For the first time in Scotland, a conference for girls and women on the autism spectrum facilitated the exchange of information and experiences with practitioners. Women, Girls and the Autism Spectrum took place on April 27, 2015 at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. The conference was presented by Autism Network Scotland (ANS) and the Scottish Women with Autism Network (SWAN).
The conference was a unique opportunity for women on the spectrum to network with each other and collaborate with practitioners involved in diagnosis, education and ongoing services for people with autism. Key themes at the conference were diagnosis, education and wellbeing, with presentations and interactive sessions on each topic taking place throughout the day. Discussions were focused on good practice: what already exists, what should exist, and what can be taken forward in order to make a positive difference.
Following on the success of the April event, SWAN hopes to make the conference a regular occurrence, and are hoping to plan the next event towards the end of 2015.
Below you’ll find a summary of the day, along with presentations and videos. When watching a video, you may wish to open the accompanying slideshow alongside; the slides are not visible in the videos.
You can also read a report written by members of SWAN summarising the discussions that took place at the event by clicking here.
Welcome and Introduction – Dr Catriona Stewart, SWAN
After an introduction to the event from Dr Catriona Stewart of SWAN, Dr Jane Neil-MacLachlan presented to attendees on diagnosis of women and girls on the autism spectrum, and how and why they are often under- or mis- diagnosed.
Diagnosis workshops looked at what makes for positive experiences of identification, assessment and diagnosis, and what the most important things to have access to post-diagnosis are.
Diagnosis of Women and Girls on the Autism Spectrum – Dr Jane Neil-MacLachlan
For the second part of the day, Lynne Moffat of SWAN presented on her personal experiences of education, and Alina Spence from Williamwood High School talked about an afterschool programme developed in East Renfrewshire for teenage girls with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Workshops saw discussions on what good practice should look like for primary, secondary and post-school education, what current barriers there are to this, and how these could be overcome.
A Perspective on Education – Lynne Moffat, SWAN
East Renfrewshire Asperger’s Girls Group – Alina Spence, Williamwood High School
The final session looked at wellbeing, presentations focussed on two specific areas related to this that had been identified as being particularly important to women on the autism spectrum. Kabie Brook from Autism Rights Group Highland presented on autistic motherhood, and how this can be an invisible identity. Debi Brown followed with a talk on wellbeing and the workplace, covering some strategies that can be helpful in maintaining physical and mental wellbeing.
At the end of the day, a panel discussion featured some speakers from the day as well as Dr Anne Marie Gallagher and Kath Baker. The panel was chaired by Professor Jean MacLellan, Chair of the Governance Group of the Scottish Strategy for Autism and National Autism Co-ordination Project Co-ordinator. Questions for the panel were submitted before and during the event and covered many areas, including: the value of peer support, how women on the spectrum change as they get older, the impact of autism and gender stereotypes and how to achieve self-acceptance and empowerment.
Autistic Motherhood: An Invisible Identity? – Kabie Brook, Autism Rights Group Highland
Wellbeing and the Workplace – Debi Brown
Wellbeing Panel Discussion – chaired by Professor Jean MacLellan, University of Strathclyde
First part of panel discussion
End of panel discussion and summary from Dr Catriona Stewart, SWAN
Some comments from attendees about the day:
“Very interesting event with a good range of attendees. All presentations very informative and made me think”
“Extremely valuable hearing first hand experience”
“My daughter is not alone and I am excited of the hope for the future for her and I am doing the right thing in fighting for her!”