Guest Educator-Learners

Find here a growing list of Aucademy educator-learners and the topics they covered. Listed in alphabetical order according to surname.

Our permanent/regular educator-learners have their own pages, and have covered topics such as: what *is* autism?; the spectrum really; Autistic challenges and strengths; the importance of Autistic identity, culture, community, and space for wellbeing; the importance of language; late discovery; psychosis; addiction; stigma; mental health; the importance of media for wellbeing; Autistic pride; harmful stims and self-harm; disclosing one’s Autistic identity; boundaries; Autistic people and crime; gender, sexuality, and de-gendering Autistic experience; etc. – all sessions found on our YouTube.

Tanya Adkin

Tanya Adkin is SEND Advocate. Tanya is also a late identified Autistic, ADHD (possibly PDA), single parent to two Autistic/PDA/ADHD children.

Find Tanya and EHCP advice via her page seND Family Instincts on Facebook and the internet.

Topics: Autistic EHCP & SEND support ~ What *is* autism?: “autism” versus Autistic theories ~ Neurodivergent relationships ~ ADHD *really*

Katie Munday

Katie Munday (they / them) is a lead youth worker and wheelchair basketball coach working with Disabled young people.

They were diagnosed Autistic and OCD in their late twenties. Their MRes study is on trans and / or non-binary Autistic narratives and their main interests are trans, Queer and ND issues.

They run a humble website talking all things Autistic, ADHD, OCD and Queer experience!

Autistic and living the dream

Senka Aileen

Senka was born in Vancouver BC Canada where she grew up free-range in the rain forests and ocean shores of the west coast . Currently, she is a PhD graduate student at the University of Victoria. She is also raising and home schooling her oldest granddaughters who are diagnosed autistic. Through learning about her granddaughters’ experience of being Autistic, Senka has recognized autism and PDA in herself along with ADHD and situational mutism. During her time in university Senka had to devise strategies to manage her differences including the ongoing presence of SM. Senka feels there needs to be a greater acceptance of non-verbal communication as viable and significant and that less emphasis should be placed on verbal articulation and communication.

Topics: Situational mutism

Duante “SuitMan” Barnett

Duante (he/him) “SuitMan” Barnett a Seattle, WA native. He produces SuitMan Productions and his first original show idea Deaf Comedy Jam was inspired by his own hearing loss and offers a show that unites both the hearing and non-hearing communities. A staple of the Annual Northwest Black Comedy Festival for 3 years where he was awarded “Best Podcast” of 2020 and “Best Host” of 2021. Places like Laugh Comedy Club’s Laugh Off, Jai Thai’s Comedy Clash & a number of pacific northwest artists know his influences and creativity of production.

Topics: Autistic people, humour, & comedy

Anna Barzotti

Anna Barzotti studied creative arts at Manchester Metropolitan University, creative writing at Chichester University and screenwriting in New York. Anna has worked in health, education and arts settings in roles spanning theatre performer, arts and health coordinator, workshop facilitator, researcher and writer. She has worked as a specialist mentor for autistic students since 2017 and is currently writing a book about her experiences as a late-diagnosed autistic adult.

Topics: Communicating away the barriers

Dr Mordehai Benhamou

Dr. Mordehai Benhamou – author, lecturer, professional guitarist, and Algerian Jew from Israel.

Topics: Dr Mordehai Benhamou on being Autistic in Israel

Louis Bishopp-Ford

Louis Bishopp-Ford was diagnosed Autistic with attention differences as an adult. He believes not knowing he was Autistic when he was younger meant that he could not ask for the support he needed to complete a university degree. Now that he knows about the support he needs, he is currently in his final year of an English and Creative Writing undergraduate degree, and hopes to write better fiction once he finishes! Louis has contributed to a non-fiction chapter in the Neurodiversity Reader…/th…

Topics: The importance of gaming for neurodivergent people ~ Attention differences (ADHD/ADD) ~ ADHD *really*

Alison Blaney-Wombwell

Alison Blaney-Wombwell (she/her) is a dual diagnosed Autistic female with combined ADHD. Alison was diagnosed at thirty four after her own daughters were diagnosed with autism and other co-morbidities. Alison was originally diagnosed with anorexia at fourteen. Alison had struggled for decades with eating disorders, anxiety disorder and mental health issues. Alison is now a qualified emotional regulation coach, neurodiversity trainer, consultant and published author and blogger.

Topics: Eating disorders in the Autistic community

Sonia Boué

Sonia Boué – Artist, her multiform work explores home and the domestic as metaphors for exile and displacement. Sonia has a significant body of postmemory work. She is also a writer on autism and art with her blog, and a leading consultant for neurodiversity in the arts.

Twitter @SoniaBoue

Topics: Neurophototherapy for the self-recovery of late-diagnosed Autistic women ~ Autistic artists Annette, Callum, & Sonia talk to Dr Chloe Farahar

Dr Monique Botha

Monique is an autistic Research Fellow at the University of Stirling. Monique’s PhD in Psychology from the University of Surrey, focused on the role minority stress plays in the poor mental health experienced by autistic people, and further, how autistic community connectedness may “buffer” those effects. Currently, at Stirling, Monique’s research focuses on several different areas including the ethics of autism research, how ideas around the philosophy of science have shaped the idea of autism, and how certain philosophies of science can provide routes to emancipation for autistic people from unethical, and violent research practice. Similarly, Monique is interested in the intersection of autism, sexuality, and gender, and lastly, the role that language used about autism, plays into stigma and marginalisation.

@DrMBotha on twitter

Topics: Autistic stigma & minority stress ~ Autistics respond to media reporting of violence & victimisation by neurodivergent people

Callum Brazzo

Callum Brazzo – Autistic performance poet, currently working on a direct autistic-led response to Autism Speaks’ 100 Day Kit. Also working on a book called Ripples, a film and a theatre show called Compass, and appearing in TEDx talks: AUTISTICS IN CONVERSATION and Why we should make mountains out of molehills.

Twitter @CallumBrazzo

Topics: Autistic Experience & Tourette’s, The Rural Autistic Community and the 100 Day Community Kit ~ Autistic artists Annette, Callum, & Sonia talk to Dr Chloe Farahar

Carl Cameron

Carl Cameron is autistic and has been working with other autistic adults and children across the autism spectrum for the past 20 years both in residential and educational settings. Carl is a qualified teacher and taught health and social care for a few years. He has writing and delivering autism training sessions for the past 10 years and has worked with several organizations including the National Autistic Society, the NHS and CAMHS. Most of Carl’s work these days is in pre and post-diagnostic support at Matthew’s Hub, a unique autism charity in the city of Hull. Carl is the deputy chair of the Hull Autism Partnership Board.

Topics: Disclosing one’s Autistic identity

Alice Conroy

Neuro-divergent Mother. CEO. Thinker in pictures. Ultra rule-breaker. Founder and CEO, over two decades, of a successful social purpose business working across the Southeast, which specialises in supporting care experienced young people, particularly from a refugee and asylum seeker background. Social entrepreneur, pioneer and business leader. Highly imaginative, creative thinker and innovator. Neurodiversity advocate. Cat lover. Tea drinker. Rule-breaker. Story-teller. Searcher. Proud mum.

Topics: Neurodivergent relationships

Monique Craine

Monique Craine (they/them) is from Gibraltar but has lived in a number of countries over the years. Monique is a multiply-neurodivergent coach and consultant who specialises in neurodiversity. Monique delivers workplace training on a number of neurodiversity related topics, from understanding neurodiversity for beginners to how to adjust for neurodivergent people in the workplace. Monique also enjoys helping recently diagnosed adults to learn to better understand themselves and achieve positive outcomes. Monique runs sessions on understanding neurodivergent behaviour, making sensory profiles, understanding stimming and why we do it, and understanding relaxation and what that might look like for Autistic people.

