6th July 2023
On 20th and 21st June, we were delighted to be able to host our first face to face conference, the third in the BeyondAutism Professional Conference series. Working in partnership with the Childhoods, Children and Young People Research Theme, Institute of Social Justice and Crime at the University of Suffolk, we were provided with a fantastic space in which to hold this momentous event.
The real highlight of the event this year was that over 50% of our speakers had lived experience. Both as individuals identifying as neurodivergent or with a physical disability, as well as parents (often both). This diverse mix of speakers brought a different dimension to the event – allowing delegates to see things from different perspectives and producing meaningful debate around the key topics.
Building on the success of the previous two events, which respectively focused on having something more interesting to say, and whose decision is it anyway, this event really sought to move the conversation on by looking at lived experience of inclusion, what role social constructs have in this and what needs to change to make a real difference. The speakers used their own experiences, alongside their critical research to provide us a truly insightful conference that had genuine engagement.
“The event was so insightful, and what an amazing opportunity to connect with other professionals to talk about supporting students with autism.” Conference delegate
The first talk, from Barney Angliss, really set the scene for inclusion for the conference, through the clever use of metaphors and visual art. He asked us to consider how a snapshot of inclusion only shows what the person creating that frame wants us to see; is it really what is real, or just a construction of the truth? How do we look beyond the frame at the individuals behind, and truly understand what the reality is for each of them? This theme was built upon with each new presentation – sharing their own realities and experiences of societal inclusion, and where improvements need to be made.
One particular question was raised that resonated with all in attendance – are we relying too much on a diagnosis demonstrating a need for support? And as such, delays in this process causing delays in access to support. Rather than focusing on how to improve that process, should we not instead be looking at each individual, and in the case of education, the whole class, in terms of what their needs are, and addressing those now? Why is a diagnosis needed to activate this support? And why is neurodivergence inclusion not the starting point?
Ultimately it was an engaging couple of days filled with different opinions expressed through respectful interactions. It resulted in dynamic conversation and debate that sought to find actions that we all, as individuals, and, as professionals can be doing to move the situation forward.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the speakers, poster presenters, University of Suffolk, and all the delegates who contributed to this interactive and progressive event.
If you’d like to be the first to hear about the 2024 conference, register your interest here.