Dr Catriona Stewart OBE

Dr Stewart has delivered many academic papers and conference plenary presentations, training and workshops, nationally and internationally, including in the UK, Canada, India, Singapore and Europe. 

She started researching autism over 20 years ago. Her PhD focussed on the lived experiences of autistic girls, and anxiety, after which she founded charity, SWAN: Scottish Women’s Autism Network, to provide peer support, build on the knowledge-base, and raise levels of understanding. Dr Stewart continues to work within the research field. She has experience in the Education sector, as a university and college lecturer, module leader, student training clinic supervisor and professional mentor.

She has been an advisor and ambassador to a range of high-level reviews, including the National Autism Project, 2015-2018, the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, Scotland, in relation to Autism and Learning Disability, 2018-2019, the Scottish Government #DifferentMinds Campaign, launched Oct 2020, and, from the start of the COVID pandemic in April 2020, was a member of Lord John Scott KC’s Human Rights-focused Independent Advisory Group to the Scottish Police Authority.

 Dr Stewart founded ground-breaking and award-winning charity, SWAN: Scottish Women’s Autism Network, in 2012. SWAN has grown and expanded, continuing to facilitate peer-support forums throughout Scotland and online. SWAN offers training and professional support across employment and public sector services, including corporate settings, public sector, eg NHS, Local Authorities, Police Scotland. 

Scottish Government funded a SWAN initiative to evidence the impact of peer mentoring for autistic women and girls, the Under Our Wing programme, and the 18 month SWAN Employment Project, offering coaching and mentoring to autistic women in their work contexts, and training to employers and colleagues. In 2022 Catriona was delighted to recruit 2 more members of staff and pass on the role of CEO to her successor.

Dr Stewart was awarded the title of OBE in 2020 for services to Autistic women.

My training and qualifications

  • Applied Research Gender Studies PGDip (Merit) 2016
  • Stirling University

  • PhD Hermeneutic phenomenology: the experiences of girls with Asperger’s syndrome and anxiety 2011
  • Edinburgh Napier University

Selected other professional and research training

  • In My Shoes Training for licence to use computer-based interview software for vulnerable children and adults update training (2012)
  • Diagnostic issues: training for professionals with Drs Judith Gould and Susan Shepherd Lorna Wing Centre for Autism  (2011)
  • Theory into Practice SVQ Level 4 Training on working with children and  young people National Autistic Society (NAS) and Edinburgh Napier University (2005)
  • Listening to Children 8 week assessed post-graduate training in research involving children Edinburgh University/ESRC/Centre for Family and Relationship Research (CFRR) (2005)

I have delivered numerous presentations, training and talks and acted in an advisory and ambassadorial role.

Autistic Women and Girls: Perspectives, Challenges and Inclusive Practices
  • Delivered as presentation to II Congreso Internacional, Autismo Sevilla, Seville 2022