Facebook: Monique Craine @Neurodivergents Twitter: @MoniqueCraine Website: Blog:

‘Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement; stories from the frontline’ (edited by Stephen Kapp, Palgrave Macmillan press, 2020) free to download here:… YouTube video on autism:

Topics: Being Autistic in other cultures & LARPing ~ Autistic sensory, stimming, & relaxation techniques

Harry Cromar

Harry is a fifteen-year-old Autistic boy. He is currently studying towards his GCSEs. His ambition is to pursue a career in psychology, counselling and advocacy, he would like to follow his mum into the research field to help improve knowledge about autism and mental health. During lockdown Harry moved out of mainstream school to a specialist school, where he is thriving. He loves the outdoors, exercise and activity help him to focus academically. Harry loves gaming, walking in the forest, fishing and as often as we are able visiting the beach. He is highly talented at art and maths, recently he learnt all number sequences up to 31 (i.e. hundred, thousand, billion, trillion…). He is a loving son and brother to his two younger siblings, and they very much look up to him. Harry loves nothing more than a deep and philosophical conversation.

Topics: The roots of the Autistic mind

Lisa Cromar

Lisa Cromar is an autistic Person-Centred Counsellor, working predominantly with autistic clients, she produces autism workshops and is studying towards a PhD at the University of Chester, where she is aiming to improve research for counselling autistic people. She is a published author with a chapter in The Neurodiversity Reader, Pavilion Publishers. She is also an ‘actually autistic’ person and mum to three autistic children.

Facebook Neurodivergence forum for counsellors:

Topics: Is person-centred counselling effective for Autistics?

Rachel Cullen

Rachel is an Autistic researcher and advocate and proud member of the LGBTQIA community with an undergraduate degree in English literature and language, a PGCert in linguistics and currently studying for a masters in autism studies. Rachel is interested in several aspects of research that directly improves the lives of Autistic people with particular focus on language features of Autistic people across the spectrum.

Topics: Autistic language hypothesis ~ The Autistic communication hypothesis ~ Autistic empathy: Double empathy Aucademy special

Emma Dalmayne

Emma is an Autistic Woman of Colour, advocate, and activist, fighting against the harm done to Autistic people in the name of “curing” us. Emma is also the author of two great books explaining Autistic experience in an accessible way for children – “Susie Spins” & “It’s an autism thing: I’ll help you understand”, as well as being the CEO of Autistic Inclusive Meets Community Group AIM, and an admin on the 17,600+ member strong Autism Inclusivity Facebook page.

Topics: Emma Dalmayne, Autistic Woman of Colour, advocate, & activist

Jessica Dark

Jessica regards herself as being multi-generationally neurodivergent, with diagnoses of dyslexia, ADHD, and autism. She recently graduated from her master’s in special educational needs at Roehampton University where she researched ‘Late Diagnosed Autistic Women’s Experiences of Secondary School’ and has now progressed to PhD at Birkbeck University where she is exploring autism diagnosis disclosure in the workplace. In her spare time, she advocates for a better understanding of neurodivergence from a personal, parental, and professional perspective and is particularly interested in raising awareness and promoting supports among adult diagnosed autistics.

Topics: The experience of late diagnosed women

Dr Mary Doherty

Dr Mary Doherty is an Autistic consultant anaesthetist working in Ireland. She is currently researching barriers to healthcare for Autistic adults and the experiences of Autistic adults using mental health services. She was a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists working group which produced the recent College Report on autism in adults. She provides autism training for medical professionals and advises various medical institutions on autism. Her interests include reframing the tragedy narrative around autism in healthcare, improving the healthcare experience and outcomes for the Autistic community and more recently the presentation of autism in medical doctors. She is founder of the peer support & advocacy group “Autistic Doctors International”.

The Autistic Doctor @autisticdoctor

Topics: Healthcare barriers when Autistic

Mel Duncan

Mel Duncan (she/they) has been working with young people and vulnerable adults for 30 years. They have worked with young people within the criminal justice system, young people in local authority care, managed an advocacy service and leaving care provision and supported Autistic and ADHD students in alternative provision. Mel is one of the co-founders and Directors of Gecko Community, an alternative provision for Autistic and ADHD young people. Mel is a late diagnosed Autistic, ADHD (and suspects PDA) adult, who is completing their Forest School Leader Level 3 and has just completed a BA Honours degree, gaining 1st class Honours.

Find Mel at

Topics: Young Autistic people’s mental health, & burnout (Part 2)

Erin Ekins

Erin Ekins is a queer Autistic woman who runs the popular blog Queerly Autistic. She has appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire show, Radio 5 Live and the Channel 4 documentary ‘Are You Autistic?’ and presented at NAS conferences. She lives in Essex with her two mums, her brother and her two dogs, Thor and Odin. Erin Ekins has a book, Queerly Autistic: [an] Ultimate guide for LGBTQIA+ Teens.

Twitter @QueerlyAutistic

Topics: Queerly Autistic: Ultimate guide for LGBTQIA+ Teens

Bobbi Elman (she/they)

Bobbi Elman (she/they) was born in the US and moved to the UK over 29 years ago. She is happily married and a parent to two amazing neurodivergent young people. Bobbi has worked for more than 8 years in a primary school as an autism-specific one-to-one TA and had a temporary position with a LA on their Autism Advisory team. Bobbi also completed a postgrad degree in Autism from the University of Birmingham. Bobbi has over 17 years experience and now works for herself, Bobbi trains staff in primary schools, organisations, charities, etc., as well as online workshops and presentations. Bobbi believes firmly in the social model of autism versus the medical model and strives continually toward autism understanding and acceptance versus “autism awareness”. Bobbi only recently discovered her Autistic identity and has happily embraced it.

Topics: Autistic empathy: Double empathy Aucademy special; Autistic hyper-empathy – Bobbi has kindly shared their hyper-empathy slides with educator-learners below; Autistic exposure anxiety – Bobbi’s exposure anxiety slides below.

Asher Gilbert

Asher Gilbert (he/him) is a university graduate who studied canine clinical behaviour and he has a particular interest in animal-assisted therapy. As well as studying, Asher volunteers with Noah’s A.R.T, supporting during animal-assisted therapy sessions for people of all backgrounds, including many Autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people. Asher is also a proud transgender man and LGBT+ advocate.

Topic: The importance of animals for Autistic people

Ginny Grant

Ginny Grant (she/her) is a proud late-identified Autistic woman. She works as Reframing Autism’s Communications Manager, overseeing all social media platforms on which Reframing Autism is represented, as well as other internal and external communications. She is passionate about amplifying new and established Autistic voices and is also the host of Reframing Autism’s Amplified podcast. Ginny is deeply interested in mental health advocacy and has spoken openly about her own experiences of mental health in several articles, podcast episodes and at Yellow Ladybugs’ recent Mental Health and Safety Conference. In early 2021, she coordinated the successful Autistic Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference, co-hosted with Aucademy.

Instagram: @virginia_lily_grant Twitter: @VirginiaLGrant

Topics: Eating disorders in the Autistic community

Jane Green

Jane Green is an advocate for equality, diversity, human rights and co-production in education, health, employment, social care, police and transport (airport) accessibility for visible/invisible disabilities/conditions. She is a single parent of two adult children and carer to her eldest autistic child. Despite an unusual educational background she trained late and became the lead autism educationalist in various phases in schools, County and leading Charities. She helped design and steer the AET and became strategic Assistant Head Teacher but retired early in 2015 due to chronic ill health and disability. Diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes in 2015 followed by very late autism dx in 2016 after many years of disbelief of being either. She survived. She now advocates on various roundtables, charities and organisations as Trustee for Carer’s charity, Social Care Institute of Excellence, SCIE co-production steering group and involved in DHSC Covid19 guidances and resources. She helps the national EDSUK charity and founded and is Chair of Sussex Ehlers-Danlos and Hypermobility (SEDS) in 2018.

Topics: Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes – Issues with our tissues

Sam Harris

Sam Harris (he/him) is a fully trained and accredited Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®) consultant.

Topics: What therapy works for Autistic people? ~ “Sam the parsnip headed therapist”

Dr Melanie Heyworth

Dr Melanie Heyworth is an Autistic mother to three Autistic children, who she homeschools. Melanie also runs the Australian charity, Reframing Autism, and is currently doing a second PhD in Autistic-led models of care to build parents’ empathy, knowledge and mind-mindedness in parenting Autistic children.

