Paul Isaacs

photo of Paul

Paul was branded as a “naughty child” at school. He was classically autistic in his early years and gained functional speech around the age of 7 or 8 years old. He went through mainstream school with no additional help or recognition of his autism. Consequently, he did not achieve his academic or his social potential and had very low self-esteem.

After a string of unsuccessful jobs, Paul’s mental health suffered. He was referred to mental health services and misdiagnosed with “Asperger traits with a complex personality”, which did not satisfy Paul was diagnosed by an experienced psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with High Functioning Autism at 24 years old.

Paul wanted to promote autism awareness and help others on the autism spectrum, in the hope that others would not have to suffer as he had. In 2010 became a speaker for an autism organisation and has not looked back! Paul is currently a freelance speaker, trainer and consultant continues to raise the profile of autism at every opportunity. Having done much research, he is keen to explain the differences between Asperger’s Syndrome & Autism using Autism Consultant Donna Williams’ (Polly Samuel’s) ‘Fruit Salad’ model.

Paul firmly believes in retaining the ASD acronym. He says there should not be a negative stigma around the word ‘disorder’. His message is that Autism is a complex mix of ability and disability and every person with autism (and all people) should be a valued member of society. Paul is also an author having written five books on the subject of autism and also contributed to many others – in his spare time he likes to meet up with friends, write poetry and create art.

Dr Elizabeth Shea

photo of Elizabeth Shea

Dr Elizabeth Shea is a clinical psychologist who has worked with children and young people who refuse and avoid foods for almost two decades. Previously a primary school teacher and a counsellor with Childline UK, she started her psychology career with The National Autistic Society where she developed a career-long interest in eating difficulties in autism. She is a recognised writer and speaker on this subject across the UK and Ireland.

Her research interest is avoidant and restrictive eating and she has piloted interventions which featured in the 2008 ITV documentary ‘My Child Won’t Eat’. She is a Practice Associate of Scottish Autism and has made a series of films on eating issues for their ‘Right Click’ Education Programme. She regularly speaks to groups of parents and professionals across national autism networks about how to manage eating issues.

With colleagues in the clinical and academic field of childhood feeding disorders she has now established an independent clinic in Birmingham for individuals who refuse foods.  

Dr Catherine Jones

Dr Catherine Jones is a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology, Cardiff University. She is also a member of the Wales Autism Research Centre, based at Cardiff University. WARC is dedicated to the scientific understanding of autism and to engaging with families, clinicians and policy makers to improve the lives of people on the autism spectrum. Catherine’s research has concentrated on increasing understanding of perception and cognition in autism. She has investigated topics as diverse as emotion recognition, reading comprehension, auditory processing and everyday memory. In particular, Catherine has an ongoing interest in sensory processing in autism and has explored how fundamental differences in perceptual processing can relate to the presence of sensory behaviours. She is also investigating the effects that multi-sensory environments can have on people on the autism spectrum.

Cos Michael

Cos is autistic and works as a consultant and writer on ageing with autism. When at the National Autistic Society, she managed the Autism and Ageing projects. Cos co-authored The National Autistic Society's report, “We Exist Too”, and “Ageing with autism: a handbook for care and support professionals”. She co-wrote a chapter in “Autism spectrum disorder in mid and later life” (Ed: Scott D Wright). At present she is a consultant with the Adult Autism Spectrum Cohort project at Newcastle University and a member of the Science advisory group at Autistica. Cos has a degree in Social Anthropology and a background that spans work in theatre and television. Cos has also written articles and runs the Autismage website.

Jane Ansell

Jane founded Sleep Scotland in 1998, and has continued to develop and expand the sleep counselling service offered to children with additional support needs and their families. In 2011, Jane extended this sleep work to teenagers in Scottish schools with the Sound Sleep education programme, which aims to raise teenagers’ awareness of the importance of sleep for their health and wellbeing.  She works closely with the Scottish Government, local authorities and other professional bodies to raise the profile of sleep issues in general and the impact sleep deprivation can have on families.

She is an experienced sleep counsellor and lecturer with 25 years’ experience in cognitive and behavioural work. In 2006, she developed TEENS+, a post-school transitional education programme for young people with complex support needs. Jane has a degree in psychology and a masters in social policy. From 1992 to 1998, she ran the Professional Development Unit in the Department Of Continuing Education at the University Of Edinburgh. She has also worked as a social worker, community worker, lecturer and manager in adult education. Since 2012, Jane has been also been teaching in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She is a parent of four, one of whom has complex support needs.

Tina Wood

Tina Wood is an experienced Children’s Occupational Therapist who graduated from Dorset House School of OT, Oxford in the 1970’s. Over the years she has developed an interest and specialisation in working with children with Autism, DCD/Dyspraxia, ADHD; especially related to sensory issues. After a career break to bring up four boys (also during this time running a play group and toddler group), in 1993 she resumed her career with the NHS in Stockport as a Paediatric OT and soon after started developing her own private OT practice.

In private practice, she has carried out over 400 assessments and delivered treatment for a percentage of these children for parents, schools, psychologists, solicitors, Education Authorities and doctors who specialise in medical, psychiatric and neurological medicine. She has also supported parents to achieve best provision for their children's special educational needs as an expert witness by report and testimony.  During this time she has mentored several Associate OT’s working with her.

Tina also regularly gives presentations on various aspects of Occupational Therapy intervention, especially related to sensory function and handwriting and also “Dance Movement  Work” (a “non directive” approach which she has developed further using sensory integration principles).

Tina has also developed something called “The Ready to Work Programme” for helping to get all kids (not just those with special needs) “in the zone” for learning.

In work in the NHS she has been involved in multi disciplinary working parties:

  • To develop an Occupational Therapy programme called Motor Skills United as a waiting list initiative.
  • This is published through TTS publishers and can be run by schools themselves.
  • Developing of an Autism Pathway for children in Stockport
  • From February 2007- August 2013, Tina was responsible for implementing a new Occupational Therapy service for pupils with Autism at three local special schools with funding from the local Education Department in Stockport, developing a sensory curriculum for this cohort of children.
  • Since September 2013, Tina cut down her NHS hours to specialise in working with preschool children with sensory/social communication and motor difficulties in the Child Development Unit in Stockport.
    Her NHS OT team recently referred to her as a “resources type person - full of useful information & great ideas!”

Since May 2013, Tina has supported an educational organisation in Papua New Guinea on 3 visits (lasting about one month each).  She carried out Occupational Therapy assessments; giving advice and training to help teachers and home school parents to carry out treatment programmes.  This was an exciting experience, including flying out into remote jungle locations, sometimes by helicopter to work with children who had OT needs!

Tina has also worked in a consultancy capacity in Dubai and Australia. She is passionate about trying to improve the quality of children’s lives through OT intervention and helping adult caregivers to consider looking at how sensory dysfunction might affect children’s behaviour.