The Inspire Foundation is organising the conference ‘Connections and Autism’ on April 28, offering a mix of experience and expertise on how connections evolve throughout life’s journey for persons on the spectrum.

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

Among the speakers is Alistair de Gaetano, chairperson of Malta’s Autism Advisory Council. Under his leadership, the Council has published ‘Respecting Diversity – Safeguarding Equity: Malta’s 2021-2030 National Autism Strategy’ in November 2021.

De Gaetano was also involved in autism and disability-related efforts and outreach over the years, including as co-founder of EUCAP, the European Council of Autistic People. He worked on setting up the government’s Directorate for Disability Issues (DDI), where he developed key legislation, policy and actions to reform and strengthen the Maltese disability sector.

Another speaker is Richard Mills, who has a long association with Malta. In the early 1990s, Mills became an adviser to the then Eden Foundation and, in more recent years, the Inspire Foundation. His current research and practice interests are in programme and service evaluation, autism and mental health, forensic issues, in particular cybercrime, and in behaviours of concern. He has also authored several scientific articles and sits on numerous boards dealing with the subject of autism.

Fellow speaker David Perkins set up AS Mentoring (ASM) in mid-2013 to provide specialist support to people with autism and other neurodiverse conditions, with a primary focus on enabling social inclusion through employment in the UK. 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 the NAS ran a group of nine specialist adventure play and respite care centres in London which supported some 1,200 disabled children and their families.

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

Wenn Lawson is an autistic researcher (PDAer), who has three autistic offspring and three autistic granddaughters. He is also a lecturer, psychologist, advocate and poet. He has published internationally, is an associate researcher with Curtin University (WA), and Macquarie University, NSW; tutor practitioner with Birmingham University (UK); a board member for Autism in Adulthood, and the 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 educationalist and trainer with 40 years of experience in the field of autism, education and leadership. She is currently an independent 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 been working with Inspire since 1998. She moved through different roles and responsibilities, and in 2011 she started leading the Family Relations Department. Borg has a bachelor’s degree in inclusion and special educational needs and a master’s degree in systemic family psychotherapy, working both with individuals and families. Her belief is that the relationships a person is surrounded by, is a powerful indicator of positive outcomes. Borg has a special interest in couple relationships and her master’s dissertation was an in-depth study of the couple relationship of parents of an autistic child; the relationship between the disability, the couple dynamics and the life cycle of romantic love. For this event, she will be joined by the parents of two sons, both of whom are on the spectrum.

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

Jon Adams is both a contemporary artist, working cross-platform in image, poetry, sound, performance and spoken word, a neurodivergent advocate and researcher.

Ruth Moyse is a visiting research fellow at the University of Southampton, and a 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 interest lies in the education of autistic children and young people, particularly the female experience. Moyse is an advocate for participatory research and the co-production of knowledge, and chooses creative methods of engagement that focus on autistic young people and their views.

Tickets for the event, being held at Mount St Joseph Retreat House and online, are available at 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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