Topics: Explaining Autistic experience to young people

Alyssa Hillary Zisk

Alyssa (they/them) is an Autistic doctoral candidate in interdisciplinary neuroscience at the University of Rhode Island, and also a math teacher. Broadly, they are interested in issues related to disability and communication, neurodiversity and representation, and the overlap of neurodivergence and queerness. Sometimes they use mouth words and sometimes they use typed words.

Topics: Communication – Augmentative and Alternative

Lyric Holmans

Lyric Holmans (they/them) is an Autistic self-advocate from Texas who runs the neurodiversity lifestyle blog Neurodivergent Rebel. They are also the founder of NeuroDivergent Consulting. Lyric is known as the pioneer of the #AskingAutistics hashtag, where simple questions prompt open-ended responses that Autistic people can easily chime in with, and invites participants to engage each other in conversations related to the topic. Lyric regularly works with businesses and organizations to help make spaces more accessible to people with invisible differences. Rebel

Topics: Making the Workplace more Neurodivergent Friendly

Debbie Hughes

Debbie Hughes is an Autistic English Literature MA student at Cardiff University and did her undergraduate at Kent. Gaming is one of her special interests, and she is primarily a PC gamer but also has a PS4.

Instagram: deb_lizart

Topics: The importance of gaming for neurodivergent people

Jodie Isitt

After navigating and battling the education and health system successfully for her disabled children and partner, Jodie quickly became passionate about advocating for more than just her family. With success advocating personally for a number of families in the process of EHCP’s, respite, housing needs, Disability Living Allowance and other services, Jodie found that there just wasn’t enough hours in the day and couldn’t help as many people as she desperately wanted. This is a serious worldwide issue and so she began The Nurture Programme®, designed to encourage, nurture, support and hone your very own advocacy skills. Jodie has teamed up with Laura Kerbey – (Positive Autism Support & Training) and Dr Chloe Farahar to deliver a series of programmes, webinars, LIVE Q & A sessions and private consultations to reach as many families as possible and help them advocate for their own children. Jodie also has a Level 2 certificate in Supporting PDA children, teenagers, and young adults.

Topics: “Pathological” Demand Avoidance/the drive for autonomy

Angela Kelly

Angela (she/her) is an Autistic counsellor with a late formal diagnosis, although she had suspected for years that she was Autistic. Angela is a therapeutic counsellor who works primarily, although not exclusively, with Autistic clients. Angela works with Laura Kerbey of PAST and also in schools, where she writes articles for Special Needs Jungle. Over her years of being a therapist, Angela has heard how often Autistic people are unable to access therapy, or, when they do are harmed by it. Often by well-intentioned therapists. As a result, this can increase poor mental health and “camouflaging”/masking and increase self-doubt.

Links from Angela: @NDtherapist

Topics: Autistics, trauma, & access to therapy

Anna Langford

Anna Langford (she/her) is an 18-year-old Autistic who enjoys singing, stereoscopy, has a bearded dragon called Ziggy, loves sharing art and music on her Instagram.

Instagram @jurasicAnna

Topic: The importance of interests for Autistic people & their wellbeing

Dela Maria

Autistic parent, who makes comics, muses about neuroscience and learns new things

Topics: Autistic artists Mollie & Marie talk to Harry Thompson

Sarah McCulloch

Sarah McCulloch is the director of the Autistic Empire, an Autistic social organisation built by and for Autistic adults to form community-based on autism as a civic identity and to provide practical tools and services for all Autistic people.

Sarah is also a mental health occupational therapist who works as the deputy manager in a community mental health team in London, UK. Sarah has worked with many Autistic people presenting to mental health services to try and access the support that they need and she sees a lot of misdiagnoses and lack of understanding on the part of professionals and clients, and would like to help Autistic people to advocate for themselves.

Topics: Navigating the mental health system as an Autistic person

JayJay Mudridge

JayJay Mudridge (they/them) is an academic tutor, crossfit athlete, hobbiest mechanic, multiply published poet, and Autistic advocate from Massachusetts USA. JayJay also hosts the platform @ Not Another Autistic Advocate on Facebook. JayJay’s Instagram is @ GiraffeinaJeep

Topics: Autistic ABA trauma ~ Navigating “autism interventions” & therapies

Shona Murphy

Shona Murphy (she/her) is an Autistic parent to two Autistic children. She is a PhD student researching false accusations of Fabricated and Induced illness (FII; similar to what was known as Munchausen’s by proxy). Many parents of disabled children are falsely accused of FII. Parents of Autistic children, including Autistic parents, appear to be particularly vulnerable so it is an important area of research. Previous research has been on Autistic parenthood. Shona also works as a tutor at Edge Hill university, a trainer and a mentor.


Topics: Autistic parenthood & accusations of Fabricated & Induced Illness

James North

James (he/him) is a recently identified, multiply-neurodivergent transman who is a collector of initialisms – LGBTQIA+, PDA-ASC, ADHD (with additional experience of DID & CFS/ME) from the UK – who basically just gets bored a lot and picks up useless but often interesting facts which he later impulsively shares with a view to helping whoever may benefit from his musings.

Links for James: https://musingsofanautiemind.wordpres…

Topics: Autistic & plurality (“Dissociative Identity Disorder”)

Dr Amy Pearson

Dr Amy Pearson is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sunderland, whose research focusses on masking, and experiences of interpersonal victimisation.

“Masking Is Life”: Experiences of Masking in Autistic and Nonautistic Adults | Autism in Adulthood

A Conceptual Analysis of Autistic Masking: Understanding the Narrative of Stigma and the Illusion of Choice | Autism in Adulthood

Topics: Autistics respond to media reporting of violence & victimisation by neurodivergent people

Yenn Purkis

Yenn Purkis (they/them) is an Autistic and non-binary author, public speaker and community leader. They also have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Yenn works in the autism/neurodiversity, gender diversity and mental health advocacy spaces. They are the author of eight published books on elements of autism and a regular blogger. Yenn has facilitated an autism support group in Canberra since 2011 and has worked full-time in the Australian Public Service since 2007. They have received many awards for their advocacy work over the years, including the 2016 ACT Volunteer of the Year Award and the 2019 ACT Chief Minister’s Inclusion Award. Yenn is a public speaker of almost 20 years’ experience and has presented at a range of events including at TEDx Canberra in 2013.

Topics: Autism and gender

Jeanne Revest

Jeanne Revest has spent many years in education as an educator. Jeanne had an unplanned interlude as a diplomat, and has been involved in social development work (including helping to set up and develop a supported accommodation service for young asylum seekers), and her next project (when Covid allows) is working on coral reef restoration and sustainable livelihoods in Madagascar. Jeanne thrives on variety, life being one long adventure, and doing things her way – if she had to have a motto, it might be “expect the unexpected”, both of life and of herself!

Topics: Neurodivergent relationships

Kim Rhodes

Actor, mother to an Autistic child who meets the pathological demand avoidance profile.

Topics: Beginning the neurodivergence discovery journey with Kim Rhodes ~ Autistic invalidation trauma & stigma with Kim Rhodes

Kieran Rose

Kieran Rose (he/him) is an Autistic Writer and Consultant with a background in Primary education and SEN. He is father to two Autistic children, a boy and a girl; and one Neurodivergent child, a boy. Since his Autism diagnosis is 2003, at the age of 23, Kieran has been dedicated to changing the negative narrative of Autism and highlighting the harm being caused to Autistic people all over the world. Kieran has founded The Autistic Cooperative, an international networking organising for Advocacy organisations worldwide, with over 100 member organisations, including ASAN, ASAN AUNZ, Autistic UK, ASNZ, and 700+ individual members, from over 60 countries. Kieran is also an experienced public speaker and trainer, specialising in Autistic Masking and Burnout and he is a consultant on several research papers exploring them.

