Jen Malia is an autistic author, professor, speaker, advocate, and world traveler.
Her debut children’s picture book, Too Sticky!: Sensory Issues with Autism (Albert Whitman, spring 2020), is about a girl who overcomes her fear of sticky hands to participate in a second-grade slime experiment. The main character is based on both her own and her daughter’s experiences living with autism.
She knew doctors were wrong when they said her daughter had just a language delay, so she spent hundreds of hours researching medical articles to help her daughter get the right diagnosis. Her research on the gender differences with autism made her realize that not only was her daughter autistic—she was, too. She was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in her late 30s, on the same day as her daughter. Her son was also diagnosed with ASD a year later.
You can read about her diagnosis in an essay she wrote for Woman’s Day, which was syndicated by Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Good Housekeeping (US & UK), Dr. Oz The Good Life, and Yahoo. You can also read more about her experience as an autistic woman and mom in her essays for The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, Catapult, Glamour, and Woman’s Day, among others.
She earned her PhD in English and MS in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Southern California. She teaches literature and creative nonfiction as an English professor at Norfolk State University. During her four years as an American expat in the United Arab Emirates, she worked as a writing professor at the American University of Sharjah. Her oldest daughter was born in Dubai.
She’s a world traveler who’s been to twenty countries around the globe. As a contributing author of Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby bumps, twists, and turns around the globe, she wrote about hiking Petra with her husband and oldest daughter, then six months old, strapped to her in a baby carrier.
As a Taekwondo black belt, she trains with her two daughters. She also explores the beaches and hiking trails around Virginia Beach with her family.