AT-Autism Conference – 2022

Autism and mental health – who cares?

Learning from the lived experience of autistic people, their families, and frontline professionals.

When and where

Date: Thursday 29 September 2022

Registration from 08.45
Conference start time 09.30
Conference end time 16.30

Venue: Church House, Westminster, London, SW1P 3NZ

Cost: Cost per delegate £255 + VAT (price includes lunch and refreshments)

Ticket Options: We are really looking forward to this conference as it is our first major in-person event in over two years.  However, if you cannot attend in person you can join us by a live stream or you can purchase access to a recording of the event. Please see the prices below.

Concessionary places: 10 concessionary places at a reduced rate will be available for autistic delegates on a first-come-first-served basis. Please email

Multiple bookings: If you require more than one booking please email: Thank you.


Autism and mental health: who cares?


This important conference will explore models of appropriate and effective mental health support to autistic people of all ages. Listening to lived experience, from autistic people, families, and professionals, we will examine challenges and opportunities in finding answers to the many questions about the treatment, care, and support of autistic people across the different various mental health settings.

In this we will discuss perceptions of autism and mental health, training and support of mental health professionals, models of intervention, and the need for innovation and change.

The conference will also reflect experience of our recent intensive HEE Tier4 training for mental health professionals in inpatient settings, and the lessons we have learned from this. This was co-designed and co-delivered with autistic colleagues.

The conference will be chaired by world autism expert Dr Judith Gould, and autistic educational researcher, Dr Ruth Moyse. It will be summarised by Dr Georgia Pavlopoulou from our partner organisation the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families. We are especially delighted to welcome our special guest from the USA, autistic psychiatrist, Professor Bernadette Grosjean. M.D.

The event will be of interest to autistic people and their families, and mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, OT’s, social workers, including AMHP’s and other therapists and managers of mental health Services.

Other confirmed presenters include Alexis Quinn; Dr Ian Davidson; Jeremy Harris (Bethany’s dad); Venessa Bobb; Jon Adams; Professor Digby Tantam and Sasha van Deurzen-Smith; and a group presentation from frontline NHS professionals.

We are delighted to be back at the impressive Church House Conference Centre which has been rated by previous conference delegates to be an autism friendly environment.

Download Conference Programme

Download Access Information

Conference Speakers

Alexis Quinn

A schoolteacher of over ten years, former professional athlete and now author of two books: her ground-breaking memoir, Unbroken, and Autistic and Expecting, a guide for autistic parents to be. Alexis now works as Manager of the Restraint Reduction Network and is also studying an MSc in Psychotherapy at University of Greenwich.

Activists all have a story or defining moment that propel them into action. Alexis Quinn’s began with a crisis after she birthed her first child and her youngest brother died. She asked for help from services, responded autistically to the ‘help’ and was detained under the Mental Health Act for three and half years. Alexis has experienced massive amounts of restrictive practice including routine restraint, seclusion and long-term segregation. After her section was renewed for a further year, Alexis took matters into her own hands and escaped the UK to live in Africa. Alexis rebuilt her life and now works to try and ensure others do not endure the same experiences as her.

Prof. Bernadette Grosjean

Dr. Grosjean has worked as a psychiatrist in Belgium then California for 30 years, in private practice, community hospital and non-profit organizations geared to help vulnerable populations. She was Associate professor of Psychiatry at UCLA until 2016. She worked with women and men with wide-ranging struggles, diagnoses and life journeys. She values humility, curiosity and flexibility as a clinician’s essential tools and qualities. She became increasingly aware of how often autistic women were not or poorly identified as such by psychiatrists and could not receive appropriate support. She self-diagnosed as autistic 5 years ago and received formal diagnosis in 2022.

Danny van Deurzen-Smith (formerly known as Sasha van Deurzen-Smith)
I am an existential coach and course leader for the MA in Existential Coaching at the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling where I am also administrative director. I co-facilitate a monthly support group for LGBTQ+ autistic adults, and run regular workshops on gender fluidity, working existentially with autism and existential coaching. In my coaching practice, I work predominantly with autistic and LGBTQ+ clients. I am autistic and genderqueer myself, and my pronouns are he/she/they.

Prof. Digby Tantam

I first came across a child diagnosed with autism in 1970, at Stanford University Medical Centre. Back in the US in 1976 as a community psychiatrist, I concluded social psychiatry did not pay enough attention to social interaction. In 1977 I was interviewed for a job at the Maudsley by Michael Rutter and John Wing. John Wing told me about his wife Lorna’s work. I began in 1980 to study social interaction in autistic adults who had no intellectual disability nor marked language impairment supervised by Gerald Russell and Uta Frith. Recruitment for the study inevitably required me to make a diagnostic assessment, and I continued to provide an assessment service throughout my subsequent career as a general psychiatrist and then consultant psychotherapist until two years ago.

Dr Georgia Pavlopoulou

Georgia Pavlopoulou is an award-winning lecturer based at the Department of Psychology and Human Development at University College London, the lead autism workforce trainer at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and an AT AUTISM associate. She is the founder of the Group for Research in Relationships in Neurodiversity. Georgia is committed to creative participatory health and educational research that is co-produced and codelivered with community members. Georgia has been leading national and international short courses for mental health practitioners who work in educational and NHS systems. Currently she is a coinvestigator in a large interdisciplinary MRC funded coproduced study on prevention of depression in neurodivergent young adolescents. Georgia is currently editing a new book dedicated to collaborative practice and autistic mental health in clinical services.

Hannah Spreadbury-Troy

Occupational Therapist at Bluebell ward, Springfield Hospital. Bluebell ward is a mental health ward for deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL). BSL is the first language on the ward, not English. Half the team are also deaf native BSL users including nurses, HCAs, social worker and activity coordinator. I use BSL with patients, providing activities to help promote independence, confidence, learning new skills and daily living skills.

Dr Ian A Davidson

Dr Ian A. Davidson MB, BCh, BAO, FRCPsych, MA Medical Ethics and Law. Cheshire and Wirral Partnership
Ian has over 34 year’s expertise as a consultant psychiatrist; plus over 20 years as senior medical manager.
Ian has worked extensively with autistic people presenting to the various mental health teams. In 2012 he helped establish the adult autism diagnostic pathway service, in collaboration with commissioners, local authorities, experts by experience and third sector, based around autism hubs to enhance availability of support at all stages of the diagnostic process.

He became the RCPsych inaugural Autism Champion in 2017-2021 and has served on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism Advisory Group, and the Westminster Commission on Autism. His work on includes training, publishing, and service reviews, and in his crisis/acute mental health work includes inequalities and the impact of intersectionality.

Jeremy (Jez) Harris

Jez Harris – the father to Bethany, a young autistic woman who spent several years locked in a seclusion cell in a secure hospital.

A former college tutor, I now use Beth’s story to inform various parts of “The System” regarding the impact of inappropriate care.

Former Co-chair of NHSE’s CAHMS Quality Improvement Taskforce’s Parent Council, I currently work on Care Treatment Review panels, and am the parent/carer rep for the HOPES programme’s Clinical Reference Group – work aimed at ending long-term seclusion/segregation.
A champion for the parity of the lived experience voice – I despise box-ticking inclusion!

Jon Adams

Jon is both a contemporary Artist, autistic advocate and researcher. He makes a variety of work in many differing media often referencing his autism, synaesthesia, trauma and dyslexia, all interwoven with history, science, time and his past experiences. He’s shown in galleries such as Royal Academy, Tate Modern and been commissioned by many arts and science organisations including projects for Parliament, London 2012, the Autism research Centre Cambridge and to perform his work on stage. He advocates for the rights of all Neurodivergent people to fully access the arts, funding, health care and coproduce relevant research. Jon is also an associate of the AT-Autism team.