Find Kieran as The Autistic Advocate on social media

Topics: Autistic masking REALLY ~ Autistic masking and stigma ~ Situational mutism ~ Discovering an Autistic identity following becoming a parent ~ Autistic rambling ~ Autistic empathy: Double empathy Aucademy special

Autistic Selves

Autistic Selves is a system of personas who live together in one body. They are Autistic and plural – diagnosed with autism & Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Find Autistic Selves on: YouTube:… Instagram:… Buy them a coffee on Ko-fi: And connect with them on Linkedin:…

Topics: Autistic & plurality (“Dissociative Identity Disorder”)

Mollie Sherwin

Mollie Sherwin is a PDAer (meets the “Pathological” Demand Avoidance profile) and speaker on personal experience of PDA. She speaks about life as an Autistic teenager experiencing PDA following the release of a book about her life, and how this affected friendships and teenage life. Mollie Sherwin – of Crocheted Baby Yoda fame, and illustrator –

Topics: The importance of gaming for neurodivergent people ~ Autistic artists Mollie & Marie talk to Harry Thompson

Melissa Simmonds

Melissa (she/her) is a campaigner on autism and neurodiversity and intersections with race and faith. The founder of MisTÂûght and the creator of Black History Month for Dummies & White Teachers. She’s in her final year of a MA in Autism Studies at Sheffield Hallam University; where she is doing a dissertation on looking at children as ‘Agents of Change’ in birthing a more autism inclusive society.

Twitter: @ Mis_TAught

Topics: Executive functioning differences

Jodie Smitten

Jodie (she/her) is a children’s well-being practitioner specialising in autism. Or children autism specialist for short. Jodie works collaboratively with children, their families and their schools to support a process of understanding, acceptance and advocacy.

Jodie also offers training on the Autistic experience for a variety of organisations including schools, and delivers regular talks/webinars, which anyone is welcome to access. Jodie is also the parent of Autistic children and has co-authored a book with her Autistic daughter. She is currently studying for an MA in autism at Sheffield Hallam University.

Find Jodie on Facebook at BehaviourSupportWiltshire On Twitter as JodieSmitten and on her website

Topics: Young Autistic people’s mental health, & burnout ~ Young Autistic people’s mental health, & burnout (Part 2) ~ Autistic parenthood & accusations of Fabricated & Induced Illness

Daryl Sookun

Daryl (he/him) is a twenty-two-year-old Autistic writer who has recently finished studying at The University of Kent. The past six years have been the most challenging and traumatic years of his life. Daryl has been a victim of bullying, harassment, and discrimination, and has had to endure failed relationships. Yet after having received an autism diagnosis during his studies at Kent, Daryl now has an answer to all the traumatic experiences that he has endured. Now, Daryl wishes to rebuild his damaged life and move forward from his traumatic past and live as a writer to narrate the Autistic experience and be an activist for the Autistic community.

Poem: The Proud Retard Book: The Nowhere Man

Topics: Rebuilding my life after receiving my diagnosis

Dr Catriona Stewart OBE

Cationar Stewart (she/her) is Founder and Organisational Development Lead at SWAN: Scottish Women’s Autism Network. She is a trainer and conference plenary speaker. She’s acted as an advisor at national level, including to the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, Scotland, completed Dec 2019, the current Scottish Government #DifferentMinds Campaign, and since the start of the COVID crisis, the Human Rights-focused Independent Advisory Group to the Scottish Police Authority. SWAN is currently delivering an Employment Project, coaching and mentoring autistic women in their work contexts, and giving training to employers and colleagues.

Topics: Autistic employment issues, and peer support

Sam Story

Sam Story is a young person who explains his perspective on how to tell a young person they are Autistic.

Topics: Explaining Autistic experience to young people

Leo Tyme

Autistic trans male who is a public speaker and advocate for human rights. He loves art, nature, music, podcasts, Star Wars, dogs, and Supernatural. Leo works in a warehouse position with trading cards.

Topics: Imposter Syndrome

Nicola Wakeling

Mother of Autistic children, mindfulness mentor, teacher by profession. Nicola Wakeling on Facebook:…

Topics: Autistic experience: Dr Chloe Farahar answers follower Nicola Wakeling’s questions

Nick Walker

Nick Walker (she/her) is a queer, transgender, flamingly Autistic author and educator best known for her foundational work on the neurodiversity paradigm and Neuroqueer Theory. She is a professor of psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies, a Managing Editor at Autonomous Press, and co-creator of the Weird Luck webcomic.



Topics: What is neurodiversity & why’s it important? ~ Neuroqueer Life & Literature

A rose by any other name would smell…of stigma (or, the psychologically important difference between being a “person with autism” or an Autistic person) by Dr Chloe Farahar

Dr Chloe Farahar was invited to write a guest article for University College London, Unit for Stigma Research blog, titled: A rose by any other name would smell…of stigma (or, the psychologically important difference between being a “person with autism” or an Autistic person).

“Question: Is identifying with social groups beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing? Whilst marking undergrad essays on this question back in 2020 – my mind began to wander, as it is prone to do, to Autistic things. Although my PhD was in the field of social psychology – where I attempted to reduce mental health stigma with the neurodiversity narrative – I had become so engrossed in my little sliver of the field I forgot about other social psychological theories and approaches. I researched the references my students were citing and made a short Twitter thread of my thoughts regarding the psychologically important difference between being a “person with autism” and an Autistic person. The difference between belonging to a stigmatised group, and the social cure properties of strongly identifying with an Autistic identity…” continue reading HERE.

View the video that accompanies the invited article for University College London HERE or below.

Ableism in Academia – Dr. Chloe Farahar & Annette Foster

Dr. Chloe Farahar and Annette Foster joined Meghan Ashburn of Not an Autism Mom to talk about their chapter in the newly released: Lived Experiences of Ableism in Academia: Strategies for Inclusion in Higher Education

They shared their own experiences as Autistic academics as discussed in their chapter #AutisticsInAcademia about what accommodations they found helpful, and how universities can be more accessible.

Catch up with the session here:

The Proud Retard – Written by Daryl Sookun

TRIGGER WARNINGS: bullying; victimisation; use of the word “retard”; strong language/swear words

Let us go to the truth that meets so much denial,
And let us see it clearer.
That if music be the food of love,
Then let awkwardness be its killer.
Since it only takes an awkward stutter,
To diminish what could be a happily ever after.

Through the marginalisation of misaligned misfits,
There are labelled loners,
Who carry the weight of their conditions as crucifixes,
In a secluded society for normal people.
Weirdness is the nail that sticks out of a wooden board.
Every social interaction,
Feels like persecution.
Being livestock for laughter,
And rebuffed by every single lover.
To be greeted with slaps and punches in the face,
Finished with the reminder of being a parent’s disgrace.
To receive a kick up the arse for every tear that falls from the eye,
And to be told that for people like them, happiness is a lie.

There is a dark side to what we call the ‘universal language’,
A side where a smile becomes a dirty look.
Greeted by rejection in every corner of the earth,
With isolation, suffering, pain and longing.
Not alien to the Aborigines,
Or strange to the Japanese.
People of the world would laugh and stare and wonder ‘how odd’,
For this thing of man to have ever been a creation of god.
That is the language that crosses boarders,
For the people with mental disorders.
There are a million linguistic ways to say, ‘I love you’.
And thrice a million to say, ‘fuck you’,
And goodbye.
For you should not be seen by the eye.
Since your existence is a rare mistake of nature,
And therefore, you must die!

Yet to know the truth, one’s denial must shift,
Because this ‘disorder’ is truly a gift.
A gift possessed by those whose sanity is drowned by madness,
And exist in this neurotypical world of sadness.

They are different,
But still like all of us,
Tramps who are born to run,
Through the daily ditches of normality.
But their gifts will one day bring them to tranquillity.
Even if they can’t run,
They are still born and exist day by day,
And can still say ‘FUCK YOU’ in their own way:

They are part of the world and deserve to live in it.
Because it is they who contribute to the Earth’s orbit.
And the writing of history,
And the composing of symphonies,
And discoveries,
That enlighten the Swedish academy.

Here’s to the Nowhere man,
Who reached out to the Nowhere people.
And imagined a world without a heaven,
Because heaven is for the normal.
If all the neurotypicals went to heaven,
The world would be a better place.
A world of peace can only ever be imagined,
In the minds of the people who are called ‘abnormal’.

People of the neurotypical world,
I’m also an ‘abnormal’ man.
So, this is my testimony.
They don’t need you, but you need them,
More than you will probably ever know.
So, let go,
Of your fuelled hatred.
For the people who you don’t understand.
Because for every ignorant person who will be on guard,
There will always be a proud retard.

