skip to primary navigationskip to content

Keynote Speaker – Professor Francesca Happé

Thinking about Autism, mental health and women

Prof Francesca Happé


Autism is diagnosed on the basis of social and communication difficulties, and rigid and repetitive interests and activities. Around 1 in 100 adults are autistic, and for many of these individuals it is not their autism that makes life hard, but the many associated challenges. These can include epilepsy, learning disability, and language impairment – as well as social exclusion, prejudice and bullying. Mental health problems, particularly anxiety and depression, are extremely common – and often appear to be exacerbated in cases of late diagnosed autism.  Women and girls on the autism spectrum typically reach diagnosis later than males, and have to show more difficulties in order to get a diagnosis of autism. Why are autistic women often missed or mis-diagnosed? How does their presentation differ from our male-based stereotypes of autism?

This talk will summarise what is known from the research literature about autism in relation to mental health, and the under-recognition of autism in women.




Francesca Happé is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Director of the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London. Her research focuses on autism spectrum conditions. She has explored the nature of social understanding in neurotypical development and ‘mentalising’ difficulties in autism. She is also actively engaged in studies of abilities and assets in autism, and their relation to detail-focused cognitive style. Some of her recent work focuses on mental health on the autism spectrum, and under-researched subgroups including women and the elderly. Her research spans cognitive experiments, functional neuroimaging, exploration of acquired brain lesions, and behaviour genetic methods. She was recently ranked in the top 10 most productive and highly cited authors in autism research worldwide (Sweileh, et al., 2016). She is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences, past-President of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR; 2013-2015), and has received the British Psychological Society Spearman Medal, the Experimental Psychology Society Prize and the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award.

Join our Staff Counsellor Kate Ahl for 4 workshops on different aspects of wellbeing. Each session includes relaxation sessions, slide presentation and interactive exercises.

Read more

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, you can get help

Read more