An Invitation to The House of Commons.

A few weeks ago I received a rather official letter from the Autism Education Trust. (AET).

Not expecting any correspondence from them, I was rather intrigued. To my surprise, I had been officially invited to The House of Commons to help celebrate the fact that the AET had trained 100,0000 professionals in various levels of autism awareness.

Wow!

Having completed my Level 2 & 3 training and submitting portfolios of work, as well receiving both Silver & Gold Awards, from the AET for outstanding autism practise. My Gold award to this day is still only one of three awarded in the country in the field of education. You can read more about that here.

How could I say no? So I speedily booked my train tickets to London.

My colleague, Laura, an autism specialist Speech and Language Therapist from The Talking House, was also invited, and we travelled into London together.  On reaching the ‘big smoke’ we headed to the Palace of Westminster and we met two of my work colleagues from Leeds STARS autism outreach team & AET training hub for Yorkshire & Humberside, Rebecca and Shannon.

While we were waiting to enter the Terrace Pavillion, Alec Shelbrooke, The MP for Elmet & Rothwell (the constituency where The Jigsaw Tree is based) was being filmed for television, but with all the events happening in Parliament that day, he disappeared to attend to his duties before I could speak with him.

We were met with canapés and glasses of bubbly, then listened to some short speeches.

Ann Gross, DfE Director of Special Needs and Children’s Services Strategy, talked about the importance of educators who work with autistic children understanding their needs and how this will help them receive the best education possible.

Jolanta Lasota, Chair of the AET, thanked the 40 organisations who have developed, delivered or supported the AET programme, including voluntary organisations, local authorities, schools and universities.

Dr. Steve Huggett, Director of the AET, talked about the likelihood of all educators teaching children with autism during their careers and that a basic knowledge of autism can make all the difference. He said “all children on the autism spectrum need teachers and support staff who understand them”

My favourite speech however, was from Alex Gibbs, who is a member of the AET’s expert reference panel. He spoke so movingly about his personal experiences at school and wished that there had been more awareness and understanding from the staff at his school. He appreciated the support from his mum and from some of the mentors in school. He believes that their support then enabled him to achieve today.

Speaking to him afterwards, Alex said he had no problems with public speaking after attending drama classes for many years. Alex also felt that he wouldn’t be without his autism because it makes him who he is. And, though he still experienced challenges in life because of it, he was more able to cope with them now. It was a real pleasure to talk to him – such a polite, friendly and sociable person who is doing fabulous work.

We gathered again to watch a new video from the Autism Education Trust, then raised a toast to them!

All of a sudden, a bell was rung and the event was over. Everyone had to leave the Terrace Pavillon, so we headed back for the train and the journey home.

To read more about the event, and why I was invited, read this article from the National Autistic Society.

It was a busy but fantastic day at The House of Commons – despite all the political machinations that day, some doubts about our future in Europe, a new Prime Minister and lets not talk about the Labour party! – I left London knowing that from September 2018, every new teacher in England will learn about the needs of autistic children and young people as part of their teacher training.

Thank you for the invite, Autism Education Trust, here’s to the next 100,000 trainees.