FULLY FOCUSED: Publisher Barb Cook runs a magazine devoted to autism.
FULLY FOCUSED: Publisher Barb Cook runs a magazine devoted to autism. Geoff Potter

For Barb, autism is now a career

A DIAGNOSIS of Aspergers syndrome at the age of 40 has led Pomona's Barb Cook to a career in international magazine publishing and a short-listed nomination for a national award.

After accepting her diagnosis, the determined Ms Cook founded the Autism Aspergers Network Magazine, now a global publication dedicated to people of all ages on the autism spectrum.

"I was relieved to be diagnosed as I always knew I didn't fit in, from school through to the workforce," she said.

As well as living with the syndrome, Ms Cook's 20 years' experience in graphic design helped her to found the magazine.

"It has brought my two passions together and it is so worthwhile and satisfying," she said. "I have found my right place. I am a happy person now."

Her magazine is full of information from professionals, organisations and people living on the spectrum.

It has been quoted as being the best in the world for professional quality in both information and design.

Ms Cook gained the support and backing of Professor Tony Attwood and Dr Michelle Garnett, both patrons of the Australian Autism Aspergers Network Inc. and both regular contributors to the magazine.

Ms Cook's aim is to bring together people of all ages whether on the autism spectrum or not.

She wants to better improve acceptance in the general population plus to make major changes in the Australia system of available resources as well as to uncover the often hidden sides of those living on the spectrum.

In Ms Cook's constant mission to better improve information availability she created the websites for the Australian Autism Aspergers Network charity and the magazine.

She has an interactive blog site and maintains Facebook pages.

"It started as an online group in 2009 to tell people what was available and now it is a bi-monthly magazine of 92 pages," she said.

"I use my skills to get the information out there, to tell people about other people's stories. It's been such a positive thing.

"After my first issue a family at Mooloolaba contacted me and said their son was diagnosed at age 28 and didn't want to know anything about it, but he read the magazine cover to cover and said it changed his life.

"That was a humbling moment, being able to help people and share."

Ms Cook produces the magazine from Pomona with just her partner and a proof reader.

"It is quite a mission but I keep up and I'm always two months ahead," she said.

"I plan each cover a year ahead and my regular writers (contributors) know their deadlines for the whole year.

"You have to be organised."

Positive feedback on the magazine has come from all over the world.

"It is incredible to know we can do this sort of thing and make a difference to people with Aspergers, to give them something to aim for."