Dr Judith Gould (co-chair)

BSc MPhil, PhD, AFBPsS, CPsychol Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Judith Gould is the Lead Consultant at The NAS Lorna Wing Centre for Autism and retired as Director of the Centre in 2015. She is a Chartered Consultant Clinical Psychologist, with over 40 years’ experience, specialising in autism spectrum disorders and learning disabilities.
Lorna Wing and Judith Gould’s early work in the 1970s on the epidemiology of autism and related conditions, led to the concept of a spectrum of autistic conditions.
Lorna Wing and Judith Gould developed an interview schedule called the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders (DISCO) to be used as part of the diagnostic process. This schedule enables the professional to use a dimensional approach when making a diagnosis which is more helpful than diagnostic sub-grouping when planning treatment, education. The DISCO is widely used throughout the UK and overseas and training in its use is carried out both at the Centre and internationally.

Liliana Mandal

I work as a lead occupational therapist in inpatient mental health. I have been working in mental health for four years and prior to this I used to work for a local authority supporting people with various disabilities. My day-to-day role is very versatile; however my main role is supporting our client to work towards therapeutic recovery goals for their life outside of hospital. I am dyslexic and dyspraxia and that lead me to be extremely passionate about neurodiversity. I love my job as an OT and I would not do anything else in the world.

Maria Oyegbile

My name is Maria Oyegbile a Practice Development Nurse working with the Community Mental Health Teams in Southampton. I currently work with the community mental health teams in Southampton providing education and development support for their teams. I work alongside mental health practitioners and to support them whilst using my general adult nursing knowledge to influence and improve practice. With keen interest in academics, I completed a PGCE in 2010 and obtained a PhD in Plant Biology in 2011 (University of Portsmouth). I completed a career change in 2015 with a PGDip in Nursing (adult). I started my Nursing career as a Band 5 Community staff Nurse in Portsmouth.

Michael Karasinski

I’m Mike and I’m a mental health nurse. I have worked in mental health for nearly twenty years and have never looked back since the day I started. Last year my career took an unplanned change when I took on a secondment as a Practice Educator. This post has been made permanent and I’m excited about this new chapter. As a Practice Educator I have the privilege of supporting student nurses whilst they are training. I get to see them grow and to coach them as they develop into mindful and compassionate practitioners.
Prior to becoming a Practice Educator my career was mainly in community mental health nursing. I developed a passion for early intervention work. I’m proud to have walked alongside many people and their families in their journey to recovery. When I reflect on these journeys, I identify the successes came through clear, open and honest communication and collaborative working.

Dr Ruth Moyse (co-chair)

Dr Ruth Moyse is a Director & Associate at AT-Autism and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Southampton. Ruth is an advocate for participatory research and the co-production of knowledge and chooses creative methods of engagement that centre autistic people and their views. She is a highly experienced trainer and facilitator and works with organisations and institutions in the UK and Europe, plus sits on a number of neurodiversity advisory boards and steering groups. Her research interest lies in improving the educational experiences of autistic young people, particularly the female experience, and more widely in autistic wellbeing. Most recently Ruth was the autistic co-Lead on an innovative autism training programme for staff working in adult mental health inpatient settings.

Sakina Ramzan

I have been a clinician for 20 years and a clinical manager for over 10 years. My job role is patient flow manager for Health Base Place of Safety (HBPoS) in Hillingdon, which is one of the busiest HBPoS in the country. Previously I have been a Ward manager of two acute admissions’ wards for older people over 65 years of age. I am also the lead for Disabled Employee’s Network at CNWL. I am really passionate about this role and want to support all the employees with hidden disabilities. I have a special interest in supporting Autism awareness and acceptance.

Venessa Bobb

Venessa Bobb Founder A2ndvoice CIC mother of 3 young people, two with a diagnosis of Autism and ADHD. The presentation will highlight her experiences from a Black perspective as a parent and supporting families from different communities.