Penny Sawyer was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (an Autism Spectrum Disorder) in February of 2013, soon after her children’s diagnoses of Autism. Since 1991, she had been a Teacher Librarian for 7 years. She then trained teachers and professionals in Desktop software for 2 years, followed by 8 years at a prominent Barossa winery as a Quality Systems Coordinator.
Following a short break to bring her two children into the world, Penny returned to teaching in 2011, and discovered a vastly different education landscape where she taught many students diagnosed as Autistic. She noticed the incredible need for knowledge of Autism in education and the workplace. Many parents of these Autistic children have asked: “What do we do? Where do we go? Who can help?” and felt powerless and ineffective to change their circumstances.
So she founded Spectrum SA: Disability Link Services.
Penny has a unique multi-perspective to Autism. Along with her husband (also diagnosed as Aspergers), together they raise their two Autistic children in the Barossa Valley. Penny draws on personal experience when guiding others in their journey with this disability.
As a student, then as a teacher, Penny transitioned into the workforce, dealing with bullying and the confusing world of ‘social’ expectations and the many challenges faced when Autistic. This was made more confusing by not knowing why she struggled, until her diagnosis, which has given liberating context to her life experiences. Together with advocating for her children and her teaching and quality coordination qualifications and skills, this insight lends a level of knowledge and empathy that has helped others in their journey. It reduces time spent navigating the vast and sometimes confusing web of disability support services.
Penny continues to work with children and adults on the spectrum. Her volunteer work as a local Cub Scout leader, and working with special needs families, is evidence of her dedication and passion for supporting people on the Spectrum and her community.