About

Scottish Women’s Autism Network (SWAN) was established in August 2012 in partnership with Autism Network Scotland.

We meet for peer support and networking. We help each other by sharing our experiences and knowledge, having open discussions, women having the opportunity to meet like-minded women.

SWAN is a network of women each with a unique perspective, shaped by individual experiences and circumstances; we represent a range of views on all sorts of issues from diagnosis to gender, from ASC as a difference rather than a disorder, to life in general.

Responsibility for planning, administration, communicating with the wider group, other organisations and individuals who contact us has been taken on a voluntary basis by a small number of us over the years.  We also have an ever expanding wider network of women involved through our informal meet-ups, social events, Facebook Page, and so on.

Some of us are also involved in public awareness activities and presentation services; we are committed to promoting information exchange with practitioners and service providers.

SWAN offers a support service to all women who are self-identified or formally diagnosed as Autistic inclusive of age, disability, gender reassignment, sex, sexuality, race, religion or belief.

We recognise the complexities transgender people often face when accessing gender specific services, and we aim to provide an inclusive welcome to all women with supports individualised to best suit all of those involved.

Dr Catriona Stewart

Chair


Catriona co-founded SWAN in 2012 after a journey that took her from academic lecturer and clinical trainer, through her PhD thesis on girls with AS and anxiety, to mother of an autistic girl, to autistic mother.

Catriona’s PhD research was the driving force behind SWAN and the underpinning to her work with Scottish Autism developing their Right Click for Women and Girls online resource. She was an advisor and ‘expert’ to 3-year UK initiative, the National Autism Project, has presented at numerous national and international conferences, including 2 international conferences on women and gender studies, delivers training and consultation services.

Catriona currently works full-time for Scottish Autism as an advisor; one of her current work streams is a Scottish Government funded initiative delivered through Scottish Autism’s Right Click programme and SWAN in partnership. ‘Under Our Wing’ is a pilot one-year peer-mentoring training programme.

Rony Casement

Trustee and volunteer


My name is Rony Casement and I’m a trustee and volunteer for SWAN. I am a self-employed specialist autism practitioner with an autism consultancy service in Inverclyde. I am married with three wonderful adult sons and two beautiful dogs and I am currently studying towards a MEd (Autism) at Strathclyde University. My professional background spans 30 years across the fields of early years, further education and disability with a focus in the area of autism support in the past 4 years.

My involvement with SWAN began in 2015 following my own autism diagnosis. This diagnosis followed 18 months of being self-identified as autistic and so represented a pivotal point in terms of my journey towards reforming my identity and reframing my life experiences within the context of being an autistic woman.

SWAN offered me the opportunity to find other autistic women and through this finding I immediately formed connections & friendships which offered a unique and powerful form of peer support. We are a group of uncommon women who have been given the gift of finding a space to reflect back commonality to each other through our shared life experiences. I am the SWAN Glasgow meet-up coordinator and an administrator on both our main Facebook page and on our secret Facebook page, SWAN Conversations. I have also recently been involved in developing support resources for Autistic teenagers aged fifteen and above in the form of supervised meet-ups and a moderated Facebook forum.

I believe passionately in the unique power of peer support and mentoring for autistic women and girls. I know it works because I feel it internally and I see it in the other women giving and receiving peer support around me. Through SWAN we are not receiving a support in the traditional sense but crafting our own support as a co-operative. This unique, effective and infinitely sustainable approach allows women to lift each other within a community of equality and mutual respect. Through my involvement in SWAN I continually bear witness to the transformative, therapeutic effect of “finding your tribe” and this has galvanized my professional and personal opinion that the best kind of support for autistic individuals comes from inside the autism community.

Charlene Tait


Charlene Tait has worked in the field of autism for twenty eight years. In that time she has been engaged in direct practice and service development. She was lecturer and Course Director in Postgraduate Autism studies at the University of Strathclyde and has been involved in a number of national strategic initiatives.

Career highlights to date include being a co-author of The Autism Toolbox, a resource for Scottish Schools and the development of Right Click, an on line support programme for parents, professionals and autistic people. Of particular relevance to SWAN was the development of the Right Click Programme for Women and Girls. Ensuring the authentic voice and meaningful participation of autistic women to inform and deliver content was a guiding principle throughout the project. She is currently leading on the development of The Centre for Practice Innovation within Scottish Autism. Key strategic objectives are to maximize organisational knowledge and to build an evidence base related to an individualised, personalised approach to practice by ensuring the voice and choice of autistic people is heard in the services they access for support. The continuous improvement of services and practice development is a priority.

Charlene feels part of a movement for change in relation to autism and autistic people and is motivated by the many injustices faced by this community. Main areas of professional interest are enabling quality of life and positive lifestyles for autistic people.

In her free time, Charlene dabbles in writing and performing stand –up comedy. Family and Friends are a priority.

Bill Colley


Bill is an independent educational consultant, specialising in additional support needs (ASN).

He has been a member of the National Autism Strategy Reference Group since 2010 and also sits as an educational expert on UKAP (United Kingdom ADHD Partnership). He is an educational advisor to Mindroom and to the Perth & Kinross ADHD Support Group, and has worked as a Service Manager with responsibility for ASN at local authority level, as the Headteacher of an independent residential special school, and as Housemaster and Head of Department in one of Scotland's largest boarding schools.

Bill holds post-graduate qualifications in Asperger's syndrome and in Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, and has acted as an expert witness/advocate in cases involving school exclusion, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders. He has been trained in administering the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), the Autism Diagnostic Interview (Revised), and the Development & Wellbeing Assessment (DAWBA).

He has a particular interest in complex diagnoses, in the challenge of identifying autism in women and girls, and issues surrounding gender identity. He is also keen to develop further his understanding of the impact of autism on family dynamics and in particular the parent-child dyad.
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