The Autism Academy

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by The Autism Academy's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from The Autism Academy is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Dr. Claire Evans-Williams,
Managing Director, delivering
the opening address at the
TAAUK launch and learning
event at the University of
Dundee, August 2017
Volunteers Olivia and Lucy
being interviewed on their
family experiences of Autism
In 2017, Dr Claire Evans-Williams launched The Autism
Academy UK (TAAUK) in Fife, Scotland. She founded the
organisation having identified an urgent and unmet need for
autism-specialist and autistic person-led health provision. From
her years of serving the NHS, and her personal experience as an
autistic person, she envisioned a model of health and social care
that prioritised the lived experiences of the autistic community.
TAAUK are a small team of passionate, dedicated and enthusiastic professionals
that strive to ensure autistic people have the opportunities they need to learn, grow
and achieve their aspirations.
We are unique and revolutionary in our approach because we are led by autistic
professionals who are committed to working with autistic people, their families
and carers. Our priority is to support autistic people to overcome challenges within
society, and promote and celebrate their unique skills, talents and attributes. We
are passionate advocates of autism acceptance and reject the view that autism is
an illness to be treated and cured. Our therapeutic approach is grounded in the
autistic person’s own values and identification of health and wellbeing needs, and
we oppose methods that seek to impose neurotypical conformity.
There are three branches of our services: clinical services, academic research and
professional services. We initially aimed to focus exclusively upon adult provision,
however, because of increasing demand we have now broadened our capacity
to include children. The demand for our services is evidenced by our contracted
employment across the globe, including: the whole of the UK, Canada, US and
Australia. We are growing at such a rate that we must double the number of
clinical staff by the end of this quarter.
»Managing Director:
Dr Claire Evans-Williams
»Founded in 2017
»Based in Fife, Scotland
»No. of employees: 6
»Services: Clinical services,
academic research and
professional services
The Autism Academy
Clinical services
It is regrettable that a large number
of people routinely report being
unable to access specialist autism
diagnostic assessment and post-
diagnostic therapeutic support, via the
NHS. Acquiring a diagnosis can help
make sense of unique differences,
characteristics and attributes. It can
also help to review past and current
difficulties, and support planning for the
future, such as undertaking a preventive
approach to mental health difficulties.
We are committed to providing an
effective, affordable and compassionate
assessment experience, underpinned
by the latest research. Furthermore, our
therapeutic provision draws upon clinical
and non-clinical psychological theory and
evidence to support an individual, needs-
based approach. This means that a
range of traditional (e.g. acceptance and
commitment therapy, family therapy,
etc.) and emerging (e.g. cognitive
enhancement therapy, animal-assisted
therapy, etc.) forms of therapeutic
support are offered in order to address
an individual’s expressed needs.
Academic research
The mantra “Nothing about us without
us” is often invoked to demand the
inclusion of disabled people in research
and policymaking. Such an approach
to autism research is best achieved
through participatory action research
(PAR), involving quantitative, qualitative
and mixed methods. However, PAR is
often limited to engaging participants
during project design and data
collection. We believe it can and
should go further to ensure the autistic
community are included in all aspects
of research: from conceptualisation to
dissemination. Only by doing so can
research move towards a process that
is empowering, and addresses issues
of real-world value to the autistic
community. We are currently engaged
in a variety of ongoing research projects
and other academic pursuits alongside
a number of universities, including:
Edinburgh, Strathclyde, and Stirling.
Professional services
Clinical supervision and consultation
promote safe and effective working
practices, and can empower clinicians
to provide effective services for
autistic people. For some, it can be
a challenge to access expert autism
clinicians to support reflective practice,
guide individual learning and progress
development needs. In response to the
needs of colleagues working within
NHS and third-sector organisations, we
provide an expert team of clinicians,
researchers and advisers to ensure the
best possible supervision experience.
Claire with Monica
Lennon MSP
The demand for
our services is
evidenced by our
across the
globe, including:
the whole of the
UK, Canada, US
and Australia
Highlighting best practice
Furthermore, we are passionate about
promoting the development of aspiring
and established health and social
care professionals and researchers.
For instance, we contribute to
teaching and training programmes
in the NHS, educational institutions
and universities; and provide formal
training opportunities in the form
of clinical and research placements
working alongside the autistic
community. This three-way partnership
offers an exclusive learning opportunity
beyond the traditional theoretical,
classroom-based approaches, and
enables autistic people to share
their experiences of autism and
mental health challenges. We are
very proud of the overwhelmingly
positive responses we receive from our
students and autistic clients.
Ethical consumption
Our holistic view of health necessitates
a consideration of the whole person
and the environment in which they
live. Consequently, we strive to be
ethical consumers in all aspects of our
work: we source 100% renewable
energy; recycle/reuse items; source
from local and independent traders;
purchase consumables (i.e. stationery)
from ethical sources; and use a variety
of modes of transport to complete
home visits. Human health is intricately
linked to environmental health, and
it is our responsibility to nurture our
Our vision
There are stark realities to be
considered in terms of the evidence
base to guide health and social
care practices. The current clinical
guidelines to support professionals
working alongside autistic adults are
sparse. Historically, autism research has
been largely driven by the dominance
of biological-led enquiry, wherein
researchers see autism as a deficit.
Thishas resulted in a top-down
approach to health and social care
provision that prioritises the need to
treat and cure autistic people. We
consider ourselves visionaries in holistic
health provision, and favour a bottom-
up approach in order to develop
effective, safe and value-driven support
to empower the autistic community.
We positively promote the position
that autism is a form of neurodiversity,
not a deficit. We are working
hard to secure funding to develop
the UK’s first autistic person-led
community therapy centre, offering
non-pharmacological methods to
achieve positive health and wellbeing
outcomes. It is our aim to create
an autism-friendly environment,
and strengthen our ongoing animal
therapy project. We are excited to
have recently rescued a herd of pygmy
goats, and look forward to adopting
two Sheltand ponies and welcoming
our first alpaca herd in 2019. Finally,
we will develop our plans for a sensory
garden and wild flower meadow in
order to provide nature workshops
and mindfulness classes. Above all
else, we will continue to work with
autistic people, their families and
carers to ensure we provide effective
approaches that support their needs
and aspirations.
Above all else,
we will
continue to
work with
autistic people,
their families
and carers to
ensure we
that support
their needs
and aspirations
Dr. Damien Williams,
TAAUK Academic
Advisor, speaking on
Autism, Social Justice,
and Human Rights in
Public Health

This article was sponsored by The Autism Academy. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister