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Be part of the change this World Autism Day

This series covers both residential and mainstream education and is written by Dr Rona Tutt, a former Chair of NAHT's Special Education Needs Committee.
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Tuesday 2 April will be a memorable date, regardless of what has or hasn't happened in regards to Brexit by then. Not only is it World Autism Awareness Day, but NAHT will be marking the occasion in a unique way, with a combined conference and book launch. Together they will provide the very latest information about autistic girls and how to support them. The event also comes at a time when the government is reviewing its autism strategy.   

When the Autism Act (2009) was passed, it only covered adults, as did the strategy that stemmed from it called Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives. Updated later under the title Think Autism, the emphasis on adults remained.  Last month, a major step forward was taken when the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced a review of services for people of all ages who are on the autism spectrum. The review will collect evidence from children and their families on how support for them might be improved. This will lead to the publication planned for this autumn of a new autism strategy which, for the first time, will include children as well as adults.

So this is an ideal moment to turn the spotlight on autistic girls, whose needs have all too often been overlooked. Building on the success two years ago of The Big Shout conference, the event this year is called, Girls and Autism - Many Voices. Both conferences have been masterminded by the Autism and Girls Forum, which was founded in 2011 and has been hosted by NAHT since 2014. The forum is chaired by Professor Barry Carpenter, who will also be chairing this year's event. A stunning list of speakers includes; Professor Sheila, the Baroness Hollins; Professor Francesca Happe; Carrie Grant; Sophie Walker; Sarah Wild and girls from Limpsfield Grange. The afternoon will feature a panel debate chaired by Sheila Hollins, with members of the audience being able to put their questions to the speakers, who will be joined by two more pre-eminent names in the field of autism: Professor Dame Ute Frith and Dr Judith Gould.

As if this were not enough, the conference will mark the publication of a new book, Girls and Autism: educational, family and personal perspectives, which is edited by Barry Carpenter, Francesca Happe and Jo Egerton. The book will be launched in style by Sheila Hollins and Alison Foyle, senior editor at Routledge. Most of the authors will be present to sign books and to present breakout sessions based on the chapters they have written. These cover: education at all ages and stages and in a range of settings, the effective practice that is emerging, a BAME perspective, pathological demand avoidance (PDA), mental health and interventions, adolescence and sexuality and life beyond school.

While the conference attracts a much wider audience than those in education, NAHT members and others working in the field of education may like to know the event is running back-to-back with NAHT's annual SEND Conference. Under its general title of Leading on SEND Across All Schools Conference 2019. This year's theme is Difference, Diversity, Dynamics which makes the most of NAHT's links with the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), with both conferences succeeding in blending the latest research with how to apply it in the classroom and elsewhere.

To find out more or to apply for tickets, waste no time in checking out the event page. I look forward to seeing you there.