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Our Story

“Where can we be what we are?” (Stewart C, 2012)

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SWAN was founded in 2012, at a time when there was little or no information, support or understanding of autistic women.

Through her work on her PhD and subsequent research, SWAN founder Dr Catriona Stewart OBE asked a key question: “Where can we be what we are?”

In response to that question, Dr Stewart and a small but dedicated group of autistic women got together to drive a new narrative around autistic women, and create their own spaces for peer support, information sharing, knowledge exchange, and social connection.

The SWAN analogy describes the experience of many autistic women who, through masking to meet societal expectations and fit into a predominantly neurotypical world, may appear to glide effortlessly across the surface of life, whilst frantically paddling underneath just to stay afloat.

From its beginnings as a small, volunteer-led organisation, SWAN has grown into a ground-breaking autistic-led Charity, delivering services, information and support both for and by autistic women across Scotland, and placing the experiences of those autistic women at the centre of everything we do.

Despite having come a long way since 2012, autistic women continue to face significant barriers in accessing diagnosis and support, or even the information they need to understand themselves and their own needs.

SWAN is a space created by autistic women for autistic women, where we can be who we are, understand ourselves better, and share our experiences, challenges, interests and joys.