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Penn State Law student highlights autism awareness in the legal field

Cailyn Ann Teague, a 22-year-old third-year law student at Penn State Law in University Park, wants to be a role model for other individuals with autism who want to attend law school and work in the legal profession. Part of her advocacy includes highlighting Autism Awareness Month, celebrated every April.
Cailyn Ann Teague in the H. Laddie Montague, Jr. Law Library at Penn State Law in University Park

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Cailyn Ann Teague has wanted to be a prosecutor since she was 9 years old. The problem for Teague, who is diagnosed with autism, was that she couldn’t find many role models in the legal field who had similar experiences as her.

“It is hard to find anyone in law who is openly autistic, whose brain works like mine does,” Teague said.

Now a 22-year-old third-year law student at Penn State Law in University Park, Teague is prepared to graduate with a juris doctor (J.D.) in May and has accepted an offer with the Pima County Attorney’s Office in Tucson, Arizona. With her success, Teague wants to be a role model for other individuals with autism who want to attend law school and work in the legal profession.

Part of her advocacy includes highlighting Autism Awareness Month, celebrated every April, along with World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

“It means a lot to me because it is spreading awareness about autism and showing others what we can do not in spite of autism but because of it,” Teague said. “I am always working on my confidence and to be as open as possible about being autistic. I want to use my experiences to help as many people as possible to have confidence in being themselves, as well.”


For any law student, having strong mentors can play a big factor in their success in law school and beyond. And though Teague, on her journey toward law school, struggled to find role models who could relate to being autistic, once she entered Penn State Law she was welcomed with a strong support system.

“I am very fortunate to go to Penn State Law because of the faculty and staff being so supportive of me as well as my friends, family, and teachers in my life,” Teague said.

Through the Penn State Law Minority Mentor Program, Teague was connected with mentors both inside and outside the law school including, in her first year, the Honorable Tanya R. Kennedy, associate justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, for the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Justice Kennedy is also an alumna of Penn State.

Cailyn Ann Teague and Justice Tanya R. Kennedy“I was fortunate to be paired with Cailyn as her mentor in 2021 and learned firsthand how her autism is her ‘superpower,’” Kennedy said. “I learned so much from Cailyn and I marvel at how she is extremely determined, detail-oriented, and organized.”

The Minority Mentor Program offers law students in the J.D. program the opportunity to establish a mentoring relationship with both internal and external mentors who are professionals in the legal field. The program provides students with the support to help them achieve academic success and emotional well-being during law school and after entering the legal profession.

Teague said that Kennedy has been “an absolutely fantastic person” who has helped her stay goal oriented and focused on her future career path. Kennedy also connected Teague with the Honorable Suzanne Adams, acting supreme court justice in New York County, which led Teague to a summer internship with Adams in 2022.

Kennedy has been an invaluable mentor, but has also learned a lot from Teague.

“Over the course of our relationship, I have witnessed Cailyn’s confidence grow and her 
willingness to go beyond her comfort zone. I look forward to her graduation and I am so proud of her,” Kennedy said. “Our relationship has enhanced my knowledge and sensitivity regarding autism and neurodiverse persons, which is essential to the effective administration of justice. Her ‘superpower,’ love of the law, and sensitivity to those who have been shunned because of their differences will serve her well as a prosecutor in the Pima County Attorney’s Office.”


Autism Awareness Month is a great opportunity to shine a light on individuals with autism and to highlight their successes, but for Teague, raising awareness and being a role model is a year-round endeavor. A big part of her advocacy is showing what can be achieved with hard work and dedication.

“Everyone has difficult days and just because my difficulties may look different or be expressed differently doesn’t mean it's bad,” Teague said. “I am lucky because I am aware of my weaknesses and my strengths, and because of it I make a conscious effort to work to overcome them.”

One of Teague’s struggles was connecting and relating to the audience as an aspiring trial lawyer—figuring out how to express the right emotions and tone. So, she got creative, recording herself delivering remarks and getting feedback from peers, friends, and family. She said she is constantly working to hone this skill and has had many opportunities to practice—from the 1L Mock Trial competition to law school courses such as Trial Advocacy and Litigation Skills, as well as summer internships.

“One of the biggest things I hope anyone takes away from reading this is to always try, and try again, no matter how hard something seems,” she said. “Failing is not the end of the story, it is just another opportunity to get back up and show them what you can do.”

In 2019, two years before entering law school, Teague learned about Haley Moss, a neurodiversity expert and advocate who earned a J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law in 2018, and became the first openly autistic attorney in Florida the following year. Reading about Moss’ experiences, Teague said, helped her to be more open about her own autism. In turn, Teague hopes that sharing her own experience can help others and bring more awareness, especially within the legal field.

“There is currently no roadmap, or book that I am aware of, for being an openly autistic female ADA, then hopefully AUSA, District, Circuit, and SCOTUS judge,” Teague said. “I am always going to be reaching and working towards my goals. Because even though I might not always have someone to look up to in those roles, who looks like me and whose brain works like mine does, I hope I can be that person for someone else.”


As part of this feature, Teague shared a list of resources for understanding autism:

What is Autism?


Obsessions and Repetitive Behavior

Activities, Strategies, and Resources for Teaching Students with Autism

Online Simulations to Experience What it Feels Like to Have Autism

Understand Autism and What You Can do to Help

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