CRAE Newsletter Issue 12

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issue 12

autumn/winter 2017

A new era for CRAE...

Read more about our new Director at CRAE, latest research reports and public engagement activities inside

editor: melissa bovis

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A new era... We are delighted to announce that Dr Anna Remington is the new Director of CRAE, following the departure of Professor Liz Pellicano at the end of October 2017.

family justice system, investigating autistic people’s greater capacity to detect sound and ways to promote employment of autistic people. Anna is also co-founder and Director of – a free, openly editable online database of academic article summaries.

Anna joined CRAE in 2013 and her research looks at whether autistic people see, hear and feel things in a different way from others. She is particularly fascinated by the idea of autism as a condition that has advantages, as well as challenges. She investigates how these superiorities develop, and ways in which autistic people might capitalise on these strengths.

Speaking of Anna’s appointment, Liz Pellicano said: “I am thrilled that Anna is becoming Director of CRAE. Working together over the last few years, we have built a world-class team and conducted some truly path-breaking research. I know that Anna will continue that work and develop her own new exciting ideas as well. I can’t wait to watch CRAE’s progress from afar!“

Among others, her current research projects include working with autistic people in the

Anna said of her new position: “I will miss Liz terribly, yet I am honoured to be appointed as

next Director of this wonderful Centre. I am looking forward to continuing her excellent work and taking the Centre forward in exciting new ways.” CRAE looks forward to this new and exciting chapter and we hope you will join us in wishing her every success in the role!

“I am looking forward to taking the Centre forward in exciting new ways.” Anna Remington

Deutsche Bank Internship for Autistic Graduates funded by UK charity Autistica, launched a unique Internship programme aimed specifically at autistic graduates to address the autism employment gap. The programme marked a huge step forward in improving employment opportunities for people on the autism spectrum. Figures released by the National Autistic Society showed that only 32% of autistic adults are currently in some kind of paid work (full-time or part-time employment), compared to 47% of other disability groups. In September 2017, the global banking and financial services company, Deutsche Bank,

Sometimes you just need someone to take a chance on you. Intern The scheme follows a successful programme piloted last year with 8 interns, where CRAE worked to conduct research evaluating the programme, gathering the experiences of

CRAE Careers event In November 2017, CRAE hosted an exciting and bespoke careers event for autistic students, in partnership with Ambitious about Autism, AS Mentoring, UCL Careers and UCL Disability Services. This free-to-attend event enabled autistic students, their families and those who support and care for them, to hear about career opportunities from companies who employ and support autistic people.

A very positive atmosphere enhanced by open and aware people. Student

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all involved. This culminated in a report on how to promote autistic employment and to overcome a lack information on how best to do this (previously identified as a key barrier), as well as providing evidence in favour of such a scheme and highlighting areas for improvement.

The work has been championed as a beacon of good practice. CRAE hope the scheme is widely adopted to give candidates of untapped talent the opportunities that they deserve.

A Sound Advantage

The sold-out evening gave attendees the chance to meet and chat with employers. Companies included: Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Auticon, Network Rail, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and Interserve.


CRAE’s Anna Remington published research that suggests autistic people can take in more sounds at any given moment compared to non-autistic people. Using two behavioural experiments, she examined whether an increased capacity for processing sounds in autism could underlie both difficulties and enhanced hearing abilities that are found in the condition. The study found autistic people were better at detecting a target sound that was hidden amongst other sounds, and noticed irrelevant background information more often when listening to a conversation. Read more.

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8th CRAE Annual Lecture & Farewell to Liz Pellicano Can non-autistic scientists ever really understand what autistic people and their families need from their research? That’s a question that activists and community groups have been asking with increasing vigour over recent years. In September 2017, in what was the 8th CRAE Annual Lecture, world-renowned researcher and departing CRAE Director, Professor Liz Pellicano, spoke on this critical topic in her talk entitled, ‘Knowing Autism’.

