Inspire Hosts Conference on How People with Autism Build Connections

The Inspire Foundation is hosting the “Connections and Autism” conference on April 28, offering a mix of experience and expertise on how connections evolve across the life course of people on the spectrum.

Speakers are both experts in the field, as well as individuals with exceptional personal life experiences that they will share with event attendees.

Speakers include Alistair de Gaetano, Chairman of the Maltese Autism Advisory Council. Under his leadership, the Council published “Respecting Diversity – Safeguarding Equity: Malta’s 2021-2030 National Autism Strategy” in November 2021.

De Gaetano has also been involved in efforts and awareness related to autism and disability over the years, including as a co-founder of EUCAP, the European Council of People with Autism. He worked on the establishment of the Government’s Directorate for Disability Issues (DDI), where he developed key legislation, policy and actions to reform and strengthen Malta’s disability sector.

Another speaker is Richard Mills, who has a long association with Malta. In the early 1990s, Mills became an advisor to the then Eden Foundation and, in recent years, the Inspire Foundation. His current research and practice interests are in program and service evaluation, autism and mental health, medico-legal issues, particularly cybercrime, and behaviors of concern. He is also the author of several scientific articles and sits on numerous boards dealing with the subject of autism.

His colleague David Perkins set up AS Mentoring (ASM) in mid-2013 to provide specialist support for people with autism and other neurodiverse illnesses, with a focus on social inclusion through employment in the UK -United. Previously, Perkins ran the National Autistic Society’s specialist employment service Prospects. He has spent most of his working life in the voluntary sector and prior to his work at NAS ran a group of nine specialist adventure play and respite care centers in London which supported some 1,200 disabled children and their families.

Three of the guest speakers: (left to right) Wenn Lawson, Alistair de Geatano and Ruth Moyse.

Wenn Lawson is an autistic researcher (PDAer), who has three autistic children and three autistic granddaughters. He is also a lecturer, psychologist, lawyer and poet. He has published internationally, is a research associate at Curtin University (WA) and Macquarie University, NSW; Tutor Practitioner at the University of Birmingham (UK); Member of the Autism in Adulthood Trustee and Australian Research Council, Ambassador for I CAN (Autistic Youth Advocacy) and has a Youtube channel and website. Wenn is passionate about all things LGBTQIA+.

Another speaker is Jacqui Ashton Smith, an experienced educator and trainer with 40 years of experience in autism, education and leadership. She is currently a freelance consultant and also develops and delivers training modules for an EU training provider. Currently, her special interests are the identification and education of girls and women on the autism spectrum, neurodiversity, and leadership.

Charlene Borg has worked with Inspire since 1998. She has held various roles and responsibilities and in 2011 began heading the Family Relations department. Borg holds a bachelor’s degree in inclusion and special educational needs and a master’s degree in systemic family psychotherapy, working with both individuals and families. His belief is that the relationships a person is surrounded by are a powerful indicator of positive outcomes. Borg is particularly interested in couple relationships and his master’s thesis was an in-depth study of the couple relationship of the parents of an autistic child. the relationship between disability, couple dynamics and the life cycle of romantic love. For this event, she will be joined by the parents of two sons, both on the spectrum.

Gina Gomez de la Cuesta founded Play Include CIC in 2018. As one of the directors, she developed training and resources for the Brick-by-Brick program, a play-based learning concept involving a collaborative LEGO game for kids who need extra support. with social communication, such as children on the autism spectrum. As a clinical psychologist, Gomez de la Cuesta specializes in autism and child and adolescent mental health and is dedicated to supporting the well-being and development of young people through play and positive relationships.

Jon Adams is both a contemporary artist, working across multiple platforms in image, poetry, sound, performance and spoken word, a neurodivergent advocate and a researcher.

Ruth Moyse is a Visiting Scholar at the University of Southampton and Director and Associate at AT-Autism. She is a qualified teacher and completed her doctoral studies at the Institute of Education, University of Reading. Her research interests focus on the education of children and young people with autism, in particular the female experience. Moyse is an advocate for participatory research and knowledge co-production, and chooses creative engagement methods that focus on autistic youth and their perspectives.

Tickets for the event, which will be held at Mount St Joseph Retreat House and online, are available at https://inspire.org.mt/event/connections-and-autism/. All guests attending the event in Mosta will be asked to produce their vaccination certificates at the door.

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