CRAE Newsletter Issue 13

Page 1

issue 13

spring/summer 2018

editor: melissa bovis

“Autism is still seen as a ‘binary stereotype’ - either as a ‘highfunctioning’ genius where all your difficulties are ignored or as ‘low-functioning’ and all your abilities are ignored... Autistic people are everything in between.” [Georgia Harper]

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Are You Autistic? During World Autism Awareness Week 2018, the Channel 4 TV show, ‘Are you Autistic?’, aired to the nation. Fronted by two young autistic

women, Ambitious about Autism Youth Patrons - Georgia Harper and Sam Ahern - the hour-long programme aimed to bust myths and uncover the true face of autism in the UK today by following the journey of two adults seeking a diagnosis later in life; Jo and JP. Voiced and shaped by autistic people, highlighting their lived experience and personal insights, the show’s tone was refreshingly positive, with a strong focus on autistic women and ethnic minorities, who are often underrepresented in mainstream media and autism research. Dispelling ‘binary stereotypes’

DE-ENGIMA Project -

Zeno on your screens!

of autism, the show aimed to raise people’s knowledge and understanding of the diversity of autism in an accessible way. Members and alumnae from CRAE, including Anna Remington (CRAE Director), Liz Pellicano (former CRAE Director now at Macquarie University), Lorcan Kenny (final year PhD student), and Zeno the robot (from the DEENIGMA Project), featured in the show. As in our research, CRAE championed autistic involvement in the show’s development and showcased research from our Centre that focused on the strengths associated autism, as well as the challenges.

Together with host Anna Richardson, Liz helped to explain UK autism diagnosis rates and headed to Queensmill

appearances since December 2017, including the iconic Royal Institute (Ri) Christmas Lectures with Professor Sophie Scott from UCL,

Zeno the robot is part of the DE-ENIGMA Horizon 2020 project, which is developing an adaptive emotion-teaching programme powered by artificial intelligence.

CBBC’s children’s educational show Operation Ouch with Dr Chris and Dr Xand, interacting with children and Professor Liz Pellicano at Queensmill School London for Channel 4’s ‘Are With researchers at CRAE, Zeno is being used to help children on the autism spectrum learn to understand facial expressions and emotions. Zeno has proved very popular, appearing with the lead researcher of the DE-ENIGMA team at CRAE, Dr Alyssa M. Alcorn, in several TV

You Autistic?’ show, and twice in one day (!) at the end of February 2018, where he mimicked Victoria Derbyshire’s face on her BBC news programme before appearing on BBC World News Global with Matthew Amroliwala. Phew!

School in London to demonstrate how robot technology (Zeno) might be a helpful learning tool for autistic children. Anna and Lorcan also ran research tasks with Jo and JP, which aimed to explore the lesser known non-social aspects of autism (e.g. sensory differences, everyday organisation skills) and how these might impact autistic people’s lives. When the show aired at 10pm on Channel 4 on Wednesday 28th March 2018, it reached an audience of 1.6 million viewers and was trending on Twitter (No.2) in the UK, creating 20.8 million impressions. You can follow and join the conversation on Twitter via #AreYouAutistic.

Family Law CRAE’s Anna Remington and Laura Crane, together with collaborators in UCL Laws, recently published a research paper examining legal professionals’ knowledge and awareness of autism in the family justice system. Through an online survey and in-depth follow-up interviews, the researchers found that legal professionals reported good knowledge of autism but low confidence in working with autistic individuals, along with an absence of training. The paper includes discussions of particular legal cases and concludes by making a series of recommendations for legal professionals to enhance access to the family justice system for autistic individuals. Read the publication via:

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“Forget the Health and Care; just call them Education Plans”

WINNERS! Team Award: UCL Provost Public for this enormously important, high-quality Engagement Awards work and exemplary example of best practice

Recently replacing Statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN), Education Health and Care (EHC) plans are used to identify the educational, health and social needs of children and young people, and describe the additional support required to meet those needs. In a recent study, CRAE’s Laura Crane and postgraduate student Lauren Boesley examined 16 Special Educational Needs Coordinators’ (SENCOs’) views on EHC plans. Results showed that EHC plans were still being perceived as ‘education documents’ and were not yet the wraparound care plans that had been envisioned. Despite frustrations with the process (e.g., regional disparities, a lack of involvement from health and care professionals), when things worked well, experiences and outcomes were encouragingly positive. Overall, SENCOs felt that EHC plans had the potential to be powerful tools. Read the publication via:

CRAE is thrilled to announce that the ‘Know Your Normal’ research project team won the Team Award at the annual UCL Provost’s Public Engagement Awards ceremony in early June! The team comprised: CRAE’s Laura Crane, former CRAE Director Liz Pellicano (now at Macquarie University), and Youth Patrons from the charity Ambitious about Autism - Georgia Harper, Jack Welch and Fern Adams. Together, they co-produced research on the mental health experiences of young autistic people in the UK, in a project entitled: Know Your Normal.

Everyone’s ‘normal’ is different. But what are the consequences on our mental health when we are pressured to act more like other people and their view of ‘normal’? For the second year running,

in participatory research. Working together, in equal partnership, on research design, data collection, interpretation of results,

The awards, hosted by the UCL Public Engagement Unit (PEU) and UCL Provost, Michael Arthur, recognise the work of UCL staff, students, and their community partners, to open up the university’s research and teaching to the wider world. The Know Your Normal team has been widely praised

and the dissemination of findings, the team investigated the mental health experiences of young autistic people in the UK to make recommendations on how best to meet their needs. These findings informed the development of a toolkit by the young people to help autistic individuals monitor their own mental health, alongside an animation, and a series of resources to share their experiences and encourage others to work in this way. You can freely access the policy report and published research paper:

CRAE took part in the annual UCL Festival of Culture, which aims to open up UCL’s research to the public through

talks, workshops and exhibitions. On the opening day of the festival in June 2018, CRAE’s Laura Crane, and young autistic advocate, Jack Welch, co-hosted an interactive talk exploring themes from the Know Your Normal research by encouraging attendees to share, discuss, reflect and challenge their own idea of ‘normal’.

