Prof Nicola YuillProf. Nicola Yuill
School of Psychology, University of Sussex

I am Professor of Developmental Psychology in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex and run the Children and Technology Lab (@chatlabuk). My current projects include working with @Acornsoton (link) on Our Stories (link), co-creating immersive video stories with autistic children, young people and their families to support transitions in emotion (with Just Right, Brighton & Hove) and in healthcare (with BSMS Time for Autism). I relish finding collaborative low-cost ways to support participatory research and evaluation with local partners. I especially enjoy fine analysis of video of interactions in natural settings and thinking how we can co-design spaces that work well for everyone across the spectrum of neurodiversity (see my book.)


Jacqui ShepherdDr. Jacqui Shepherd
Disability Inclusion Consultant

I am an honorary Senior Lecturer in inclusive education at Sussex and also work as a freelance disability inclusion and SEND consultant. I worked for SightSavers, an international NGO, as the Global Technical Lead for inclusive learning and teaching from 2021-2023 . Previously I was a lecturer in education at the University of Sussex convening modules such as ‘Disabled Childhoods’ and ‘Understanding Autism and Education’. I also coordinated the SEND provision for trainee teachers. Before working at Sussex I was a teacher and assistant principal working in local schools and colleges. My PhD investigated the transition experiences of young autistic people who left special school to go to mainstream further education.


Polly Bishop

I have been part of the charity sector for over a decade, and currently work as Engagement Officer for Independent Lives, a disability charity working across Sussex and Croydon. My role is very diverse, and includes supporting disabled people and carers with individual needs, and finding creative solutions for shared experience. This involves research, facilitation and organising social activities. I believe in the power of storytelling, and I’m passionate about supporting people to share their experiences in innovative ways.


Sadie GillettSadie Gillett

I am a SEN advisory teacher and professional lead for autism for BHISS.
My interest in autism began during my undergraduate degree, when I looked at how autistic children make sense of pretend play for my final year dissertation. I later went on to complete an MA in Special Education, researching how to teach non-verbal autistic children how to read. I have now been working with autistic children and their families for 25 years, teaching mainly in special schools and facilities, before taking on the role of advisory teacher, five years ago. Through my work, I have met some incredible children and young people and have always been absolutely fascinated by autistic thinking, how it differs or is similar to neurotypical thinking, and what we can all learn from autistic individuals.
Through being part of the ACoRNS project, I hope to help forge easier links between the academic world, in which my interest in autism began, and the world of schools and families, where I now spend most of my time. I am excited about the prospect of bringing these two communities together- learning from, and working with, each other.


Mel HorsfallMelanie Horsfall

Mel works as a specialist case lead and tutor for autistic children and young people with SENse Learning and is training as a Play Therapist with a focus on using therapeutic work with autistic people.

My interest in autism began as a young adult working in inclusive playschemes and as a 1:1 teaching assistant in special school before starting my career in education. As a teacher, I have learned directly from autistic people, their families and their experience in schools. After completing a research MA in Education focussed on enabling environments for neurodiversity in primary schools, I have been working more therapeutically with families to enable access to the community and education. Knowing autistic people has enhanced my life and learning direct from their experiences has improved how I communicate and build relationships. I am excited to be part of this group in its endeavours and hope to bring the knowledge I have gained from the families I work with to the group.

Dr Tish MarrableDr. Tish Marrable

I am an autistic researcher/teacher, who mostly researches about autistic people’s experiences but also has a strong interest in death, dying, and shamanic practice. I work in the Department of Social Work and Social Care at the University of Sussex, and teach many ‘wellbeing’ topics, as well as leading our Continuing Professional Development programme. I like nature, my cats, and making stuff.

Rachel McDonald-Taylor

 I’m proud to be the Head of Education at The SAND Project in Worthing. We are a specialist vocational provision for 16-25 year olds with an EHCP, offering over 20 careers pathway options complimented by our bespoke Life and Living curriculum. The pathways build on our trainees’ skills and personal interests to ensure they are ready for the world of meaningful paid work and the Life and Living curriculum gives them the confidence to live confident, safe and autonomous adult lives.


Lisa QuadtLisa Quadt
School of Psychology, University of Sussex

I am an autistic & ADHD neuroscientist at the Clinical Neuroscience Department at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School. My research focuses on brain-body interactions in neurodivergent people, and why we have more mental and physical health problems than the non-neurodivergent population. I am interested in the societal, bodily, and neural factors that may contribute to our increased health risks.

Ro St JohnRo St John
SEN Practice and Standards Adviser, ISEND, East Sussex County Council

My professional interest in autism started as a young adult working in the social care sector alongside teaching in mainstream secondary schools. From there, I have developed my keen interest and knowledge – travelling to conferences and meet some personal heroes such as Damian Milton (researcher) and Steve Silberman (Neurotribes author). I went on to work in a special school teaching children and young people with autism and doing outreach work in mainstream schools while completing my MA at Sussex looking at alternative communication strategies of key stage three pupils with autism. There is autism in my family and in 2020, at the age of 36 I was also diagnosed. I now work to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND within the Local Authority as an advisory teacher. I hope to contribute meaningfully to the group and am excited to be given that opportunity.


Bryony Wilkinson

I am an autistic person who has experienced the education system since the late nineties. I can offer a unique perspective on this subject as, not only have I recently experienced the education system, I also work closely with young autistic individuals who are currently in school and college as a peer supporter for Amazing Futures, so I am acutely aware of some of the issues that autistic children and young adults are experiencing.