This was my first time meeting Kaliane but I had seen her modeling work on social media and was a fan. To my surprise, she had a French accent! She holds a PhD in French literature, and was recently awarded a national fellowship from ACLS for her research on Autism in France (which they are handling terribly, I’ve learned). Kaliane will analyze neurodivergent narratives in contemporary French literature, and investigate the outcomes of the "national initiative on autism" launched in 2018 in terms of patients' well-being and representations of autism in the media.

Kaliane teaches French literature and health humanities courses at the University of Pittsburgh.

When I asked her about receiving her autism and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome diagnosis, just a few years ago at age 34, she said it encouraged her to learn more about neurodivergence. She is now following a strict physical therapy routine to stabilize her EDS symptoms, and is working with a therapist to navigate professional communications and manage her sensory needs. Through dance, she found community in aerial circus arts, which prompted her reflections about what a truly inclusive pedagogy would look like, beyond questions of accommodations and accessibility.

She doesn’t think that “disability” is a bad word. It is a way to experience the world, and can be conducive to world-making and creativity.


HMUA: @biancablack_

woman of Cambodian and French descent poses holding her shoulder, looking at the camera


Laura came to me with all her maternity glow! Pregnant with baby #3, she is a loving, doting mom who lights up the room. Diagnosed later in life at age 30, she said it actually was a weight lifted off of her chest.

“but at the same time I had to go back through my life memories with a different lens! It took a few weeks for me to process a lot of big feelings that came with being diagnosed. A lot of aspects of my life make a lot more sense to me now. It has given me the ability to start figuring out who the real LAURA actually is.”

She says her greatest accomplishments are becoming a mom, and finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Resource Management, having earned many awards and certifications in the field.

“One thing I wish the general population knew about autistic women is that sometimes meltdowns / irritability can happen! In no way am I trying to act like a brat or uninterested or (not) want to be around the group, sometimes these big feelings can’t be in our control. But we sure are trying!”


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I first met Angeleica in the summer of 2023, when we did the Aphrodite/Pisces series. I feel like we clicked right away and had a lot in common; then she brought up Autism and I said “ahh that’s it!” We talked the entire session about our experiences.

When her kids were diagnosed Autistic, she saw many of their traits in herself and this led her to receive her diagnosis at age 28; “a shock, and an epiphany” she calls it.

“To describe it would be beyond words and comprehension. When sharing that I am autistic with others whether family or not, I experience many who don't think that I "look" or "act" autistic. There is still a long way to travel to society fully understanding, accepting, and accommodating of neurodivergence and I experience examples of that day in and day out. I feel grateful to be a part of defining my own identity and working towards a new narrative for autistic women despite the barriers we face.”

She says her biggest accomplishment is being a safe person/parent to many children, both through her career in social work and to her own kids.

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Axel is the sibling of Angelecia, who came with her for her session, unsure if they’d wanna partake in being photographed or not.

But with my smooth, bubbly personality (sarcasm), I convinced them! Axel, like me honestly, wasn’t wild about being front and center for a portrait, so I offered an activity to do and took a few candids. I just love how this one turned out.

Even though Axel got diagnosed young, at age 3, that doesn’t mean life was easier. They said they remember feeling confused and angry about it growing up, especially because it constricted their emotional responses, friendships and relationships.

A lover of art, Axel is now an honor roll student at their college for Graphic Design.

I asked, “what is one thing you wish the general population knew about autistic women?” They responded, “wish more people would understand that we need time to process certain things, and we may not always react the way other people expect. Some people can be nonverbal, while others don't stop talking about facts or interests. We're all different in our own ways and that's okay.”


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Marilynn is an openly trans woman, whom is a through and through Pittsburgher and 3rd cousin to Andy Warhol! She was initially diagnosed with a cognitive deficit at the age of 5, then later on with ADHD and autism at 37; she has struggled quite a bit in her (past) life through the lack of coherence, which made her learn to become more self-reliant.

Finding art during the 1988/1989 school year at the age of 8, became a child prodigy where being high functioning was viewed as being inferior in society at the time. She viewed as a "superpower" to live beyond the norms of societal expectations.

Throughout the teenage years, 20s, and 30s, she began suffering debilitating anxiety attacks and depression that became in essence, a full time job; an internal battle of staying psychologically afloat, where self harm, suicidal attempts occurred. Which she survived them all, and used the love or photography and cinema as a lifesaver to "focus" on her dreams and artisan goals.

Now, she considers herself a trailblazing underdog, to keep on fighting regardless of the odds. Also a survivor of the "me too" movement, she is going to become a Motivational speaker on overcoming all of the adversity of her life. Where the pressures of the past, created diamonds of the present.

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(Me, hi!) Well I couldn't ask others to do this series without participating myself.

I received my diagnosis just a few years ago at age 35. After going through major burnout in 2020 and going down a rabbit-hole of mental health issues, a therapist I was seeing suggested being evaluated for autism.

I felt- really weird to be honest, going to those appointments. Kids' toys lined the desk of my doctor. I was made to solve puzzles and read from a children's book about frogs. The doctor had a nagging cough and kept doing hard swallows, the clock was ticking too loud, the puzzle pieces were old and stained from the years of grimy hands in my exact same situation.

Anyway, on some tests I scored above average, as I expected. Then on others, like working memory and social awareness, I was marked below average. All of these factors led to a diagnosis. Although I knew this about myself, that I struggled with social situations, Seeing it on paper was kind of a gut punch. It was like yeah, this isn't just a quirk you have because you're a Sagittarius, it's an actual deficit. And had I known this about myself sooner, I could've gotten therapies and accommodations to make mine and my family's lives a little better. But unfortunately that is the reality of most autistic girls- we were "just quiet". "Moody". And didn't obsess over trains, so it couldn't be autism.

I could go on and on about our patriarchal society and the neglect of women and girls in medicine, but not right now. Instead I just want to empower girls and women and encourage them to share their experiences. The more we talk about our experiences with autism, our symptoms, struggles, etc., the more people will hear us- including young girls, parents, teachers, and most importantly, medical professionals.


blonde tattooed woman draped in white fabric poses holding white flowers, looking down and wind blown hair

Location: Ignite Studios, Tarentum PA

Time of day: Midday

Setup: Canon R6 ii, Canon 100mm 2.8 macro, Natural window light.