As ongoing supporters of the National Autistic Society, Axcis were proud to again be the headline sponsor of this years Professional Conference. We also sponsored an Autism Professionals Award. Find out who won as well as what else made this years event a great one!
Day 1 of the conference opened with Mark Lever (NAS CEO) talking about the many fantastic initiatives the charity has undertaken in the last year. Their “Too Much Information” film was viewed over 70 million times and 1 in 30 teachers have now signed up to the “My World” campaign. Along with many other initiatives, this means that autism is now recognised and understood by more people than ever before. Good work, guys!
Keynote speaker Sharon King followed, giving an emotive talk about building relationships and trust between parents and services. As a parent of 3 autistic children, she has faced her fair share of challenges when dealing with professionals and it served to remind us of the importance of keeping families at centre of all discussions.
The day then broke into 4 streams – Early years to teenage, teenage to adult, transition to adulthood and adults on the spectrum.
This allowed delegates to focus on their area of interest. I sat in on the early years to teenage stream because I felt that this would be most relevant to the teachers and support staff largely recruited by Axcis to work with the schools we assist. If you didn’t follow our Twitter commentary on the day, you can look back over it using #profconf if you’d like to read more highlights.
Maja Toudal closed day 1 by talking about energy accounting. This was a fascinating insight into how a young person with autism uses the idea of managing an energy budget to keep her life in order, and avoid damaging chronic fatigue which could halt her progress in her studies and personal life. I felt that you didn’t need to be on the spectrum yourself to find this concept useful (I know it gave me plenty to think about!). The basic idea is that you need to understand what things energise you, and what things require a lot of energy (and this is different for everyone). You then make sure that whenever you “take out of your energy bank” that you also ensure you do something which puts some back, and essentially “balances the books”. A simple, and yet very effective concept.
The Axcis Bear Hunt and Selfie Competition
While all these fascinating talks were going on, the Axcis team were busy in the exhibition area talking to delegates about the service we can offer. As specialist special needs recruiters, Axcis are well placed to provide staff to many special schools and alternative provisions up and down the country. We also ran the ever-popular bear hunt, and this year we added a selfie
competition for a bit of extra fun, too! Check out @axcis on Twitter to see more of the photos which were submitted for entry. Winners to be announced later…
The Autism Professionals Awards
On the evening of day 1 was the APAs. Each year, the NAS hold this awards ceremony to celebrate the hard work and achievements of those working with people on the autism spectrum. Among the awards was the one we sponsor – the Axcis Award for Achievement by an Individual Education Professional. The winner was Shannon Coles from STARS for her work with children with autism for over forty years. Shannon was touched to win the award and seemed very pleased to have been recognised for all of her hard work. The evening was great fun and it was truly humbling to see so many people who have worked so hard in the sector receive their awards.
Day 2 began with the ever-popular Sarah Hendrickx who spoke about identifying and facilitating good quality of life for
autistic adults. Sarah is an inspirational speaker who has a long history of touring the world and speaking at events such as this in a bid to spread awareness and positivity around autism. If you haven’t seen her speak before, she has lots of material on YouTube, so why not check it out?
I then sat in on talks by Judge Jane McConnell (Issues for families of autistic children coming to Tribunal) and Marguarite Haye (EHC Plans – getting education, health and parents to work together), both of which were highly informative (again, check out our Twitter page for more on this) before the conference came to a close with speakers Justin Price and Jamie Nicholls. The winner of the Bear Hunt was drawn from a hat and Corinne Morgan, Clinical Lead OT at St Dominics School was given a £100 voucher for Amazon which I am sure will be used to get something great!
A long journey home from Harrogate ended the conference for me, and although I was very tired, I came away feeling that I had learned a lot, met some lovely people and had plenty of ideas to share with my peers – a feeling which I am sure was shared by many of the other attendees to this years conference!