Guest Speakers

Mark Brown

Dr Mark Brown

Mark has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities, autism and many other neuro-developmental conditions for over 30 years in many different capacities, which has included managing a residential long-stay home for adults with behavioural difficulties.

Mark specialises in working directly with children, adolescents and young adults who have a range of diagnoses, and who are all struggling with challenging and/or socially inappropriate behaviour.  Many of the young people he works with have difficulties in interpreting the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable sexual behaviour, and this work has led him to developing an enhanced sex education course specifically designed for those who may otherwise be at risk of displaying sexually inappropriate behaviour.

Mark completed his PhD at the University of Kent in 2019, with his thesis titled “I wish I had learnt to keep safe – sexuality and relationships education (SRE) for pupils with Autistic Spectrum Condition”.

Dr Stephen Connolly

Stephen is an autistic academic at Sheffield Hallam University, being the course leader on the MA Autism Spectrum degree, and lecturer on numerous other degree pathways. He has a keen interest in all things autism, with particular focus on inclusion in Higher Education. He comes from a Physical Education and Developmental Psychology background.

Stephen is heavily influenced by the “Actually Autistic” movement. He strives for accessible involvement in the full research process and firmly believes that autistic people should be the main stakeholders in autism research.

Stephen has recently undertaken his PhD, with his research titled “Inclusion of students that identify as autistic in Higher Education”

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Dr Luke Beardon

Dr Luke Beardon

Luke is a Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, where he runs various courses at different academic levels in autism, including a Masters postgraduate programme, and supervises Doctoral students.

Luke has over 20 years of experience in the field of autism and has continued to research and consult in the area during his academic years. He has published and/or contributed to over 20 books and 100+ journal articles about autism during his career.

Luke specialises in autism and the criminal justice system, with his Doctoral thesis titled “Asperger Syndrome and Perceived Offending Conduct: A Qualitative Study”.

PDA Society

The PDA Society started out as the PDA Contact Group, set up in 1997 by parents of children with a PDA profile of autism, and became a registered charity in January 2016.

The PDA Society is led and run by a small team, all of whom have a direct connection with PDA and most of whom are volunteers. They provide information, support and training about PDA for individuals, families and professionals and work to raise awareness, increase acceptance and empower people to take action in relation to PDA. The PDA panda is the ambassador because, just like giant pandas, PDA individuals need specific support in order to thrive.

Graysons Solicitors

Based in Sheffield since 1925, Graysons Solicitors is one of South Yorkshire’s most established and respected Solicitors. Through its vibrant and progressive team of dedicated legal professionals—including eight highly experienced partners—the law firm has built a reputation for providing expertly tailored legal advice. The firm’s Lexcel accreditation—the Law Society’s quality mark—is testimony to its excellent standards of management and quality of service. Graysons is recommended in the Legal 500 2019 for its work in the areas of family, personal injury and medical negligence.

Shona Murphy

Shona Murphy is an autism professional and PhD student researching false accusations of fabricated and induced illness amongst parents of autistic children and works as an associate tutor at Edgehill University, as well as an autism consultant and trainer. She has contributed to journals, newspapers, websites, the radio and a book about autistic parenthood. Shona enjoys training those that support autistic people which ultimately leads to a positive impact on the autistic population.

Most recently she has trained NHS staff, employees of private companies and university students who will support autistic people in their future careers. Daily engagement with the autistic community has led to a broad understanding on what life is like for autistic people. As a confident presenter and teacher, Shona is able to impart her knowledge to various audiences at all levels.

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Vikie Shanks

Vikie Shanks is a speaker, author and campaigner.

Described as a ‘super-mum’, Vikie’s book, Unravelled, sees Vikie left to raise her seven children – all with special needs – alone, after her husband tragically took his own life, leaving the family in a considerable amount of debt. Her family star in a remarkable Netflix film, Kingdom Of Us.

She now campaigns for better awareness and understanding around autism, mental health, and suicide. She’s also battling with HS2 who are acting unethically with regards to building the train line just metres from the family home in Kenilworth.

Chrissy Meleady MBE

Chrissy Meleady is the CEO of Equalities and Human Rights UK. She has worked in the field of Equalities and Human Rights for 35 years, taking various roles and holding different responsibilities, including being the CEO of Racial Equality Councils and the  CEO of Regional Equalities and Human Rights Centres. 


