Speakers cover range of autism-related topics in conference presentations and workshops

Parents, carers and professionals can hear from autism specialists and an autistic advocate and get expert advice at new workshop sessions at our All About Autism 2020 conference in Slough on Tuesday, March 31, during World Autism Awareness Week.

Dr Fiona Knott

Dr Fiona Knott, who is again our opening speaker, will talk about her latest work on Autism and Anxiety and offer practical advice on how to support children affected by anxiety.

Dr Knott is a clinical psychologist and an associate professor and co-director of the Centre for Autism at the University of Reading. She specialises in autism and developmental disabilities in children and adolescents.

She became interested in autism during her gap year, working in a school for autistic children in her home county of Dorset. She studied for a PhD at the University of Reading, which looked at the way autistic children interact with their siblings, then trained as a clinical psychologist in Scotland.

After returning to Reading, she worked as a lecturer at the university and as a clinician for Berkshire CAMHS, where she helped to develop the autism diagnostic service, before joining the university full-time in 2014 when the Centre for Autism was established.

Conor Eldred-Earl is an advocate for young autistic people, helping their voices to be heard by public services, including CAMHS and GPs.

He got involved with Healthwatch Wokingham as a volunteer in 2016 and was named as the organisation’s Youth Champion in 2017.

Conor Eldred-Earl

He has been a member of CAMHS working groups, gives talks at schools and will be talking about Growing up Autistic – How Diagnosis Helped Me at the conference.

Diagnosed while at primary school, he found being told that he was autistic “both relieving and daunting”.

He has an interest in mental health issues, after suffering depression for a number of years.

The steadfast support of a SENCO (special educational needs co-ordinator) and forging a firm friendship in sixth form helped instil the confidence in him to help other young autistic people.

Keren MacLennan is a Doctoral Researcher at the Centre for Autism at the University of Reading.

Keren MacLennan

Her research, which is co-funded by MQ and Autistica, aims to understand factors that predict the development of anxiety in autistic children, with a particular focus on sensory reactivity differences, intolerance of uncertainty and parent anxiety.

She also has a background working with autistic children as an assistant psychologist, supporting mental wellness and self-esteem through a range of approaches; such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness, social skills and emotion literacy.

Keren’s presentation at the conference will focus on sensory reactivity differences in autistic children and the links to anxiety and will outline her recently-published research findings on this subject.

Sharon Wignall is an occupational therapist based in Windsor. She became interested in the field after her youngest son was born with a lower limb problem and has a Master’s degree in occupational therapy.

The focus of her work at her Windsorian Occupational Therapy clinic is to help children to be as independent as possible in their daily lives.

She will be talking at the conference about sensory processing issues for children at school.

  • A series of workshop sessions are a new feature of All About Autism this year, taking an in-depth look at a topic. These will look at: Food Refusal; Autism and Siblings; and Self-Care for Carers.

Julia Cox

Julia Cox, a member of Autism Berkshire’s family support team, will lead the session about Food Refusal. She has family experience of autism and is an early years specialist, with qualified teacher status.

She previously worked for Bracknell Forest Council working with SEND children under 5, and as a manager at the council’s Child Development Centre. Julia has extensive experience of advising parents about food-related issues.

Julia led a training session on the subject, including how foods look, feel and taste, for Autism Berkshire staff last year.

The workshop about Autism and Siblings will be led by members of the team at Swings & Smiles, the Thatcham-based charity that provides support, friendship and play to children with special needs and disabilities, including autism, and their families.

Sara East

Sara East is the sibling co-ordinator at Swings & Smiles, responsible for the development, delivery and evaluation of the service. She delivers support to over 40 siblings each month.

Sara has been with Swings & Smiles since 2014 and set up and continues to develop the sibling service.

She also runs a five-week SIBSupport course in schools and leads the Oasis and Spectrum youth clubs, which take place at Speenhamland School in Newbury, for young people with high-functioning autism.

Laura Lewis is the director of Swings & Smiles and over the past six years has led the development of services that are delivered both at the centre and in the community, including support provided for siblings.

Laura Lewis

She has worked for over 15 years supporting families and children in the Newbury area and has set up a number of services designed to bring people together.

As the director of Swings & Smiles, Laura is passionate that all children and families who walk through the doors have a fun and fulfilling experience in a warm and welcoming environment.

The focus of their workshop will be the impact that having a brother or sister with autism has on siblings, the way that this could be shown and the need for specialist support and for support across all services and settings.

Kathryn Mitchell, who will lead the workshops about Self-Care for Carers, is a soft tissue therapist who offers sport and remedial massage in Reading, including tailored massage for parents and carers of children with additional needs.

Kathryn Mitchell

She retrained in massage therapy after a successful career as a Nursery Nurse and has extensive professional experience of working with children with additional needs and their families. One of her two daughters is autistic.

The workshop will focus on hand massage, discussion and demonstrating the techniques and benefits of such massage for you and your child.

  • Click here for more information about the All About Autism 2020 conference at The Curve in Slough and how to book tickets, which are priced £10 for parents, carers and students and £20 for professionals (plus booking fees). If you have any questions, email admin@autismberkshire.org.uk or call 01189 594 594.