ALMOST 200 delegates from around the world tuned in to the North East Autism Society's second-ever Acceptance Matters virtual conference on Thursday, April 28th.

Autistic individuals, professionals, practitioners, family members and allies were among those who signed up to attend the online event, which marked the culmination of Autism Acceptance Month. 

Hosted by our Family Development Manager Kerrie Highcock and Kieran Rose aka 'The Autistic Advocate', who is one of the founding members of our Autism and Neurodiversity Think Tank, the day-long conference attracted people from as far afield as South Africa, Spain and Australia.

"Following the success of last year's event, this year's conference was another fantastic day," Kerrie said. "We were fortunate enough to have five incredible speakers delivering talks on a wide range of topics.

Every talk left me with lots to think about, but one thing is clear, we must all do better to make society a better place for autistic and neurodivergent people.

Five autistic speakers shared their lived experiences, professional knowledge and expertise throughout the day, covering topics including autism and ageing, inclusion and belonging, neurodiversity and cults, and stigma. And delegates described the day as "very interesting", "informative", "challenging" and "thought provoking".

PhD student Krysia Waldock kicked off the event with a thought provoking talk around inclusion and belonging, specifically what this means to autistic and neurodivergent individuals. Speaker and advocate Cos Michael was the second speaker to take to the floor with a discussion around ageing and what more needs to be done to support autistic people as they age.

Wrapping up the morning was Emily Lees, an autistic speech and language therapist from Manchester, who called on professionals to question their practice and do better when it comes to support those of us who are neurodivergent.

After a short break for lunch, the afternoon session included a talk from neurodivergent and cult awareness activist Priscilla Eyles, who discussed her own experience of being part of a cult, and more broadly the appeal that these groups may hold for autistic and/or neurodivergent individuals.

While Senior Lecturer Dr Amy Pearson wrapped up the conference with a talk around stigma and victimisation, which considered the issue of masking and the stigma levelled against autistic people due to their "failure to meet normative expectations".

Panellists from last year's event - Dr Chloe Farahar and Quinn Dexter - also returned to participate in a question and answer session at the end of the day.

To hear about future events, sign up to our mailing list here