Daryl Sookun Bio:

Daryl (he/him) is a twenty-two-year-old Autistic writer who has recently finished studying at The University of Kent. The past six years have been the most challenging and traumatic years of his life. Daryl has been a victim of bullying, harassment and discrimination, and has had to endure failed relationships. Yet after having received an autism diagnosis during his studies at Kent, Daryl now has an answer to all the traumatic experiences that he has endured. Now, Daryl wishes to rebuild his damaged life and move forward from his traumatic past and live as a writer to narrate the Autistic experience and be an activist for the Autistic community.

Rebuilding my life after receiving my diagnosis: Autistic writer Daryl educates Chloe and Annette 03.07.2021


Ableism: A “type of discrimination in which able-bodied individuals are viewed as normal and superior to those with a disability, resulting in prejudice toward the latter.”

Autistic experience/to be Autistic: “[A] neurodevelopmental difference, where Autistic brains work differently to non-autistic people. ​There are as many different brains and ways of experiencing the world as there are different bodies. ​ There is a variety of Autistic people, just as there is a variety of non-autistic people, but all Autistic people share some similarities. ​ These similarities include: ​

  • differences in experience of the sensory world, ​
  • differences in communication, ​
  • differences in thinking, socialising and moving​

Some Autistic people need support with day-to-day living, and within this perspective there is no one way to be Autistic. (Autistic Self Advocacy Network, 2020)

Autistic culture: “Autistic culture largely works from a shared understanding of the neurodiversity paradigm, where Autistic experience is a natural variation within the human species, enacted upon by social power relations and ideological notions of “normal” (Farahar and Bishopp-Ford, 2020; Walker, 2014). Where Autistic experience is in need of acceptance and societal accommodation and support, not intervention or “cure”… This shared, depathologised meaning is in turn transmitted to other Autistics via “the culture we produce [such as our writing, art, and music]” (Straus, 2013, p. 466).” – Farahar (Handbook of Critical Autism Studies, forthcoming 2022)

Culture: The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society (Oxford University Press, 2020).

Culture of autism: The pathological and paradigmatic narrative that constructs “autism” as a medical neurodevelopmental “disorder”, embedded within a “culture of autism”.  Within this culture “people with autism” are portrayed negatively as people with deficits, and this is transmitted in similar ways to other cultures, via writings, symbols (e.g., the puzzle piece), art, language use and so on.

Discovery versus diagnosis: Discovery is preferable as diagnosis implies medical disorder or disease, which is unsubstantiated in the literature, as well as going against the narrative of the neurodiversity narrative, paradigm, and movement (Walker, 2014) of difference not deficient.

Neurodiversity: The diversity of brain and body-minds.  Neurodiversity, a property of groups, contains neurotypical people who learn and perform neuro-normativity.  It also contains neurodivergent people who queer their body-minds in distortion of neuro-normativity.

shareable meme, gold background, with lots of circles around a central circle that says neurodiversity.  The circles contain: Neurotypical; Autistic; Attention Differences (ADHD/ADD); Dyslexic; Dyspraxic; Tourette’s; Obsessive Compulsions; Anxiety; Depression; Trauma Response/s; Voice-hearing.  Black writing underneath says: Neurodiversity, the property of groups, contains neurotypical people who learn & perform neuronormativity.  It also contains neurodivergent people who queer their body-minds in distortion of neuronormativity.

Neurodivergent(ence): Individual body-minds that function in ways that diverge from ideals of neurotypicality (Walker, 2014).

Neurominority: Group who share the same divergence (e.g., Autistic; dyslexic; voice-hearer; etc.).

Neuromajority: Those whose behaviours and ways of being are deemed socially acceptable, and who are able to perform neuronormativity.  Comprises those who are considered neurotypical.

Neuro-normativity: The body-minds/behaviours/neurologies/brains that are valued as normal in society – deemed socially acceptable.

To neuro-queer/be neuroqueer: To distort the performance of neuronormativity.

Neuro-typical(ilty): The condition from which neuro-divergent people diverge from neuro-normativity. 

Shareable meme, Navy blue background, white writing, gold neurodiversity symbol: white writing says: Neurodiversity = the diversity of brains, and body-minds. A property of groups.  Neuro-divergent(ence) = individual body-minds that function in ways that diverge from ideals of neuro-typicality.  Neuro-typical(ilty) = the condition from which neuro-divergent people diverge from neuro-normativity.  Neuro-minority = group who share the same divergence (e.g., Autistic; dyslexic; voice-hearer; etc.).  To neuro-queer or be neuro-queer = to distort the performance of neuro-normativity. Definitions of neurodiversity - Aucademy in discussion

Pathology/pathologising: Regard or treat as psychologically abnormal.  To represent (something) as a disease. A departure or deviation from a normal condition.

Stigma: A process of negative labelling; stereotyping; prejudicial attitudes; and discriminatory behaviours about and toward groups of people with socially deemed undesirable characteristics.

Autistic Self Advocacy Network. (2020). About Autism. Retrieved from ASAN: Autistic Self Advocacy Network:

Farahar, C. (2022). Autistic identity, culture, community, and space for wellbeing. In S. Ryan, & D. Milton (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Critical Autism Studies. Routledge.

Farahar, C., & Foster, A. (2021). #AutisticsInAcademia. In N. Brown (Ed.), Lived experiences of ableism in academia: Strategies for inclusion in higher education. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Oxford University Press. (2020). Culture. Retrieved July 2020, from Lexico:

Straus, J. N. (2013). Autism as culture. The Disability Studies Reader4, 460-484.

Walker, N. (2014, September 27). Neurodiversity: Some Basic Terms & Definitions. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from Nick Walker’s Notes on Neurodiversity, Autism, and Cognitive Liberty:

The Autistic Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference 1st – 2nd May 2021

[Image description: Dark blue text box with white and orange text. Text reads: ‘Autistic Mental Health and Wellbeing 1-2 May 2021 An Autistic-led online conference’ Illustration of a monarch butterfly. Half of the butterfly is shown in black and white, half in colour. A gold infinity sign lies across the butterfly’s thorax. On a dark blue text box at the top Reframing Autism and Aucademy’s logos appear.]

Aucademy are very pleased to be co-hosting an Autistic mental health event in 2021 with Reframing Autism, and one of our valued contributors David Gray-Hammond of Emergent Divergence. Donation tickets to be released early 2021. Pop this in your calendars!

“We are so excited to bring you this event in May 2021, a collaboration with Autistic-led educational organisation Aucademy. Held online over two days, the Autistic Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference will offer a wealth of expertise and lived experience from a diverse group of advocates.

Event description

Reframing Autism and Aucademy are delighted to co-host a one-off, online conference focusing on the mental health and wellbeing of Autistic people.

The following Autistic advocates will present their experience and expertise on the topics of Autistic mental illness, masking, Autistic burnout, wellbeing, and resilience:

  • Tim Chan
  • Bobbi Elman (Bobbi Elman: NeuroDivergent Autism Support)
  • Dr Chloe Farahar (Aucademy)
  • David Gray-Hammond (Emergent Divergence)
  • Christa Holmans (Neurodivergent Rebel)
  • Yenn Purkis (Yenn Purkis Neurodiversity page)
  • Kieran Rose (The Autistic Advocate)
  • Harry Thompson (Harry Thompson – PDA Extraordinaire)

There will also be a live panel discussion, held on Saturday 1 May at 20:00 GMT, exploring the factors contributing to Autistic trauma. The panel, chaired by Harry Thompson, will include:

  • Chris Bonnello (Autistic Not Weird)
  • Emma Dalmayne (Autistic Inclusive Meets, Autism Inclusivity)
  • JayJay Mudridge (Not Another Autistic Advocate)
  • Tigger Pritchard (The Autistic Coffee Shop with Tigger Pritchard)

Many of the presentations will put forward protective strategies for Autistic wellbeing and resilience, and all the presenters will aim to end their presentations on a hopeful note.

The overall aim of the event is to offer insights from lived experience into a range of co-occurring mental health conditions and wellbeing issues affecting Autistic people and to reduce stigma around mental illness.

The event will be delivered via a closed Facebook group throughout the weekend of 1–2 May 2021.

