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Looking back at our Girls and Autism - Many Voices and Leading on SEND - Diversity, Difference, Dynamics conferences

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Tuesday 2 and Wednesday 3 April 2019 saw NAHT's much anticipated follow up to 2017's Big Shout Conference, our Girls and Autism – Many Voices and our Leading on SEND – Diversity, difference, dynamics back-to-back conferences.

The first day had our biggest turnout, from school leaders from SEN schools to parents and carers of those with autism. Professor Barry Carpenter CBE welcomed delegates to the first day, highlighting how the conference was the culmination of three years of intensive work on the part of the National Forum on Girls and Autism, hosted by NAHT. It also saw the launch of the forum's book, Girls and Autism: Educational, family and personal perspectives. For some forum members, this had been a completely new experience, but such is their commitment to improving the life chances of girls with autism, that they pushed themselves for this cause.

One of the most powerful pieces of the day was Dr Carrie Grant's video (see below) of 60 female voices - 46 of them autistic females raising their voices for autistic girls and families. Other inspiring keynote speakers for the day included Talia Grant, Sophie Walker and Grace Dolan, who shared her awe-inspiring poem on living with autism.

The day finished with an 'in conversation' with Dame Phillipa Russel, Professor Dame Uta Frith and Dr Judy Gould, and Carrie Grant bringing the conference's finale on raising the voice of the lost girls.

On day two, our Leading on SEND conference was opened by Marijke Miles, chair of NAHT's SEND council, who highlighted the conference's theme of diversity, difference and dynamics, and recognised both the wide range of provision and context for leaders and the diverse journeys of the young people with SEND whom they serve.

The first keynote speaker was Kamini Gadhok from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy, who shared thoughts on the implementation of Bercow Report 10 years on and a system-wide approach to improving outcomes for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs. Kamini was followed by Bernadka Dubicka from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, speaking on bridging the divide – how whole systems need to work together for our most vulnerable children. The conference finished with Dean Beadle sharing his experience of living with autism, which both shocked and make the audience laugh in turn.

Both days were awe-inspiring and poignant. We hope attendees enjoyed themselves and had lots to take back with them to their schools or families.

Date for your diary
We hope to see you at our next conference, Leading on SEND for all Schools, on Friday 6 March 2020.

First published 15 April 2019