Posted 8.4.20

National Autism Team Reflect on World Autism Awareness Week 2020

World Autism Awareness Week 2020

Last year, the National Autism Team was in the thick of facilitating and hosting the very first National Autism Conference in Wales, as part of World Autism Awareness Week 2019.  Many months of preparation and co-production in the planning and running of a free conference for autistic adults culminated in a much-celebrated event.  Autistic adults chaired the Conference and a range of workshops were led by autistic adults, parents and carers and professionals.  Everyone felt that the Conference was a success.

What a difference a year makes!  At the close of WAAW 2020, we wanted to share some of the National Autism Team highlights over the last year. Working closely with autistic adults, parents and carers and other professionals we have:

Asked what was the highlight of their year, Wendy responded, “I have always believed in working with people.  As a team we have achieved a great deal in the last year but none of it would have been possible without the autistic people, their families and professionals who have worked with us to develop and deliver the resources, training, networks etc.  So, a real highlight for me has been the development of the idea of ‘Team Autism’ – everyone matters, and everyone contributes.”

Sara remembered the Conference last April, “I sat at the front of the Conference room in the Liberty Stadium and I watched our keynote speaker Emma Durman, begin her speech.  To start with, she faltered a little and then, something just came over her and she began a real ‘Call to arms’ for all the autistic adults in the conference room.  I literally felt a ‘tingle’ down my arm and I looked at her Director colleague, Donna Sharland and we exchanged a smile… that was my highlight because I knew in that moment, that everything we had planned was coming together.  This woman, who had experienced so many struggles before and after her autism diagnosis, was literally flying with her inspirational speech and I had some small part to play in that.”

Wendy Thomas, National Professional Lead Autism

Sara Harvey, National Strategic Lead Autism

The National Autism Team was delighted by some of the feedback given by our stakeholders:


“It has been a privilege to work with the National Autism Team.  They have been welcoming, respectful and most importantly receptive to my ideas and opinions – even when it has meant things have been more complicated, time consuming or logistically difficult to accomplish.

My input has never felt tokenistic but intrinsic.  They have valued my input and that of the autistic voice above all – and have strived to improve understanding and acceptance.

This is not a rote response, kind empty words but utterly sincere.  They have amplified my voice and the voices of others rather than drowning them with their own thoughts and ideals.  I am proud to have worked with them closely and am hopeful it is a collaboration that will continue and grow to encompass an ever-widening range of autistic voices, my experience with them reassures me wholeheartedly that it will. 

I want to thank them for their work, their support, and their ethos, so important as we navigate the desperate need for autistic voices to be heard, shared and valued in Wales and beyond. 

Thank you all personally, professionally, for the safety to share, to contribute, and to feel seen in a world where I have often felt invisible.”

Emma Durman, Director Autside


“We have found working with the National Autism Team an incredibly empowering and positive experience.  Their commitment to collaboration and co-production is evident in every piece of work they commit to completing.  Putting the autistic voice at the centre of their work has been a breath of fresh air in our community.  We look forward to supporting their achievements going forward.”

Donna Sharland, Director Autside


“My work as an ASD Lead would be next to impossible without the support of the National Autism Team.  The group of ASD Leads together with the Team at the WLGA is a prime example of how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  Individually we hold just a small piece of the puzzle.

It is only when they are all joined together that the picture is revealed.”

Keith Ingram, ASD Lead Cardiff & the Vale

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