As our book 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 Dr Catriona Stewart…
I’d already completed an MSc on biomedical theories of autism and the controversies involved in diagnosis, and had started on my PhD training, when it dawned on me that autism was something that was part of my personal experience, in a number of ways. The realisation did impact on my perspective as a researcher but mostly in terms of enriching my understanding of what I was exploring. It has impacted on my life in a multiplicity of ways since, but little did I know then! I chose to focus on girls for my research, partly because I’ve been a lifelong feminist. I also was aware that there was a discrepancy between the prevailing statistics of the time, ideas of autism/Asperger’s in gender terms and that women were clearly visible as presenters and writers; something just didn’t ‘add up’!
I’m the mother of two girls (young women now). I want to make the world a better place for them, but I’ve always wanted to be a part of positive social change, it’s just something I feel passionate about. I suppose I originally chose feminism as the route to that change, again because of personal experiences — we used to say, in the feminist activists community, that the personal IS political. I was angry when I was young, angry and sad, and feminism gave me a place and a language to explore those feelings and the experiences that had brought them about. I love philosophy too, and literature and it was these things that introduced me to most of the ideas and concepts that have underpinned my life since. Sometimes these things overlapped and the joy of ‘meeting’ feminist philosophers and social commentators through their writings — and their art, their films and their music — is something I’ve written about in ‘Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism’.
I founded SWAN: Scottish Women’s Autism Network in 2012 after completing my PhD. It’s a charity now, and has a number of ‘branches’ reaching out from that original single sapling planted almost six years ago. We run meet-ups every month in three Scottish cities, online chat forums for adults and young women and take part in consultations, research, conferences, etc. I am involved in a UK-based project called the National Autistic Task-force, which is the next phase of a three year initiative called the National Autism Project for which I was an ‘expert’ and one of their advisors. I work full time for a charity that is 50 years old this year, Scottish Autism, which employed me originally as a consultant to help them develop an online resource for autistic women, Right Click. Modeled on an existing set of resources they had developed, it’s filled with information, some research presentations and, most importantly, filmed interviews with a range of different autistic women and girls, from 15 years to 70!
I’m passionate about other things too — the natural environment as our, i.e. the human race’s, ‘home’ and music as one of our first languages, a form of communication, and a source of comfort and solace. But mostly I have been incredibly lucky to find a role within the world of autism — several roles, really — that means I get paid to do work I love, where my interests and abilities can be of use.
I hope many people find ‘Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism’ useful, informative, positive, supportive. Most of all, I hope it gives women and girls a sense of community and an idea of the potential richness of their lives, full of possibilities.
Scottish Autism’s Right Click: https://www.scottishautism.org/services-support/support-families/women-and-girls-online-support
National Autism Project “The Future I’d Like to See’: http://nationalautismproject.org.uk/the-future-id-like-to-see-dr-catriona-stewart
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.
Release date 21st August, 2018.
Paperback / softback / Kindle
2018, 9.02in x 5.98in / 229mm x 152mm, 288pp