A CHARITY has announced a new partnership aimed at further supporting the lives of women and girls with autism across Scotland.

Scottish Autism will help promote the work of SWAN: Scottish Women’s Autism Network and has appointed its founder Dr Catriona Stewart on a three-year secondment.

Launched by Stewart in 2012, SWAN has focused on providing peer support for autistic women and girls by building a national network across Scotland.

The organisation initially teamed up with Scottish Autism in 2015 to create the Women and Girls Right Click online programme, which was supported by Scottish Government funding. SWAN is currently running a peer mentoring programme, Under Our Wing, in partnership with Scottish Autism and Scottish Forestry. The project includes a programme of training in mentoring skills and experiential learning.

Formal tutorials have been enhanced by outdoors woodland sessions, covering a wide variety of activities including nature awareness, team building and leadership skills as well as practical sessions on building a shelter, and setting a camp fire. The programme is designed to build on a sense of identity and improve confidence. The partnership with Scottish Autism will provide a platform and additional resources to further expand SWAN’s reach.

Stewart said: “Since launching in 2012 we have developed a positive and increasingly productive relationship with Scottish Autism. This new partnership will further enable SWAN to support more autistic women and girls as we grow our national network across Scotland.

“The focus over my three-year secondment is to extend our reach to more remote parts of the nation and to provide more peer support for autistic women and girls in socially deprived communities and to those within minority ethnic groups.”

Scottish Autism deputy CEO Charlene Tait said: “As a charity committed to enabling autistic people to lead happy, healthy and fulfilling lives, we share a close alignment with SWAN and its work to enhance the lives of autistic women and girls.

“We have already established a highly valued relationship with Catriona from her immense contribution in helping to develop the Women and Girls Right Click programme, and in her current role as autism advisor with Scottish Autism.”