School leaders, teachers, health and education experts, psychologists, parents, carers and people on the autistic spectrum are gathering in London on World Autism Day (Tuesday 2nd April), at a conference organised by school leaders’ union NAHT, to draw attention to the misinformation, under-diagnosis and lack of representation for girls on the autistic spectrum.
Often thought of as a predominantly ‘male’ disorder, autism has long gone unidentified, unnoticed and unsupported in girls – sometimes with devastating consequences for their social and mental well-being. In fact, evidence suggests that almost as many girls as boys have autism, but their symptoms tend to be overlooked or misunderstood, and their diagnoses delayed.
The Girls and Autism ‘Many Voices’ Conference aims to raise awareness of girls with autism, to provide an insight from the perspective of girls on the autism spectrum, and to share effective practice emerging in the field.
· Professor Barry Carpenter CBE: Renowned special needs education expert, Professor Barry Carpenter, who holds the UK’s first Professorship in Mental Health in Education, at Oxford Brookes University, and has been awarded an OBE and CBE by the Queen for services to children with special needs, is Chair of the national Girls with Autism Forum.
· Dr Carrie Grant: BAFTA award-winning broadcaster, vocal coach and advocate for children with SEND, Carrie has four children, all with special needs.
· Talia Grant: Carrie’s daughter, Talia is the first autistic actress to star in a mainstream drama in the cast of Hollyoaks; she plays autistic character Brooke Hathaway.
· Sophie Walker: Founding Leader of the Women's Equality Party, Britain's first feminist political party started in 2015. She is a long-term advocate for disability rights since her daughter was diagnosed with autism, an experience she wrote about in Grace Under Pressure: Going the distance as an Asperger's Mum.
· Professor Francesca Happé: Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at King’s College London, and co-founder (with Rona Tutt and Barry Carpenter) of the National Forum for Neuroscience and Special Education.
· Sarah Wild: Head teacher of Limpsfield Grange School for girls with communication and interaction difficulties including autism.
Barry Carpenter said: “Girls with Autism have been poorly served by the Education and Health system. Traditionally held views of 1 girl to 4 boys are myths which need to be exploded, allowing new research and practice to offer better diagnosis and provision for girls with Autism. Anybody concerned with this issue will be at the Conference on 2nd April to hear the ground-breaking information from the country’s leading experts in the field.”
The conference will also see the launch of a book Girls and Autism, written by NAHT's Autism and Girls Forum. With a foreword by Professor Baroness Sheila Hollins, it is edited by Professor Francesca Happé from Kings College London, Professor Barry Carpenter CBE and Jo Egerton from Oxford Brookes University. Routledge, 2019.
The Girls and Autism ‘Many Voices’ Conference 2019 takes place 9am-5pm on Tuesday 2nd April 2019 at Radisson Blu London Portman Square, WH1 7BG.
A second event focused on education for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will take place on the following day, Wednesday 3rd April 2019.
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