We are hoping to raise enough in ticket sales to compensate our Autistic presenters sufficiently. We are offering set-price tickets and donation tickets, so as to make the event accessible and affordable for all attendees.

Trigger warnings: Mental illness, trauma

About Aucademy

Founded by Dr Chloe Farahar, Aucademy offers Autistic academics, researchers, teachers, speakers, trainers, and advocates education on Autistic experience for Autistic and non-autistic learners, because the best way to learn about Autism is from Autistic educators.

About the presenters

Chris Bonnello is an Autistic special needs tutor, formerly a primary school teacher. Since 2015, he has become an international speaker on Autism issues. He shares his insights on his blog, which has had more than 2.5 million hits, and with a Facebook community of over 135,000 followers. He is also the author of the Underdogs novels.

Tim Chan is a 25-year-old Chinese Australian. Diagnosed with Autism at 3 years old, Tim has been non-speaking after 14 months of age. He picked up Partner Assisted Communication at age 9 and has used this as his preferred method to “talk”, connect with people and engage with the world. Tim gave a TEDx talk at 18, presumably the first by a non-speaking Autistic person, and published his autobiography Back from the Brink in 2019. Facing discrimination and exclusion at high school, Tim has become passionate about social justice and works with advocacy organisations including The I CAN Network, Youth Disability Advocacy Services and Children and Young Adults with Disability and is a director of Reframing Autism. Defying early gloomy prognosis for his future, Tim is currently completing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in sociology.

Emma Dalmayne is an Autistic mother to Autistic children, and the founder and CEO of not-for-profit organisation Autistic Inclusive Meets. She campaigns strongly for Autistic rights and fights to stop Autistic mistreatment, having worked with the police, the BBC and other prominent media. Emma has written two books about Autism, It’s An Autism Thing… I’ll Help You Understand It and Susie Spins.

Bobbi Elman was born in the US and moved to the UK over 27 years ago now. She is happily married and a parent to two amazing young people. Bobbi has worked for more than 8 years in a primary school as an Autism-specific one-to-one TA and completed a postgrad degree in Autism from the University of Birmingham. Now working for herself, Bobbi trains staff in primary schools, organisations, charities, etc., as well as online workshops and presentations. Bobbi only recently discovered her Autistic identity and has happily embraced it.

Dr Chloe Farahar: late diagnosed, perpetually, enduringly, eternally, weird, odd, standoffish, but also beautifully, irredeemably Autistic. Dr Farahar is an Autistic academic whose research interests revolve around her Autistic specialisations (not “special interests”). Her specialisations include: reducing mental health stigma with a neurodiversity script Stigmaphrenia© (Farahar, 2012); supporting Autistic people with her co-founded So, You’re Autistic? post-diagnostic support programme; reimagining the spectrum as a three-dimensional Autistic space; and educating both Autistic and non-autistic learners about Autistic experience in her training courses and on her educative platform, Aucademy.

David Gray-Hammond is an Autistic addiction and mental health advocate. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis. David is Chief Operating Officer of NeuroClastic and runs the Facebook page and blog Emergent Divergence. He has published numerous articles on the topic of addiction, mental health, and asexuality amongst Autistics and has also spoken on the topics of addiction and mental health. David has also been involved in the commissioning of substance addiction services in his home city, and has consulted in city Council meetings on addiction treatment policy to represent the treatment rights of Autistic addicts.

Christa Holmans is an Autistic self-advocate from Texas who runs the neurodiversity lifestyle blog Neurodivergent Rebel. Holmans is also known as the pioneer of the #askingautistics hashtag, which connects neurodivergent people who would not otherwise have a reason to engage with each other, and fosters collective understanding of Autism. Christa currently lives in an RV with their best friend and four dogs, pursuing new interests wherever they can be found.

JayJay Mudridge is an Autistic advocate, hobbyist, crossfit athlete, multiply published poet, and academic tutor existing in and around Massachusetts, USA. They run the page Not Another Autistic Advocate on Facebook where they attempt to dispel cultural myths about Autism and Autists.

Tigger Pritchard is an Autistic advocate, trainer and consultant. Tigger has devoted the past thirty years to working with neurodivergent individuals in many capacities. He consults to individuals, families and organisations, sharing his extensive skills, knowledge and lived experience. Tigger is the longest-serving Makaton (keyword sign) tutor in the United Kingdom. He’s also involved with the National Autistic Society in the county of Cornwall. And he runs the Facebook page The Autistic Coffee Shop with Tigger Pritchard, as well as an Instagram account and YouTube channel.

Yenn Purkis is an Autistic and non-binary advocate, presenter and author and co-author of 10 books. Yenn has been a trailblazer in Autistic self-advocacy, with their work in this area beginning in 2005. They are prolific, producing memes, blogs, videos, and undertaking many speaking engagements, including a TEDx Canberra talk in 2013. Yenn has won several prestigious community leadership awards over the years, including the winner of an Achievement in Inclusion award at the 2019 ACT Chief Minister’s Inclusion Awards and ACT Volunteer of the Year in 2016.

Kieran Rose is a published author and international public speaker, whose essays at have been read by over 1.5 million people.

With a background in SEND Education and service delivery for children and adults, Kieran delivers his own specialist Autism and Neurodiversity training to families and professionals; and provides private consultancy for charities and organisations across the world.

He is founder of The Autistic Cooperative, an international network and lobbying group for Autistic professionals and advocates; Managing Director of the social enterprise Infinite Autism, which supports Autistic people and families in the North East of England; he is advisory board member of the US-based international Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Education organisation Therapist Neurodiversity Collective; and is Neurodivergence Educator for the US-based Occupational Therapy charity the Star Institute for Sensory Processing.

Alongside consulting on various research papers, Kieran is co-producing his own research into different areas including Autistic masking, victimisation; and monotropism and Autistic identity with his research partner, Developmental Psychologist Dr Amy Pearson; he has a co-produced published paper on Autistic masking with Dr Pearson; and another one on masking in the publication process with Dr Louise Chapman. Kieran is also a published research partner with the Institute of Leadership and Management on the experiences of Neurodivergent people in employment. He has lectured at universities across the UK and is also a PHD supervisor for Durham University.

Kieran was diagnosed as Autistic in 2003 and is parent to three children, two of whom are diagnosed Autistic.

Harry Thompson was born in Edgeware and grew up in Barnet (North London). He is currently based in London, UK and is an avid reader and researcher. He launched his YouTube channel in March of 2017 which has since amassed a strong following.

Harry began to write the first draft of his book in 2015. After connecting with many Autistic and PDA families, he pivoted his direction and completed his book in about 6 weeks, a memoir entitled The PDA Paradox: The Highs and Lows of My Life on a Little-Known Part of the Autism Spectrum.

Harry has been elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) in recognition of his work in the field of PDA, and also in recognition of the publication of his book, The PDA Paradox, which has been deemed an outstanding contribution to our knowledge about PDA.

Tigger Tuesdays – video shorts

Tigger Pritchard, who produces video shorts called “Coffee with Tigger”, is kindly, lushly, gorgeously sharing his video shorts with Aucademy for Tigger Tuesdays.

Tigger’s video shorts look at the amazing Autistic world, with guests, reviews, tips, ideas and advice. From The Autism Coffee Shop with Tigger Pritchard, Facebook page, Podcasts and more. Hosted by Tigger, a passionate Autistic advocate, consultant and trainer.

So grab a cup of coffee and head to Tigger Tuesday videos for snippets of insight into being Autistic, and discovering this later in life.

Language for the bin (& what to use instead)!

Chloe’s short video on the importance of language – focusing on the identity first preference of Autistic people
In the binKeep, practice, and role model
Person with autism
On the spectrum

Mental illness
Low functioning
High functioning
Severe/mild autism
Risk of autism

Special interests
Autistic person

Neurodevelopmental difference

Challenged by e.g. the environment

Anxious; distressed; meltdown

Support need/s – and be specific

Experience/s; expression/s

(JUST AVOID) Improve wellbeing (not change autism)
Feelings/emotions – inner world


A rose by any other name would smell…of stigma (or, the psychologically important difference between being a “person with autism” or an Autistic person)…

This video accompanies an invited article for University College London

Question: Is identifying with social groups beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing? Whilst marking undergrad essays on this question back in 2020 – my mind began to wander, as it is prone to do, to Autistic things. Although my PhD was in the field of social psychology – where I attempted to reduce mental health stigma with the neurodiversity narrative – I had become so engrossed in my little sliver of the field I forgot about other social psychological theories and approaches. I researched the references my students were citing and made a short Twitter thread of my thoughts regarding the psychologically important difference between being a “person with autism” and an Autistic person. The difference between belonging to a stigmatised group, and the social cure properties of strongly identifying with an Autistic identity…article continued here.

