The Spectrum Women and authors of this book, Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism, 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 Dr Michelle Garnett…
When Barb invited me to be a co-author of “Spectrum Women,” involving reading 19 chapters written by 15 autistic women about a diversity of life topics, I could not reply quickly enough to say “Yes!” in case she asked someone else before I replied! I felt “dead chuffed” (as they say in England) that she had invited me, I couldn’t wait to read the chapters, and I felt, having worked with hundreds of autistic girls and women for 25 years, I had quite a lot I wanted to say. My experience of girls and women on the autism spectrum had taught me that their presentation is different from that of males, but not many people know this, nor do they know how girls differ. As a result, our girls are under-recognised, overlooked and there is not enough female-specific knowledge out there to inform our current teaching approaches, parental support and clinical interventions. I also wanted to learn from the fantastic authors!
Barb was incredibly organised and helpful in the way she approached the creation of this book and the chapters started rolling in. I could not wait for another instalment. These women were captivating, they wrote with rare candour and eloquence. After all, one of the many awesome characteristics of autism is breath-taking honesty, and other characteristics often include both superior expressive language skills and enlivening creativity. Added to this, it was clear that each woman wrote their story as a true gift from the Heart, generously imparting pearls of wisdom drawn from their own heart-breaking and heart-mending experiences.
Women, generally, have suffered and continue to suffer worldwide because they have been brought up to believe that they are inferior to men, that they are less worthy. Women with autism inherit this cultural idea as well as a neurology that is not prewired to understand people. As a result, they make social mistakes and pay high prices for these mistakes. They are judged, they lose friends, they attract the predators of life, the bullies and the sexual predators, they are rejected and neglected. They feel there is no place for them in the world and so turn to “anywhere else but here” including fantasy and imagination, addiction, self-harm and suicide to escape the pain. They become stressed, anxious, depressed and eating-disordered and they do anything in their power to morph into someone else to fit in, to be “anyone else but me.” Without the knowledge that parts of their brain, particularly regions in the pre-frontal cortex and the limbic system, are wired differently, it is too common for these exceptional women to enter adolescence and adult life with the belief that they are inferior and unworthy, not only compared to men, but compared to everyone in the world.
A pearl of wisdom I have gained on my own journey in autism has been to understand that ignorance is not bliss. Instead, it is knowledge and understanding about autism that changes attitudes, changes minds, and thus changes lives for the better. A theme running through this book is that, for each author, the understanding that she is autistic is the beginning of her own healing, and ultimately the liberation to be her own true self, to walk to the beat of her own drum.
My heart-felt desire, and the most important reason for co-writing this book, is to increase accurate knowledge and understanding about girls and women with autism. This book is for them, for those who love them and for our community. I co-wrote this book understanding the power of books, of writing and of stories, to change beliefs and to change minds. Equipped with knowledge about the way the autistic mind works, we can not only understand but embrace girls and women on the autism spectrum, and they can understand and embrace themselves. We can recognise their value and worthiness, and encourage and support them to step fully into their place in our community, as daughters, mothers, friends, students, co-workers, authors and leaders.
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
Contributions by: Jen Elcheson, Artemisia, Catriona Stewart, Anita Lesko, Liane Holliday Willey, Samantha Craft, Jeanette Purkis, Kate Ross, Becca Lory, Renata Jurkevythz, Terri Mayne, Maura Campbell, Dena Gassner, Christine Jenkins
Foreword by: Lisa Morgan
Release date 21st August, 2018.
Paperback / softback / Kindle
2018, 9.02in x 5.98in / 229mm x 152mm, 288pp