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 Jeanette Purkis…
My chapter in the Spectrum Women book is about employment, which is a very important topic for me both in my personal life and as an autistic advocate. I had a very difficult start to my adult life and by the age of 25 found myself long-term unemployed and homeless, with a poorly managed mental illness and a history of trauma and abuse and institutionalisation. I was at a crossroads — either be confined to negativity, poverty and poor choices forever or make some changes. In late 2000, I decided, while living in supported accommodation for at risk young people, that I wanted to be ‘ordinary.’ Ordinary in this context meant to have an education, a professional job, a mortgage and a suit — seemingly impossible goals for me at the time.
I am blessed with a lot of motivation and determination. I set out on a quest to change how I approached the world. I enrolled in university and discovered I was very good at academic things. After I completed my first semester with a bunch of high distinctions and praise from my lecturers, I thought it was time to get a job to start me on my journey to the better life that I sought. A housemate got me a job washing dishes at a restaurant two nights a week. It wasn’t hard work in a technical sense but it was almost impossible because of my high anxiety and perfectionism. I was determined to keep my job but it was destroying me with anxiety. For me, continual anxiety tends to result in psychosis so I got really unwell, had to quit the job and nearly had to quit my university course. It was a big setback and a blow to my fledgling confidence. I didn’t see it as the end though. I figured I would be able to work in the future even if I couldn’t right then. After a couple of years I started to build in incremental challenges around employment. I got a volunteer job then had a very small business of just me making videos for my art school colleagues. I then got myself a casual job collecting for a charity and then I wrote a book — my autobiography — which was published and changed my life. The publication of the book coincided with me completing my Masters degree. I was finally confident enough to apply for professional jobs. I applied for two different graduate roles in Government administration. Amazingly, despite my dubious history, mental illness and the many holes in my CV, I was hired.
I loved my job almost as soon as I started. I am still there 11 years later and have been promoted twice. To me work equals liberation. When I started working I gained financial independence and self-esteem and a sense of being part of something bigger. Many autistic people struggle with finding and keeping employment — I know I did. I do a lot of writing and presenting around autism and employment with employers, service providers and autistic people. I have a book on employment for autistic teens called The Wonderful World of Work. I love sharing things I have learned and talking to people about their experiences of work.
I have some more writing on employment on my website: www.jeanettepurkis.com
I love that my own experience is useful for autistic employees and job seekers and for employers too. I think if people can work they should be given the opportunity to do so.
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