This article appeared on April 13, 2018 on Spectrum Women Magazine
As our book Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism is now in its final stages of publication, preparing to be printed for the wide world to see by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, we, the Spectrum Women and authors of this book, felt it would be a great opportunity to tell you a little about ourselves and the reasons why we were part of this incredible project. Each Spectrum Woman has a unique story to tell and today we would like to introduce you to Maura Campbell…
I was excited and honoured — and, I have to say, a little apprehensive — when Barb Cook invited me to contribute to her book. I knew I’d be writing alongside a group of extremely talented and knowledgeable women, including a number of well-respected published authors.
In my chapter (Chapter 1, ‘Finding your Tribe’), I cover topics such as pursuing a diagnosis; when and how to disclose you are on the autism spectrum; some of the myths, misconceptions and stereotypes that still persist about autism; and the sense of community that comes from connecting with other autistic women. Since this chapter sets the scene for a lot of what follows in the book, I felt I had a responsibility to set the right tone on these introductory topics.
I also got the chance to work with Terri Mayne and Kate Ross on Chapter 14 (‘Executive Functioning’), where I talk about our need for control and how this interrelates with our ability to function at a practical level. This chapter covers a number of important issues that are only just starting to get the attention they deserve. I feel that, traditionally, excessive attention has been paid to perceived deficits in our social skills and I hope our book will help redress the balance by providing a much more rounded view of autism in women and girls.
I wrote my contributions in a number of short bursts, sneaking off to write until eventually my son, Darragh, would track me down and drag me back to wherever he thought I should be — he has great motoric communication! I also had to run the gauntlet of Baz the cat attacking my pen or sitting on the keyboard. (Baz has a real thing for pens and pencils; he steals them and hides them under the mats in our hallway.)
I have huge respect for the other women who are participating in this book and, for me, the process has been as rewarding as the product. I have learned so much along the way and feel privileged to have had this amazing opportunity to learn directly from women I greatly admire about both autism and writing, my two current passions. The combined knowledge and experience in this project is phenomenal. It felt like a constructive peer collaboration and I love how people have generously shared their thoughts and pooled ideas with such good humour — something I think shines through in the book. Each writer is excellent in their own right but something very special happened when a number of us came together, under Barb’s steady hand.
For me, Spectrum Women – Walking to the Beat of Autism is like a message in a bottle to our younger selves. I found growing up with undiagnosed autism a lonely and confusing experience (it wasn’t anyone’s fault — back in the 1970s and 1980s much less was known about autism than nowadays). Even though we span the globe, we could always relate to each other’s experiences and I found that extremely validating. If by sharing what we have learned on our own journeys we can make other women feel less alone, I would regard that as a huge success.