As part of this talk, Liz looked back at her years at the Centre to investigate, in depth, what the autistic community rightly demands of autism research and the major changes that will need to be made to deliver on their expectations. Attended by over 300 guests, we would like to thank Liz, everyone who came along to the lecture and all of our wonderful sponsors - it was an emotional and fitting farewell for Liz who has left an indelible mark on the face of UK autism research. Watch the talk online.

DINA film screening In October, CRAE hosted a screening of the film ‘Dina’, which follows an autistic couple, Dina and Scott, as they navigate their relationship and prepare for their upcoming marriage. On the evening, we were lucky enough to be joined by the film’s lead Dina Buno, the its two directors, Antonio Santini and Daniel Sickles, for a panel discussion following the screening, which was chaired by Lucy Skilbeck, Director of Actor Training at RADA.

Know Your Normal One in six adults has a common mental health condition and a fifth of adults have thought of taking their own life at some point. Young people are a particularly vulnerable group, given that most mental health conditions develop between childhood and adulthood and may be at their peak between the ages of 16-25 years. But what about mental health in young autistic people?

In June 2017, a new report - ‘Know Your Normal’ - was launched, which explored the mental health experiences of young autistic people (16-25 years) across England. Commissioned by UK charity and founding partner of CRAE, Ambitious about Autism, the research was co-led by a group of young autistic Youth Patrons from the charity, Georgia Harper, Fern Adams and Jack Welch, and researchers from CRAE, Laura Crane and Liz Pellicano, to find out about the mental health experiences of young autistic people and to make recommendations on how best to meet their needs.

Public engagement workshops The CRAE team has been busily involved in public engagement activities, aiming to raise autism awareness and acceptance.

TATE: Diggin’ the Gallery CRAE members were invited to host a workshop, as part of the ‘Diggin’ The Gallery’ event at the Tate Britain; a free inclusive event for young people with special educational needs and disabilities. Developed by long-time CRAE collaborator and freelance artist, Ben Connors, the event was a partnership between the Schools and Teachers team at the Tate London, Contact us:

and Daytrippers charity. A week later, CRAE’s Mel Bovis co-led a similar workshop with the fantastic neurodivergent artist, Jon Adams at the UCL Festival of Culture. The festival is designed to showcase research at UCL in engaging ways.

Both workshops aimed to improve understanding of sensory differences in autism by exploring people’s favourite smells, sounds, sights, flavours and textures, before encouraging them to create their own unique SENSEsational brain hat or umbrella to reflect these preferences.

The team worked in equal partnership throughout the project life-cycle on research design, data collection, interpretation of results, and dissemination of findings. The young people used these research findings in the development of a toolkit to help autistic individuals monitor their own mental health. They further created an animation designed to bust myths around mental health and autism, and a series of resources to share their experiences and encourage others to work in this way. You can freely access the report and published research paper.

Speakers’ Corner! In 2017, we were lucky enough to welcome two eminent guest speakers from the USA, who gave two very different and fascinating talks. The first was Professor Roy Richard Grinker (The George Washington University), a cultural anthropologist with topical expertise in autism, who spoke on ‘The Changing Values of Autism: From Disease to Citizenship in Late Capitalism’. Later in the year, Emily Rubin (Marcus Autism Centre), a speech and language pathologist and co-author of SCERTS, spoke on her work developing programmes for social and emotional learning and engagement in a classroom setting. Missed these talks? Or want to re-watch? You can find them on CRAE’s website/YouTube channel. crae news


CRAE hosted a MegaMinds Quiz in World Autism Awareness Month #WAAM2017 and raised over *£250* for UK Research Charity Autistica. We would like to thank everyone who took part in the quiz and so generously donated! As part of the event CRAE also ran a raffle and received generous gifts kindly donated by Lucky Voice karaoke, Rowans Tenpin Bowl, Queens Ice and Bowl, PLONK Golf, Junkyard and Enotria&Coe. Also thanks to The Gallery Bar, within Student Central for hosting our event at their venue free of charge. Inspired to host your own Megaminds Quiz? Head to Autistica’s website for your quiz pack.