Chrissy has managed legal teams – including solicitors and barristers and policy and advocacy services and has been an Advisor to consecutive Governments on Equalities and Human Rights, both here in the UK and in other nations. She has worked with International organisations and agencies in the field of Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid across the Globe.


Chrissy was awarded an MBE in 2000 by the Queen for her services to children, young people and families nationally and internationally and is the recipient of a wide range of international awards for her work; most often championing those who are discriminated against, vulnerable and oppressed in different parts of the world.

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Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin was born in August 1947 and is an internationally renowned spokesperson on autism, having been diagnosed with the condition herself in adulthood. She is also a prominent proponent for the humane treatment of livestock for slaughter; and a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behaviour.

She is one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to document the insights she gained from her personal experience of autism. Grandin invented the “Hug Box” device to calm those on the autism spectrum. In the 2010 Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, she was named among those in the “Heroes” category.

Dr Wenn Lawson

Dr. Wenn Lawson is a well-respected and highly knowledgeable expert on autism. He combines his lived experience insights with professional knowledge ranging from First Class Honours in Social Work to a Doctorate in Psychology. Wenn has been public speaking for more than twenty years and published his first book on autism, “Life Behind Glass”, in 1998. There have been more than fifteen further books to date since then.

His most recent books are The Autistic Trans Guide to Life co-written with Yenn Purkis (audio version coming soon) and a chapter in the revised and updated version of Temple Grandin’s “Different Not Less: Inspiring Stories of Achievement and Successful Employment from Adults with Autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD”.

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Liesje Dusauzay

Liesje Dusauzay is a Public Speaker, Strategy Consultant and Autism Awareness Trainer based in Sheffield. She travels all over the country public speaking and supporting families with autistic children.

Liesje is a dyslexic black woman with four children, three of them are autistic. One of them has learning difficulties and the other two are also dyslexic. Liesje founded Sparkle Sheffield in September 2014. She is also the founder of the South Yorkshire Autism Fayre, with the first ever Fayre being held in March 2015.


Liesje will be speaking with Pamela Aculey during her session.

Pamela Aculey

Pamela is an author, creator and founder of ‘Just Like Me – a picture book series that champions diversity and inclusion whilst using Augmented Reality (AR) technology to bring the stories to life.
As a mother to three dual heritage sons – one of whom is autistic, Pam strives for equal opportunities for those who are under represented, in particular the Black and Minority Ethnic community as well as those with disabilities and additional needs.
Having struggled to find diverse books for her children, Pam started writing her own picture book series (‘Just Like me’ ) where at the heart of each story explores and promotes diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance and kindness. Pamela’s  first picture book (“Buster Finds His Beat”) won the Faber’s Publisher’s prize award and was featured in the Independent’s ’10 best children’s books that celebrate diversity’.

Yvonne Newbold MBE

Yvonne Newbold is a writer, speaker and trainer who is also the mother to three children, including Toby who is multiply disabled with profound learning disabilities. She is passionate about doing whatever it takes to make things better for children and adults who have a neurodevelopmental condition or disability, as well as for their families.

Yvonne is the author of  The Special Parent’s Handbook, covering every aspect of Special Needs Parenting and sharing all that she learnt about making life easier. The book is an Amazon #1 Best Seller, and she has since won three awards; HSJ Top 50 Inspirational Women in Healthcare 2014, Learning Disability Today Parent/Carer Advocate Champion Award 2015, and  The PENNA Award 2016 for  Outstanding Contribution in Patient Experience.

Katherine Ambler

Katherine is an autistic teacher who has worked in education since 2008 and hols a MA in Autism from Sheffield Hallam University. 
Her specialism is SEND and ensuring that all students can access the curriculum. She is currently a Health and Social Care teacher at John Leggott College, and also runs the access to the teaching and education course. 

Lavinia Dowling

Lavinia Dowling is founder and Psychiatric Nurse Consultant at The M Word. She has practised as a licensed mental health clinician for 25 years in hospitals (General and Psychiatric), nursing homes for those with Dementia and learning/physical disabilities, Huntington’s Chorea (inpatient and community), drug and alcohol rehab, forensics, community teams (CAMHS, Adult and Older Adult), Mother and Baby units, CAMHS (Community, Autism screening and assessment, and A&E), and the military (MoD and the NHS).


She works with children, adolescents, young adults, and older adults with a broad range of mental health issues, and has a wealth of experience helping clients who have Autism and military trauma.