How do I Get my Child to…X?

Saturday 15th August 2020 – by Harry Thompson

It is no secret to my listeners, readers and friends that in my experience in working with PDA families, I have come to loathe one, simple question: “How do I get my child to X?” Now on the surface, this question may seem harmless and reasonable, but let me explain to you why I find it so bothersome, and why it could potentially be damaging.

PDA (which stands for “Pathological (horrible word)” Demand Avoidance is understood by most as an ‘anxiety-driven need to be in control’. A demand represents the venom which drips from the fangs of a viper. A demand is a dangerous agent that poses a direct threat to a PDA person’s sense of freedom – our most essential nutrient. When you are PDA, feeling free or in control takes precedence over anything else. If control or freedom are lost, the PDA person will resort to most anything to regain it. I describe the PDA person’s relationship to control and freedom as being comparable to that of a mother and her child, in the sense that it is maternal. Losing control can feel like losing something you need to protect and keep an eye on at all times.

 Asking the question “How do I get my child to X?” isn’t only indicative of the parent consciously or unconsciously trying to seize control from the child, but it also illustrates that there is an emotional and psychological gulf between the parent and their PDA child. Being PDA means that in order to cooperate with a person, we have to be on the same level as them. It is for this reason that establishing a rapport and presenting oneself as the child’s equal must be the go-to approach. Any attempts by an adult – the parent or teacher, et cetera – to impose upon the child an instruction, or authority in general, will be met with resistance. The PDA child is unable to cooperate with a person who has not yet earnt their trust. Furthermore, the idea of fixed roles – teacher, doctor, and even parent – can be perplexing. If an authority figure presents themselves as the child’s superior and keeps their role at the fore, this in effect conceals a person’s humanness. Who could possibly comply with a non-human presenting itself as your superior who wishes to steal your life-force?

 I also find the question “How do I get my child to do X?” problematic in the sense that it suggests there is little or no interest on the part of the parent in accessing or learning more about their PDA child’s world – which would be a preliminary stage in meeting the child on their level. This is an example of invalidating the child’s experience. The PDA child intuitively knows who is or isn’t on their level. It is my personal belief that this in part marks the inception of the positive or negative PDA social obsession – which is, for the record, part of the diagnostic criteria.

 For example, when I meet a new person, I instinctively start trying to work out whether or not there can be harmony between us. I am on the lookout for absentmindedness, limited capacity to understand autism, PDA and neurodiversity, and self-centredness. If either of these things exist, I am on high alert. I know I have to be on the same level as people in order to cooperate with them or form relationships with them, so if there exists an unbridgeable gulf between myself and another, I either want to find quick and efficient ways of reconciling my world with theirs, clown around and be silly, or just stay away completely.

 Despite everything I have said thus far, I am aware that sometimes parents phrase a question in such a way due to it being, say, a non-negotiable. Even still, there are alternatives to asking, “How do I get my child to X?” I often encourage parents to become entrepreneurial – to see themselves as selling a product. As opposed to being dictatorial – ordering their child to do something. My PDA law is inspiration over instruction – you cannot push us into anything, but we can be lured in.

 If a parent can neutrally convey or demonstrate the intrinsic value of an activity, ritual or practise, and so long as we are aware that doing something will not lead to loss of control or diminishing returns, there isn’t a reason why the thing can’t be done. Reciprocity isn’t only important in personal relationships; it’s also important when it comes to a PDA person’s activities too. If taking a step forward means that control is lost and no benefit reaped, then the activity itself is flawed and inherently demanding. When it comes to PDA, there has to be a compelling ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor. I always say that I don’t write books or blogs, I don’t give talks and I don’t make YouTube videos. I BECOME the article I am writing. I BECOME the talk I am giving, and I BECOME the YouTube video I am recording. I don’t DO anything – if I am doing something, this implies separation between myself and the thing I intend to do, leaving room for a demand to wiggle its way in. If I become the physical embodiment of the thing I intend to do, there is no separation, and thus the thing becomes possible, not because I do it but because I become it. This process can partly be described as a flow state – becoming so immersed in an activity that you become one with it.

It is important to note that this is not the same as offering a reward – reward and punishment systems never works for PDA, as remaining in control is the greatest reward of all. Rewards set and defined by parents for good behaviour are forms of extrinsic motivation, whereas a PDA child being drawn to something on the basis they have ascertained the thing’s intrinsic value is a form of intrinsic motivation – the only way a PDA child CAN be motivated.

 Instead of asking “how do I get my child to X?” perhaps some better questions would be “is X really that important?” “What is the true meaning of why we do X?” “Why does my child avoid X?” “What could it be about X that my child finds so unsafe?” These questions are less anxiety-provoking for me because they succeed in challenging the notion of X, and at no point does the child’s experience get invalidated, because there is a genuine desire to understand the child’s world, and not just an attempt to get them to comply.

A rightly angry Autistic blog

Friday 7th August 2020 – by Victoria Busuttil

Today I feel deep seated, unadulterated, rage and anger.

I’m sat here drinking tea, freshly poured out of my favourite tea pot. I politely dunk my Rich Tea biscuits. Feel sorry for the dog and give her an occasional biscuit. I love the sound she makes when she crunches, it is quite stimmy and I like it. 

I digress – f**king hell, I can’t even rage conventionally.

I’m a bit of a novice at expressing rage and anger, as you can probably gather.

Why am I angry, I hear you ask?                                                                            

Actually, I don’t care if you don’t ask because I’m going to tell you in my own inimitable style. If I were you, I wouldn’t ask because it’s going to be one hell of a s**t storm rant.  Put those ear defenders on.  Scroll on by because I f**king well wish I could do that with my life at the moment.

 I am angry with the system.

I am angry at being misunderstood, not heard, expected to communicate verbally when I am bordering on non-speaking due to overload.

Last April I was struggling with mood swings and suicidal ideation. I had spent 6 months withdrawing off a medication. I’d relocated from the South East of England to the North East coast. I was struggling. I wasn’t depressed -I was overwhelmed. I was scared by these sudden intense and intrusive thoughts. I couldn’t understand what was happening.  I was in a place where I felt safe and life was ok.

 I had been on the same anti-depressants for the last 15-20 years. I was told that the drug was no longer working as the dose had been increased to its maximum. I know now that no drug would ever have worked – I wasn’t depressed. I was experiencing extreme burnout.

The GP prescribed a different drug. He said it was a newer, more effective drug, less side effects. I believed him, took the prescription. What he didn’t tell me was that this drug is notoriously difficult to stop taking and subsequent withdrawal effects can be horrendous. When I am in a state of burnout or overwhelm, I will comply with GP’s and other professionals, just to escape. I should have researched the drug before I gradually tapered off the previous medication and introduced this current one.  To be fair, I wasn’t in a fit state to research anything.

Ironically, the GP lectured me on how taking medication wasn’t a long-term option.

I stabilised for a couple of months, but my mood began to slump again. I could never see the same GP, so different doctors just kept increasing the dose. Finally, a lovely doctor took on my case but to be honest it was too late. We tried to access mental health services, but I was refused.

I gave up on life being any different, there was no alternative.

A couple of months ago I received a date for a second social care assessment (10 months waiting). The assessor was helping out the learning disabilities team I’d been referred to (my LA don’t know what to do with Autistic adults who do not have learning differences). He actually listened to me. He understood my situation and immediately put in a referral to the adult mental health team. Eventually, I was seen by a fantastic psychiatrist, who also understood my Autistic neurology. She understood that I was hyper-sensitive to the medication I had been prescribed for so long. She understood I wasn’t depressed. What I needed was medication that dampened my near constant fight/flight adrenaline response.