Aut2Engage: Participatory Autism Research Brain Detectives turns 5! CRAE’s Deputy Director, Dr Laura Crane, was the proud recipient of a 2017-2018 British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award, awarded to a handful of distinguished early career academics to enable them to organise events, training and mentoring activities for other early career researchers.

As part of this award, Laura organised a training event for early career autism researchers on participatory autism research (i.e., working with - not on, about or for - the autistic community) at Kings College London in February 2018. Contact us:

The event included a wide range of talks, panel discussions and workshops about participatory autism research, led by members of the autistic community, research funders, and researchers who are engaged in participatory research. All talks and panel session from the day were filmed and have been made freely availably online: You can check out the #Aut2Engage Twitter hashtag to read more about the discussions from the day and join the conversation!

In the Easter holidays, we hosted our 15th Brain Detectives and were joined by almost 25 children and young people! Brain Detectives is a series of free, four-hour science workshops held at the UCL Institute of Education throughout the year that gives autistic and nonautistic children and young people a chance to learn about the workings of the human brain, engage with real scientists about their work and take part in ongoing scientific research. This year CRAE celebrates the 5-year anniversary of Brain Detectives, which began in 2013. To-date, we have welcomed over 600 children, young people and their families through our doors - THANK YOU to everyone who has joined us! T: 020 7331 5126 crae news


Is Autism A Gift?

Friday 21st September 2018 11:45 AM - 12:25 PM, Humans Stage ExCeL, London Our Director, Dr Anna Remington, will be speaking at New Scientist Live (NSL) alongside many of today’s eminent scientists! Anna will be delving into the strengths linked to autism and how autistic people are using their skills to push society forward.

Ahead of the event, Anna was also interviewed by New Scientist magazine about her research, which shows autistic people often perform better in areas of attention and perception. You can book NSL event tickets:

Work Experience Student Tyrel Oshinowo has spent the past year with us, one day a week, as part of his Supported Work Placement scheme with Westminster Kingsway College. Tyrel (@tyrel_oshinowo) is a fantastic artist and we enjoyed working with him on our CRAE navigation project for which he created some bespoke artworks to improve signage and access in our offices. He also created posters for our long-running Brain Detectives science workshops - we will miss him and wish him well for his very promising artistic future!

Hellos and goodbyes Since the beginning of 2018, we’ve welcomed and said goodbye to many more fabulous people! Ali Northcott is CRAE’s Artist-inResidence this year, undertaking a research and development project exploring potential links between neurodiversity and creativity, funded by the Arts Council England. As part of her residency, Ali is looking at autistic adults in the Arts, focusing on those involved in body-based artist practices (e.g., the performing arts, dance and live art). She is interested in developing new works that articulate these diverse ‘embodied experiences’ to different audiences, drawing on different research practices and thinking from within the Arts and Psychology. At the beginning of summer in June 2018, CRAE welcomed visiting placement student Jeff Edelstein from the University of MichiganAnn Arbor. Co-founder of the College Autism Network, much of his research to date has focused on the experiences of college students on the autistic spectrum. During his twomonth placement at CRAE, Jeff researched the differences in the transition to college and university between autistic and nonautistic students through strength-based and collaborative approaches. He also taught CRAE members how to juggle (his favourite hobby)! There have been lots of changes in the CRAE DE-ENIGMA this summer! Firstly, the arrival of two new Research Assistants. In July, we warmly welcomed Alria Williams. Alria undertook a Masters degree in Mental Health Studies at King’s College London and previously worked with autistic children and adults as a Support Worker before joining us. Hannah Farrell joined us shortly after in August. Hannah completed a Master’s degree in Clinical Neurodevelopmental Sciences and previously worked for the mental health

CRAE news charity, Mind. We wish them both the best of luck in their roles as Zeno’s new BFFs! In the meantime, we said a tearful farewell to the fabulous Eloise Ainger. After 1.5 years working on the DE-ENIGMA project, Eloise moved on from CRAE at the end of August to take up an Assistant Psychologist post in the NHS. We know she’ll be fantastic in her new position! We sadly say goodbye to our 2017-18 undergraduate placement students, Demi Eades and Rachel Prosser. We want to take this opportunity to thank them both for their incredible hard work over the past year, helping out with various research projects and CRAE events whilst with us. We will miss them greatly and wish them all the best for their final years at the Universities of Kent and Bath, respectively! Also our huge thanks to Tyrel Oshinowo, our work experience student, who has gone back to college and Joe Barker, our former Research Assistant, who has now moved onto a new role. Congratulations! CRAE congratulates our PhD student, Ellie Buckley, who passed her upgrade viva earlier this year! Ellie’s PhD research focuses on autism and the creative arts with RADA. Conferences It’s been another jam-packed year for CRAE’s members as they have been invited to present their research nationally and internationally. Key highlights include the annual International Society For Autism Research (INSAR), held in Rotterdam, NL, in May 2018, where the CRAE team presented 13 posters, 1 talk and technical demonstrations. Anna Remington has given autism training to law professionals in Oxford, spoken at the NAS Professionals conference, a Deutsche Bank employment event and presented her research at Inland Norway University. Laura Crane presented her work at FixersUK, Merton Mencap, Kent University, Autistica and at NYU London with Anna.

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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