SWAN: Scottish Women with Autism was established in 2012 in partnership with Autism Network Scotland to support women with autism, raise awareness and understanding, exchange knowledge and work to improve services.
The website states that:
‘When Asperger’s syndrome (AS) was first recognised in the UK, there was uncertainty around what the term meant, who it applied to and what impact it had on people’s lives. Since then, we have gained a better understanding of this aspect of the autism spectrum. We now also realise that more women may have Autism Spectrum Condition (Disorder) than previously thought.’
Autism Daily Newscast contacted Dr Catriona Stewart, a founding member of the group and she told us that invitation to membership is extended to women with an autism diagnosis and those who identify with the characteristics, challenges and gifts involved.
Dr Stewart continued to add:
“I approached Autism Network Scotland (ANS) after completing my PhD study which focussed on the experiences of girls with Asperger’s syndrome at a time when few of us were looking at girls and women. The group is non-hierarchical and based on respect, consideration and mutual support. ”
SWAN is currently centred in Glasgow but women attend from all across the country. The group meets every month to discuss campaigns, general business; and every two months the group plan social events to enjoy each others company, share food and stories and relax.
Members are not obliged to attend all meetings and are welcome to attend social events only, according to their needs and resources.
Dr Stewart informed us that SWAN seeks to challenge the “deficit model of autism”. She explained further:
“While we have to cope with challenges in our daily lives people often can’t imagine and have no awareness of because we disguise them so well, our abilities and strengths should not be underestimated.”
SWAN have a ‘Friends of SWAN’ network, accessed through the Autism Network Scotland (ANS) website, for ASD/C women, professionals, practitioners and interested organisations to come together online, to share experiences and to exchange information.
Dr Stewart shared her view that:
“Awareness and understanding of both autism in general and autism in females specifically are both increasing all the time. We want to contribute to that.”
The group at present includes artists and photographers, researchers, an NLP practitioner and life-coach, lecturers, presenters, an archaeologist, a health practitioner and a special needs teacher; 3 members of the group are mothers; 2 are autism representatives for a number of committees and organisations .