Author, researcher, public speaker and autism expert, Kate Reynolds, spoke at an international conference in Greece last October about autism education, health and sexual education, and her book Sexuality and Severe Autism. With some cultural differences and a language barrier, things could have gone very differently, but, as Kate describes in her blog piece below, difference is just a starting point for learning and growth.
I eyed the bag with suspicion. It had been given to me by two Greek psychologists as a ‘thank you’ for giving a presentation at a conference in Larissa, Northern Greece. Purporting to be camomile tea, it gave a stunning imitation of marijuana and left me peering over my shoulder as I returned through customs at Heathrow. This was only one of several gifts I received, including a gift box of spices, nuts and ouzo presented in a gift bag, all left at my hotel.
Looking back on where this book really started, I would have to say that it was 10 years in the making. It was about 10 years ago that my son Aaron was diagnosed with Autism, and I was launched into a world of speech therapy, behavioural intervention, visual supports and questions – lots of questions.
I was already a registered Psychologist at the time, and had been working with children with Autism and other developmental disabilities in an early intervention program in Melbourne, Australia. While with hindsight I can honestly say that my experience of being a parent to a child with Autism has been a challenging but overwhelmingly positive one, I can still remember the moment I was told that Aaron had Autism and my reaction was one I have since seen many other parents go through – fear, sadness, and confusion.
Often described as the “biggest child protection scandal in UK history”, the organised child sexual exploitation in Rotherham saw around 1,400 children abused from 1997 – 2013 (according to the Jay Report). The scale of the child protection scandal has led professionals responsible for safeguarding children in other regions to recognise the extent of child abuse in their area and consider how to respond efficiently.
On the 25th July, we hosted an event at Kingston University to launch Child Sexual Exploitation after Rotherham, a book written by two whistleblowers of the case, Adele Gladman and Dr Angie Heal. Adele Gladman is an experienced safeguarding children trainer and consultant, and previously ran the research and development pilot funded by the Home Office which was referred to in both the Jay and Casey reports during the Rotherham case. Dr Angie Heal was a strategic analyst working for South Yorkshire police who has since contributed to Panorama documentaries. Both gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee for the Rotherham case in 2014 and they continue to assist with ongoing investigation and inquiries.
Also joining us on the day, we heard talks from Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England, Professor Alexis Jay OBE, author of the Independent Inquiry report into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, and T, a survivor of Rotherham case.
Known as T to keep her identity private, this brave individual came to the seminar for this book in order to give a talk about what had happened to her. Coming from a large family, T spoke of her previously normal life before the abusive events that followed. In the recording below, you can listen to her talk about what life was like living through the abuse she encountered from such a young age, and the appalling trial that followed.