A year ago today The Autistic Womens Empowerment Project was officially launched at the Autism Show 2014.
We are a User Led project run by Autistic Women for Autistic Women .
As an Autistic woman myself and as the mother of Autistic children, I was aware of the challenges that myself and my children had but It wasn’t until I received my diagnosis of Autism after searching for answers for years that I gained full understanding of the difficulty’s many women and girls face in obtaining a diagnosis and the lack of post diagnosis services available
Following what I felt was not only poor treatment but also discrimination I became very passionate about the need for correct services for AS girls and women I had my counselling for trauma stopped abruptly because I had received an Autism diagnosis .I had continually asked for support for my challenges but continually hit brick walls and so in sheer desperation I reached out to other women in the Autism community and I started my project. which launched at the Autism Show in June 2014 supported by Autism Life Dogs
The last year has been a time of researching all I can about Autism ,in fact it has become a special interest and I have become hyper focused on learning all I can , Very little research has been undertaken on the different presentation of Autism in females .Most research has been carried out on males and it is only very recently that girls have begun to receive correct recognition of their difficulties many have been misdiagnosed with personality disorders .I don’t learn from books that are written by university professors but material written by my peers in the Autistic community and through the real life experiences of the women I connect with ,I am thankful to all the women who have come forward to help
This last year has been a time of planning and developing a strategy and now we are ready move on and start doing some work that will benefit our community. I have already given a number of talks and our workshops are beginning locally in September The last year I have spent making connections with women all over the country so that I could listen to their views and the difficulty’s they encounter. I have connected and met with campaigners and advocates and next year hope to meet up with many more
I have also designed a website and developed a strategy to raise funds as I refuse to wait for the government to sort out funding. We have got to do it for ourselves, it worked for the suffragettes, the temperance movement and the Women’s Institute so there is no reason why it can’t work for Autistic Women .If it has to be cakes and jam to raise funds then so be it.
So what is my Mission?
It is to provide information to empower and support women and in the process to join them on a journey of healing and self-knowledge .This journey includes healing, self-acceptance, developing healthy coping mechanisms and empowerment.
The road to getting a diagnosis was a long one for me but finally understanding myself gave me a great sense of liberation .It made me feel complete for the first time ever in my life I felt connected to other people . I knew that my daughter had the same difficulty’s as me and the same physical symptoms etc. that I had when I was her age ,it was like I was watching my life unfold in front of my eyes and it was when I knew that I was going to have to yet again fight the system to get any support for her that I decided to start the AWE Project . I have faced challenges due to my undiagnosed Autism all my life .My diagnosis helped me finally gain understanding which in turn led to self- acceptance and the chance to finally gain some self-worth .
I don’t want my daughter growing up with a poor negative self-view because of her uniqueness ,l want her to embrace it and feel able to step into the world as an adult and have a positive life journey and I feel every single girl on the spectrum should be empowered to not feel that she has to take all her time trying to make people like her and fit in ,because she wasn’t born to fit in she was born to stand out .She needs to feel able to love herself and really like who she is .
When I began to understand my challenges .I felt strong enough to reach out to others I was welcomed and finally felt that I had found my peers ,and now am part of a large support circle .It was those women who empowered me, who gave me the strength to keep going and they continue to do that to this day .Whenever I am down or I don’t understand something there is someone in my circle of support who I can reach out to for advice .We support each other with compassion and empathy and it is a wonderful thing to see. I am also a firm believer that education and knowledge should be free to all and am inspired by how through the use of the internet we are not only developing a great big knowledge bank but are becoming a global community .I don’t even have to step outside my door and every day I speak and am connected with people in different country’s all around the world .We are learning from each other.
The Autistic women I connect with tend to be the women who are getting a late diagnosis of Autism .They are the women who never managed to fit into the world or who did and got continually hurt and misunderstood. Many have self-recognised their difficulty’s but are still undiagnosed or too scared to go for a diagnosis because they fear the reaction of others .Others have been refused a referral because their GP is stuck in the dark ages and has no idea of what Autism is all about .There is to many GPs that are firmly stuck in the medical model and usually just dish out prescriptions for anti-depressants -anti-psychotic’s or sleeping pills. Due to living with constant high stress levels a lot of these women have developed stress related illnesses and most are severely socially isolated and rarely ever step outside their doors reaching out all be it through the internet is all they are capable of at the moment and all they may ever feel comfortable with. Many have had traumas and crisis’s throughout their life’s that they have never had any help for .
I have in the last six months began to learn about how the system works which has changed a great deal in the years since I stopped working in the Autism Sector and all the regulations regarding SEN and Social Services has all changed since I fought them for my sons education and support .In England there is an Autism Act which included women in its updated guidance .I however live in Wales and we do not have an Autism Act .The Welsh Government have their own Autism Strategy and they also have their own regulations relating to government services. Myself and the other women who play a role locally have been educating ourselves ,so that when we are ready to move forward we have the correct information and structure in place . The Welsh Assembly elections take place next year so now is the time to really campaign for change to insure that all party’s include the implementation of an Autism Act for Wales .
Presently we are focused on developing our women and girls group , so that we can make positive changes in our local community and raising awareness through social media .We are also developing a project in our local area to campaign for an Autism Act for Wales .We want to make sure that womens needs are included in all statutory legislation
Over the next year The AWE Projects social media will be showcasing the talents of females with an Autism Spectrum Condition ,including artists ,actors musicians and many more .
If you have a talent you would like to share please contact us