In order to recover and get on with my life I needed to get off the current medication. She devised a gradual tapering off over 10 weeks.

I am on week 6 and I am entering a really tough phase. I was struggling to cope with the nausea, but it only lasted a week after the drug step down and for the other week I was ok. The last stepdown has been horrific, unrelenting and is offering me no reprieve. It’s massively impacting my already fragile sensory system and consequently, my mood.

 Yesterday, was the first full day of being child-free, no demands, no appointments. My daughter has been out of school since January with burnout. She hasn’t left the house. I understand and accept this. We’ve got through together (with a lot of cursing along the way). However, adding in the withdrawal symptoms has been hard on both of us.

She went to York with her Dad and brother for 5 days. As much as I love her, I needed a break.

I had dreamt of this break for so long.

I just wanted to get my threads and embroidery silks out and sew and sew and sew. Glorious repetitive running stitches that explored the minute and intricate patterns imprinted in the cloth. Basking in that most beautiful sound of the needle piercing the cloth. The sound and feel of the thread gliding through my fingers. Marvelling at the minute running stitches changing in colour as the variegated silks performed their magic.

Nope it didn’t f**king happen.


Because I felt nauseous.  The withdrawal from the chemical dependency is messing with my brain. I struggle in normal circumstances, but this is on another level.

Next came the pixelated vision – visual migraines.

I searched the house for my migraine glasses.  I have been organising the house lately and consequently can’t find a f**king thing.  This is made more difficult when your vision is obscured by pixelated world which is worthy of a Minecraft creative genius. Eventually, I found a child’s pair of Dora the Explorer sunglasses (don’t ask).  I then embarked on a search for Ibuprofen. Once the pain subsided and my vision returned (and the indents of the Dora the Explorer glasses in my temples had disappeared).

I got mad.

I never wanted to take these drugs in the first place. These drugs have meant that I have literally lost 20 years of my life. I just accepted this situation because I thought I needed fixing, That something was wrong with me that I couldn’t manage with everyday life.

There is nothing wrong with me. The thing is I didn’t need fixing in the first place.  That’s why the medication never worked.

It wasn’t until I happened to connect with another undiagnosed autistic adult a few years ago that I began to realise what was going on.

I started to read first-hand accounts of late diagnosed women.  I realised that the suspicions I had when I was studying psychology in the early 1990’s and read Donna William’s book ‘Nobody Nowhere’, were in fact correct.

 At the time I had dismissed my intuition because the taught narrative at the time was that Autistic individuals treated people like inanimate objects. They lacked empathy. They were locked in their own world. I had too many feelings and cared for people deeply.

My intuition was spot on, so, in 2017 aged 44, I sought a private diagnosis. The assessment confirmed that I was indeed Autistic and not mentally ill.

 I felt relief and euphoria.

 I am wonderfully, beautifully, uniquely Autistic. I expected the world to understand. I thought that armed with my diagnosis, I would gain the support and understanding that I so desperately needed. I naively thought the world had moved on.

The autistic world has but society hasn’t.

That realisation led to extreme burnout.

I was refused the support I needed and was prescribed drugs that weren’t designed for my neurology and my hyper-sensitive system. The prescribed medication has damaged me not helped me. It has restricted my freedom and prevented me from living my life.

 I’m f**king sick of being grateful for morsels of ineffectual support and accepting what the system offers.

I’m angry and I want to facilitate change – right here in this moment.

But I can’t, only through my words and my thoughts typed on these pages. Hoping some person will take note, stand with me and tell their story too. Collectively our lived experience will hopefully be listened to and change will evolve. Then my experience won’t be for nothing.

Many medical professionals don’t understand the experience what it is to be autistic.

I certainly can’t encapsulate it in a 10-minute appointment.

I can’t verbalise my unique neurological differences. How I experience the world differently to the average neuro normative individual.

 The medication drugs trials are largely based on the neuro normative individual. Guess what? That’s not me and it’s not a significant minority of the population.

Any training professionals subsequently receive (if any) about autism is largely delivered by organisations that don’t actually consult Autistic individuals. They deliver training based on regurgitated textbook facts, based on observable behaviour not actual lived experience. Training needs to be delivered by actual Autistic Adults.  These people do exist in the form of Autistic Advocates. They are there waiting, ready to go.

 Most training doesn’t reflect our lived experience and this needs to change. I’m not neurotypical, I don’t ever want to be. My brain doesn’t work the same, it’s natural variation not a disorder. I don’t experience or process the world the same as non-autistics.

Doctors are trained to recognise symptoms, to treat illness.

I am not ill.

I am Autistic.

I wasn’t depressed when I visited that GP on that fateful day and that has led to this moment of me writing out my anger.

I told that doctor that I wasn’t depressed, but they made the judgement that I was. I just couldn’t communicate my depression because I ‘had’ autism.

The same doctor that had supported me withdrawing off a previous medication. That medication had caused tremors so bad I couldn’t hold a cup of tea steady without burning myself. I couldn’t create, sew, something that is integral to my wellbeing. This very same doctor, there and then, prescribed this medication that I am into week 6 of withdrawing from. That I am now chemically dependent upon.

This medication hasn’t helped me and at its best has numbed me from the world and all its beauty. In fact, it has made my daily life worse. How many times do I have to say I am not depressed for them to listen? I am overwhelmed with the world that moves too fast, is too bright and is too loud.

I am autistic and professionals do not know the damage these drugs do to my system that they so readily prescribed and how they affect my functioning, my quality of life. Naively, I kept going back to the doctor. I could never see the same doctor. I could get the referrals to the specialist professional that I needed but was refused as didn’t meet their arbitrary constructed criteria. Instead, different doctors kept increasing the dosage to the maximum and now I am addicted.

 I am needlessly suffering because of the ignorance of the system.  

The failure to listen or to understand the real-life experiences of Autistic individuals. It sometimes feels that we are so pathologized, that any sense of humanity is lost, and we are dehumanised.

 We are a problem to be solved, which is far from the truth.

 I am angry, I feel deep grief, not for being autistic but because I am disabled by the system. I’m angry because I can’t fulfil my potential. I am trapped in this body and in this society that isn’t designed for me or won’t make the accommodations for my neurology.

Things desperately need to change, and I want to be part of this. I don’t want to sit here and moan and grumble. I want to take action.  In order for me to be part of this change I need to get off this f**king medication.

All I ever wanted was peace in my head. To understand myself and my experience. I’m beginning to do that because I’m connecting with my community – my neurokin. My experience isn’t an isolated one.  I talk online to other Autistic adults and listen to webinars led by those with lived experience. They too don’t have the answers. What they do offer is the opportunity for authentic connection and acceptance. Alongside them I continue to learn about my neurology, culture and identity as an Autistic Adult. This is what I need – a safe place to connect, explore and learn.

I don’t need social skills programmes. I don’t need ‘back to work’ programmes because I can’t work in the environments that exist. They’re not designed or adapted to my needs. It sets me up to fail every single time and yes,

 I get back up, but I’m getting tired. Why is it so hard for professionals to take note of real-life lived experiences? Why is it that only the Autistic population who are expected to change and adapt? Why can’t professionals only pay attention to those who have no lived experience of our inner world and emotions? It would save so much money, so much trauma, so many lives, if they just stopped, listened and involved the Autistic community. We are the experts.

I don’t want my life to end or to give up on life. This week I felt like doing just that.

Life is precious.

Life is beautiful.

But in this moment, I feel imprisoned.

I can’t walk in the woods and look at the most amazing patterns of the leaves and flowers. Watch in wonder at the shadows the trees make, the reflections dancing on the pathways with the breeze. I cannot walk down to the sea and watch the waves that calm my racing, spiralling mind.


 Because of the drugs I was mindlessly prescribed. I complied and trusted the doctor as this is my nature. I naively thought that they were the expert.

They weren’t

I am the expert, I have the knowledge.

This my body (no other f**ker would have it now) and I know best and god help anyone who tries to prescribe this s**t to me again.

My story is evidence as to why autistic people with lived experience need to be listened to, to train, to be part of any research and inform professionals.  So, in the future people like myself can fulfil their potential and live their lives in the way they are meant to.

I have no words left I’m tired.

Rant over.