Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism is now in its final stages of publication, preparing to be printed for the wide world to see by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, we, the Spectrum Women and authors of this book, felt it would be a great opportunity to tell you a little about ourselves and the reasons why we were part of this incredible project. Each Spectrum Woman has a unique story to tell and today we would like to introduce you to Jen Elcheson…
Hello Spectrum Women Readers!
I live in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, a small northern inland city in the middle of a vast evergreen forest. I am a quirky and highly introverted autistic woman. At 36 years old, I am a modern day spinster with two pet snakes. Some things I really like include reading the latest information on autism and neurodiversity, psychology, working with kids and teens, animals, spirituality, rainbows, shiny/sparkly things, making lists, documentaries, books, coffee & tea, making others laugh, live music, listening to music (mainly metal and rock), being part of an international metal music club, collaborating with my Spectrum Sisters, and spending time with my family and close friends. You get the idea.
Currently employed as a full time para-educator, I provide school supports to neurodivergent high school students. As a side job, I also do part time respite care. I have been working with kids since babysitting in my early teens and have also been a nanny and daycare employee before pursuing a career in education. Now, I can add another occupation to my roster: AUTHOR.
After coming to accept myself as an autistic woman in my mid 20’s, it became a serious lesson in learning to accept my whole self. This acceptance was strengthened when I began to encounter other autistic people online (and real life) and recognized I was hardly alone. It was reassuring and validating.
Regardless of our different backgrounds, we shared many common challenges. Meeting like-minded folks facilitated in feeling less isolated and alone. Subsequently, I wanted to share my story and join those who had shared theirs before. Movements in where we educate and support others entail many voices and perspectives, after all.
Growing up not knowing there was a term to describe why I was pointedly different than others, followed by shame and denial after being professionally identified, to my journey to self-acceptance was emphasized in the book. I also wrote about my challenges with dyspraxia, friendships and other personal relationships and why it is essential to cultivate and tailor them to your needs as an autistic person.
It is no secret that alongside my Spectrum Sisters I love writing (obviously). Many autistic people can express themselves more eloquently and openly in writing, or when there is some kind of script to aid in communication to prevent social gaffes. Though it sounds unequivocally far out, there was a period when I was new to the autistic community and imagined coming together with other autistic women and writing a book which would cover many facets of our lives. I even pictured the book being published by JKP! Years later, the vision finally came to fruition and I am deeply humbled and beyond honoured to write alongside such a brilliant collective of women including a very talented clinician.
Sharing my reflections with the world was a bit petrifying at first, but it was also something I felt was necessary. It was very challenging to write something I knew would be published in a book. I was very critical of myself and constantly revising to make sure my prose was interesting and clear. There were days where I felt like an imposter, insecure, and ready to throw in the proverbial towel. With the support of Barb and my other writing colleagues, I was able to persevere and complete my parts of the manuscript on time. Their support is very much appreciated on so many levels.
In closing, I hope our stories ease, educate, and lend a light to those who feel stuck in the dark and don’t belong. Thank you for supporting us!
Barb Cook and 14 other autistic women describe life from a female autistic perspective, and present empowering, helpful and supportive insights from their personal experience for fellow autistic women. Michelle Garnett’s comments validate and expand the experiences described from a clinician’s perspective, and provide extensive recommendations.
Autistic advocates including Liane Holliday Willey, Anita Lesko, Jeanette Purkis, Artemisia and Samantha Craft offer their personal guidance on significant issues that particularly affect women, as well as those that are more general to autism. Contributors cover issues including growing up, identity, diversity, parenting, independence and self-care amongst many others. With great contributions from exceptional women, this is a truly well-rounded collection of knowledge and sage advice for any woman with autism.
The Authors: Edited by: Barb Cook, Michelle Garnett
Release date 21st August, 2018.
Paperback / softback / Kindle
2018, 9.02in x 5.98in / 229mm x 152mm, 288pp