As a child, Laura James learned to pretend she liked dolls. She knew that was what typical little girls were "supposed" to do. But James wasn't typical. She had symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder: preferred to be alone, didn't like loud noises, and didn't understand many social cues.
James knew she was different, and knew she needed to hide it. In her new memoir, "Odd Girl Out," she explains why she worked so hard to fit in:
"Copying neurotypical behavior is an exceptionally strong coping mechanism in most autistic girls. Unlike boys with autism, who are often happy to strike out on their own and just be themselves, girls tend to have a strong need to fit in. Mimicking the behavior, style of speech, interests, and social interactions of others provides something akin to a blueprint for life. Whereas neurotypical girls have an innate understanding of how to behave, autistic girls tend to have to learn these behaviors by studying how others do it."
James spoke to MPR News host Kerri Miller about her life before and after finally getting an autism diagnosis at age 45, after she'd had four kids and was married to her second husband.
We heard from several callers who were concerned that their children with ASD were socially isolated. Here is a list of some Minnesota-based resources for parents and children: