els Blijd-Hoogewys

Voorzitter

Klinisch psycholoog en manager behandelzaken bij INTER-PSY. Tevens senior-researcher. Mede-initiatiefnemer van FANN.

 

Annelies Spek

Klinisch psycholoog en hoofd van Autisme Expertisecentrum.

Audrey Mol 

Klinisch psycholoog bij dr. Leo Kannerhuis, locatie polikliniek Amsterdam.


Marleen Bezemer

Secretaris

Gezondheidszorgpsycholoog en wetenschappelijk onderzoeker bij INTER-PSY. Mede-initiatiefnemer van FANN.

Patricia van Wijngaarden 

Psychiater bij het specialistisch centrum ontwikkelingsstoornissen (SCOS) van Dimence.

 

ELS BLIJD-HOOGEWYS

My name is Els Blijd-Hoogewys. I’m a clinical psychologist, working at INTER-PSY, a mental health institution in Groningen. I work there as a treatment manager and I’m responsible for specialist teams, such as the Expertise Team Young Child, Autism, and FASD. I diagnose and treat adults with psychological problems and I specialize in autism in women. Next to that, I also do a lot of scientific research into autism and I publish about it. And I am involved in various PhD projects as well.


Besides my professional job, I’m the chairwoman of FANN, chairwoman of CASS18+ and the organizer of the National Autism Congress. In March 2017, Marleen Bezemer and I founded the FANN. Audrey Mol, Annelies Spek and Patricia van Wijngaarden soon joined the board. We came together in our drive to make the world a better place for autistic girls and women. And we don't just do that… We have an enthusiastic group of core group members who develop all kinds of products. And we have an active group on social media (on Instagram, but also on LinkedIn).

Our book 'Lifehacks for Girls with Autism' was published in 2021. We are working on the next book 'Lifehacks for Women with Autism', which will be expected at end of 2023.

I wish for all autistic girls and autistic women that they can stay close to themselves, find a place in society that suits them and that they aren’t afraid to ask for help when they need it. Actually, that’s my wish for everybody… 'Be yourself'.

Annelies Spek

Annelies Spek is a clinical psychologist and the head of the Autism Expertise Center and the Autism Academy. She has a PhD on autism in adults and has written several articles on autism in women. In her publications she also pays attention to themes such as meaning and acceptance. Annelies regularly lectures on autism and also teaches about the diagnosis and treatment for people with autism, including a specific focus on how autism manifests itself in women. 

In addition to being a member of the editorial board of the Scientific Journal of Autism and the Psychologist, Annelies is also a board member of FANN. With this, she aims to increase the knowledge about autism among women in the Netherlands, but above all to disseminate it.



Audrey Mol
My name is Audrey Mol. I’m a clinical psychologist and I enjoy working at the Dr LeoKannerhuis in Amsterdam, which is an outpatient clinic for people with (a suspicion of) autism. I have a very diverse range of tasks there, which includes treatments, diagnostics, and guiding and supervising colleagues in training. I’m also involved in a PhD study on ‘masking’, a topic which is often associated with autism, especially in women.


Autism in women has been of interest to me for a long time and that's why I appreciated it so much that Els and Marleen took the initiative to set up FANN 5 years ago. It was an honor that they asked me to join the board. With FANN we want to commit ourselves to improving diagnostics and treatment of girls and women with autism. And what I find so remarkable is that we do this with care providers with and without lived-experience expertise. We’ve already delivered a lot of beautiful products. Of these products, I’m the proudest of the book 'Lifehacks for Girls with Autism'. Which is already in its fifth printing!

I wish every girl and woman with autism that they feel like there’s enough room for them to be themselves, that they pay enough attention to what they need and find important, and to how they can achieve that with or without help or support. All this from the attitude and conviction that you are good, just the way you are!

Marleen Bezemer

My name is Marleen Bezemer. I’m a GZ psychologist at INTER-PSY, a mental health institution in Groningen. I see patients for diagnosis and treatment, including women with (presumably) autism. I also conduct scientific research, mostly with children and adults with autism. Together with the clinical work, this makes a very nice combination.


Together with Els Blijd-Hoogewys I founded FANN in March 2017. Together with Audrey Mol, Annelies Spek and Patricia van Wijngaarden, we form the board and we aim to further professionalize the knowledge of autism in girls and women. Hopefully this will allow more attention for them and improve care. I still get completely enthusiastic and motivated when I see how we, together with all members who have joined the core group, have a passion for this subject and are committed to developing all kinds of projects and products. For example, we publish blogs on our website with lived-experience stories (often written by women with autism), helpful flyers have been developed for women with autism that can help communicate with a healthcare provider and we have published the book 'Lifehacks for Girls with Autism' together, written by many enthusiastic authors. We are now working on a book for adult women!

I wish girls and women with autism that their autism is discovered quicker, that they can gain more insight into themselves and hopefully can be themselves more in their daily lives. That they can shape it, so that it suits them and that they are no longer concerned with survival, but are also enjoying the things that make them happy and that they can use their talents.

Patricia Van Wijngaarden

My name is Patricia J.M. Van Wijngaarden-Cremers. I’m a psychiatrist/psychotherapist and I work as an expert for the expertise center SCOS (a specialist center for developmental disorders) in combination with JeugdGGz (Youth Mental Health Care).


I’ve been interested in gender differences in autism for years, regularly give lectures and further training, and I perform research in this area. In 2015 I obtained my PhD on gender differences in developmental disorders, in particular on the interaction between gender, developmental disorders and environmental factors (such as socialization, parenting, stress, substance use) on the development of psychopathology and in particular autism. Therefore, I didn't have to think twice about joining FANN's board when I was asked to do so.

I’m also an active board member of various national and international organizations involved in improving the mental health of women (including FANN, IAWMH), I’m the founder and chairwoman of the Dutch branch of the IAWMH, the Gender & Mental Health Alliance. With the FANN we are committed to better and faster recognition of autism in girls and women.