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Autism conference hailed success and full of ‘passion’ for awareness

More than 150 visitors and experts took part in Buckinghamshire New University's Autism Awareness Conference last week.

The event, entitled 'The Journey to Success', was held at the University's High Wycombe Campus  and has been hailed a great success by chairman and organiser David Rawcliffe.Autism-1

The conference on Wednesday (April 5) was designed to offer tools, supports and ideas but also to celebrate the successes of those with autism. About 700,000 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum - so together with their families, this means that autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people.

David, a Senior Lecturer at Bucks and mental health nurse, said: "The day was full of people with passion, which created an exciting atmosphere. Personally, I was ecstatic at the numbers of people and the questions we received along the way.

"The overarching message was that there is hope even in times of despair and many people have commented that they went home with renewed vigour knowing that we are all on the journey to success together."

David delivered an opening speech and welcomed the key note speakers for the all-day event.

Bucks New University Professor of Mental Health Nursing, Colin Martin, spoke about the changing diagnosis, providing an academic framework for the day.

Autism-2Anna Kennedy OBE spoke of her own inspirational journey as a mother of two autistic sons and highlighted her campaigning work, most specifically her anti-bullying and safeguarding work.

Dr Damian Milton, from the National Autistic Society who has an autistic son and was diagnosed with Asperger's himself, used humour as he spoke of his own struggle with life and demonstrated some of the issues that people with autism have in getting and maintaining work.

Ruth Howard, a Bucks Positive Psychology PhD student and her son, Billie, gave great insights into changing perceptions and of the struggle to succeed after Billie left school at 11, with a reading age of 6. From there he was home schooled and went on to get 12 GCSEs before progressing onto doing a degree.

There were also 12 workshops examining a variety of issues at the event.

David said: "The workshops were all well received and many of them were full to over-flowing. People commented that they really enjoyed the experience, and we are already planning Autism Journey to Success 2."

Sue West, Dean of Faculty of Society and Health, said, "Many congratulations to David and the team who put together this very successful conference.

"It was a great opportunity for professionals, academics and families to engage, raise awareness and share of experiences."

Anyone interested in helping with the second conference should contact David on david.rawcliffe@bucks.ac.uk or if anyone would like to comment or share their experience of the conference, please tweet using the hashtag #AutismJ2Success

Caption: Above right, Colin Martin, Anna Kennedy and David Rawcliffe.