A range of experts in the field of autism came together at the Eden Project for a specialist conference, which focussed on the autism spectrum, specifically the area of adolescence.
The conference titled ‘Autism Spectrum: Adolescence, Charms & Challenges’ was organised by The Cornwall College Group in partnership with Cornwall’s Autism Spectrum Team (AST). A large number of people attended the Eden Project including those working in the field of autism, as well as parents and guardians of autistic young people. Group Lead for Learning Support at the Cornwall College Group, Ros Osborne said: “The feedback for the conference has been overwhelming; the journey began through conversations I was having with the Cornwall Autism Team. We had already worked together to have the very first Autism Champions in the South West Region, development of transition pathways and sharing of strategies. Conversations extended over time and culminated in this conference. We believe this to be the first conference of its kind in the county for over 15 years; it has brought together parents from all over Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and professionals as far afield as Gloucester.”
Ros continued: “The SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) reforms have been a catalyst for me to share that Cornwall College is a key partner in ensuring it is fully engaging with new legislation and to the successful outcomes associated to post -16 education and Preparing for Adulthood.”
Attendees experienced a full packed day which included a range of workshops and specialist presentations on the challenges of autism through a range of different perspectives, including Cornish children with autism. Parent Tracey Smith, who travelled from the Isles of Scilly said: “As a parent with a child with autism I feel very isolated sometimes, so this has been an information gathering expedition to see what options are available to my son and what his next steps might be, it was really great to take part in an afternoon workshop which will be quite beneficial to both me and my son.”
Following a lunch and a chance to network with other practitioners, attendees were split into groups for a range of interactive workshops of their choosing. Some of the workshops included topics such as educational opportunities and transition, girls on the autism spectrum and challenges to developing friendships. Parent and Autism Support Worker for AST, Caroline Trevorrow, who was also a guest speaker at the conference, said: “This conference was brilliant because it allowed people to talk from all perspectives, there have been some really important conversations between parents and the professional support workers.
“Everyone that came would have found something helpful that they could take away with them. My hope is that this conference becomes a yearly event as there is nothing like this in Cornwall therefore it’s even more important to have, so our children can be better understood. “
The percentage of children being diagnosed with autism is increasing year-on-year so conferences like this one will help with the awareness of autism and address some of the challenges associated with the autistic spectrum.
For more information on the range of SEND support available across The Cornwall College Group and Partners please visit www.cornwall.ac.uk or call 0845 22 32 567.