Personal experience inspires Elizabeth academic success

Elizabeth ClatworthyA Swansea University student had both a personal and professional reason to be the first person to gain a Master’s degree in a new course that specialises in the study of autism, as she fosters an eight year old boy who has the condition.

Thirty-three year old Elizabeth Clatworthy from Mount Pleasant, was awarded a Master of Science degree in Autism and Related Conditions at a Degree and Award Congregation for Swansea University’s College of Medicine held in the City and County of Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall today (Tuesday, January 27) and was accompanied by her proud mum and friend at the ceremony.

Elizabeth, who attended Brynmill Primary School and Bishop Gore secondary school before becoming a nurse, was on a training placement when she became interested in learning more about fostering children with autism. Initially, she planned to help support parents by providing respite care for children with autism.

Elizabeth said: ‘However a five year old boy came to me to be fostered, which resulted in him being placed with me full time. He was non-verbal and had behavioural issues, but now he talks, has learned to manage his own behaviour and now I feel that there is no limit to what he can achieve.  This experience led me to apply for my Master’s degree and I have found that my learning has helped me understand more about my foster child, and equally my foster child has helped me gain greater insight into my studies.”

 Elizabeth’s experiences also provided her fellow students with valuable insights into the condition and as a result she is to return as an external speaker to share her knowledge with current students on the course during the next academic year. 

Her studies have also helped her in her advocacy work by providing awareness training for other foster carers who are considering a placement with a special needs child.

Now Elizabeth is looking ahead and aims to begin research for a PhD at Swansea University.  She said:  “My studies at Swansea and my experiences as a foster parent have inspired me to continue my research into autism and I plan to base my doctorate on evaluating current Autism services in order to develop an online resource to support parents, carers and professionals.”

Elizabeth’s programme director, Dr Gareth Noble said: “Elizabeth was one of those students who helped other students gain an insight into what it is like living with Autism by her enthusiasm and knowledge. She made everyone learn more, including the lecturers.”