Autistic Women and Employment: the inclusive workplace
  • Dundee University, online 2021
  • Let’s Talk Inclusion India online 2021
  • Skills Development Scotland/https://www.be-st.build/ online 2021
  • Aucademy UK online 2021
  • Strathclyde University, HR and other departments, online 2020
Autistic girls: school, education, mental health and inclusion
  • Parents, professionals and individuals workshop Hope for Autism (Charity) online 2022
  • Parents and professionals workshop Autism Learns (professional training organisation) online 2021
  • Education and health care staff/practitioners and families Shetland Island LA Online 2021
  • Transforming Autism Education International partnership event Birmingham UK 2016
  • NHS Highland Multi-professional autism study day Inverness UK 2015
  • Scottish Autism Strategy Research Seminar series Glasgow 2014
  • Numerous Parents groups and other 3rd sector organisations from 2011 – present
Autistic Women and Girls across the Lifespan - 3 hour training workshop
  • Singapore, schools SEN professionals 2021 and 2022
  • Glasgow Women’s Library Online 2022/Glasgow 2019
  • Inspiring Scotland Edinburgh 2020
  • Perth and Kinross NHS Home Visitors CPD event 2019
  • Atlass training group Studio III 2018
Autism, gender and identity (evidencing the impact of peer-mentoring for autistic women and girls, building resources and inclusive practices)
  • PlayingA/Part Symposium online 2021
  • Conference paper Autism Europe Congress 2019 Nice, France 
  • Plenary presentation PlayingA/Part Symposium Canterbury 2019 Canterbury UK
  • Conference paper Autistica annual conference 2019 Reading UK
  • Conference paper and video interview NAS Professionals Conference 2019 Birmingham UK
  • Workshop sessionScottish Autism 50th Anniversary conference 2018 Glasgow UK
  • Conference paper Meeting of Minds International 2017 Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Conference paper WomenBeing International Conference on gender studies 2017 Edinburgh UK
  • Conference paper International Women and Gender Studies  2017 Toronto, Canada
Research ethics and methodologies in autism
  • training workshop to PhD Research students Scottish Autism Research Group (SARG) 2019 Edinburgh UK
  • conference presentations, Department of Medical Anthropology, Edinburgh University 2018/ 2019 Edinburgh UK
  • Scottish Autism 50th Anniversary conference 2018 Glasgow UK
  • training workshop to Psychology PhD Research students, 2016 Durham University, UK
  • Mental Health Conference Co-chair National Autistic Society 2022 Newcastle UK and online
  • National Women’s Conference Co-Chair National Autistic Society 2020 and 2018 London UK
  • National 2 day Professionals Annual Conference Co-chair National Autistic Society Harrogate
Facilitation : Conference sessions, consultation workshops and advisory forums

Numerous for SWAN: Scottish Women’s Autism Network: meetings, conferences, events, workshops, peer-support meetings, mental health and wellbeing online webinars (since 2020) 2012 – 2022 

Regional Delivery Partner and Chair Inspiring Scotland/Scottish Government Regional Advisory forums 2019 – 2022 Glasgow UK and online

Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, Scotland, Autism and Learning Disability focus groups 2017-2019

Selected conference presentations and Continuing Professional Development training:

  • Presentation: II Congreso Internacional, Autismo Sevilla, Seville, 2022

  • 3 hour training workshop for schools, Singapore, 2022

  • Presentation: Human rights, policing, & autism, in a global pandemic, with Lord John Scott QC for Scottish Autism Strategy Conference, 2020 https://youtu.be/WDwzXFMsG50

  • Conference paper, Autism Europe Congress Nice 2019

  • Training in Research Ethics and Methodologies Scottish Autism Research Group (SARG) Edinburgh 2019

  • Conference paper NAS Professionals Conference Birmingham 2019

  • Atlass Training for Studio III 2018

  • Conference paper, Globalisation of Autism, St Mary’s University, London 2018

  • Chaired and workshop delivery NAS Women’s Conference 2018 London

  • Conference Paper Meeting of Minds International Conference 2017 Copenhagen

  • WomenBeing International Conference on gender studies 2017 Edinburgh

  • IV International Conference on Advancement in Women’s Studies 2017 Toronto

  • Globalising Autism 2017 London

  • Autism Europe Congress 2016 Edinburgh

  • Shaping Autism Research UK seminar 2015 Edinburgh

  • Scottish Autism Strategy Research Seminar Series 2014 Glasgow

My Philosophy

The underlying theme throughout my work has been how our assumptions about autism are being challenged constantly, not least by autistic people whose experiences and perspectives are being articulated with increasing confidence.

Underpinning all my research is an emphasis on retrieving lived experience as a vital source of data or information and a focus on how we can ensure voices previously marginalised or just not heard are given expression and listened to. 

I am passionate about giving people the information and support they need to make positive choices, to challenge what they need to, to access tools for self-development and self-care and to improve their quality of life. 

Autism is an emerging field of interest that challenges us to ask profound questions about what it means to be human. I have worked for years to challenge stigma and stereotyping and to promote a positive narrative around autism, gender, human rights, diversity and inclusion.

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