CRAE news Hellos and goodbyes It’s been a jam-packed summer and busy start to the year, warmly welcoming and bidding emotional farewells to many wonderful people! First and foremost, Professor Liz Pellicano. In early October, Liz moved on after over 4 years as Director of CRAE and 8 years at the UCL Institute of Education, to take up Professorship at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. On behalf of everyone at CRAE, past and present, we would like to thank Liz for all she has done for CRAE and UK autism research and wish her and her family the very best in Australia. We will miss her immensely! Over summer we welcomed three placement students; Firstly, Dominique Girard who joined us for a 3-month summer internship as part of her PhD programme from the Université du Québec

à Montréal (UQAM), Canada, on a scholarship from the university. During her time at CRAE, Dominique worked tirelessly with the DEEnigma Project team, analysing data from UK and Serbian studies with Zeno the robot. Secondly, Lorenzo Molinari, an undergraduate student studying in the UCL Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, joined CRAE for a 6-week summer internship, having successfully secured a highly competitive UCL Laidlaw Scholarship out of 200 candidates! Lorenzo worked on designing a strengths-based task piloted at our Brain Detectives science workshops. Finally, we welcomed back Irene Molina, a PhD student from the Universitat Jaume I, Spain, who came to CRAE for a second summer placement to complete work on a ‘Theory of Mind’ digital app she has developed. We wish them all the best in their final studies and beyond! We look forward to staying in touch and seeing how they progress; this isn’t the end!

autistic graduates who have participated in a 3-month internship scheme. CRAE will be hosting two fantastic work experience students for the year; Siena Castellon, a young autistic, dyslexic and dyspraxic student passionate about supporting children and young people with learning differences and autism who at 13 set-up her own website: Quantum Leap Mentoring! Tyrel Oshinowo is a student at Westminster Kingsway College on the College’s Supported Work Experience Programme. Tyrel studied for an Animation and Games Design Diploma and is a fantastic artist; you can find his works @tyrel_oshinowo.

At the beginning of the academic year, we welcomed our two new undergraduate placement students, Demi Eades and Rachel Prosser from the Universities of Kent and Bath, respectively. Both will be working on a number of CRAE projects and helping out with CRAE events whilst with us. We’re looking forward to working with them!

Congratulations! Felicity Sedgewick was awarded her doctorate (PhD)! Felicity’s PhD research focused on autistic girls and women. She has since taken up a research position King’s College London, researching the links between autism and anorexia. We wish her good luck! Dr Laura Crane was appointed as CRAE’s new Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director! Laura has been part of the our team since 2015 - first as an Associate Lecturer, and then as a Senior Teaching and Engagement Fellow. We are sure you will join us in welcoming Laura to this new appointment and we all wish her the best of luck for her future at CRAE!

Jana Brinkert, who previously conducted her Masters at UCL Institute of Education, is doing a PhD at CRAE, continuing her research on a strengths-based approach, investigating the superior perceptual abilities of autistic people and using brain imaging techniques. She is also interested in the impact of anxiety on cognitive processes. Joe Barker joined as Research Assistant on the Deutsche Bank project, exploring the experiences of

Conferences CRAE’s members have travelled the globe presenting their research! The whole team presented at the annual International Meeting For Autism Research (IMFAR), San Francisco, USA, Liz at SIKON conference, Odense, Denmark, Anna at McGill University and UQAM, Canada, Laura at Meeting of Minds conference, Denmark (also meeting the Princess of Denmark!), the DE-ENIGMA team at ITASD, Spain, & the Tallinn Digital Summit, Estonia, meeting many attending EU Heads of State, plus many others.

At the Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE), UCL Institute of Education, our mission is to help enhance the lives of autistic people and their families. We aim to fulfil our mission by (i) conducting ground-breaking scientific research, (ii) ensuring this evidence based knowledge is translated and (iii) actively engaging autistic people and their allies in the conversation to make a real difference to people’s everyday lives.

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