In addition to being a full time single mother of three daughters, Olley Edwards is a part-time model, actress, film-maker, author, and is also the co-founder of Autism Women Matter. Her road towards being shortlisted for the National Diversity Awards 2014 began in 2012 when she started raising awareness in how autism can look different in females.

Olley’s desire to raise awareness not only came as a result of having two daughters with autism, but also because she was convinced that she suffered from the condition herself (despite being told by a doctor that she could not be autistic, as “autistic people cannot act” – lo and behold, despite the lack of support and unanswered questions, Olley has since been officially diagnosed with autism).

On her quest to find out more about autism, Olley found out that the presentation of how females can display autism was very much misunderstood and not really spoken about enough – especially when women with the condition are high functioning or possess a high IQ.

Olley was aggrieved to see that the social naivety was going  unsupported and many females were misdiagnosed with other conditions , such as depression, anxiety, OCD and eating disorders as a result of the root cause (autism) being undetected and only the petals ( visual symptoms of un supported lives ) being seen. She also found out that many women by the time they had received diagnosis had been victim of abuse, poor relationships, and some had attempted to take their own lives.

As an actress with some contacts to media, Olley decided to raise awareness in the best way possible. She came across a “sexiest woman” competition which Star Central Magazine was running, with the prize offer of a worldwide article to the winner. Upon seeing this competition, Olley applied and won, allowing her the chance to flaunt her modelling skills whilst also raising awareness of autism and AS.

As a result of the subsequent article, Olley received global outreach from various professionals, families and autism sufferers and was overwhelmed by the lack of help available to females with autism. She therefore took it upon herself to write a guide book entitled ‘Why Aren’t Normal People Normal?’ which she had edited and printed. As the printers would only produce a minimum of 60 copies, she decided to post the spare copies to people who had reached out to her, with some being posted as far as America and Australia.

‘Why Aren’t Normal People Normal?’ has since been published and while Olley has yet to receive a penny from her book sales, the response she has received has been priceless, with people from as far as Norway and Denmark commending her for the guidance and advice which the book has made available to all people associated with the autistic spectrum.

Olley has also written, produced and made a short film entitled ‘The Kindest Label’, which is based on the many real life experiences that she has come across as a result of reaching out to people via social media. The film, which has had over 5 million hits to date, raises awareness of how destructive women can be at the stage of pre-diagnosis and it is available to watch on Youtube.

Olley’s amazing advocacy for females across the autistic spectrum has led her to speak at events such as National Autistic Society’s Annual Professionals Awards and Anna Kennedy’s Wear it for Autism event. In addition to this, Olley also speaks at schools and colleges to further raise awareness for autism.

It is clear to see that the terrific work which Olley has done so far in such a short space of time has made help for females with autism more accessible and is truly making a positive difference for autism awareness as a whole.