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Paula Taylor

Meet our new Finance and Administration Manager

Paula Taylor
Finance & Administration Manager

We are pleased to have Paula Taylor join the team as our new Finance and Administration Manager, dealing with our day to day accounts and office management. She will also project manage our Autism: Top Ten Research Priorities James Lind Alliance partnership.

Paula is bringing with her a wealth of experience in bookkeeping and a background in sales and customer service within publishing and the travel industry. She is a trained Accounting Technician and is currently completing an AAT level 4 qualification. She was keen to move into the charity sector having acted as Bookkeeper for an LGBT Switchboard in her hometown of Brighton and as Treasurer for the sexual violence charity Survivors Network. As an active runner and cyclist, Paula has also fundraised for charities in numerous charity challenge events including the London Marathon.

Autistica appealed to Paula due to a personal connection, and she is pleased to support the team to fund research that helps people with autism throughout their lifespan.

We look forward to working with her and seeing the contribution that she makes to the charity.

Jessica-Jane Applegate Paralympic Gold British Autism Autistica Abseil

August newsletter


Latest news from Autistica – August


Top Ten Research Priorities

We are very grateful to everyone who contributed to the James Lind Alliance (JLA) consultation on the AUTISM: TOP TEN RESEARCH PRIORITIES. An amazing 1213 people responded, resulting in 3,331 questions that autism research could address.

23% of respondents were individuals on the autism spectrum, 52% were family members and caregivers and 25% were clinicians and professionals.

Professional groups can be hard to reach but thanks to our strong partner network, we got a good number of responses.

Feedback on the project so far has been very positive: ‘”Very pleased to see the approach you are taking to generating research.”

We are cleaning the data to remove questions already answered by good quality trials, leaving just truly unanswered questions. We will ask you to vote soon on a longlist before a final priority-setting workshop.

More information about the process can be found in the James Lind Alliance Guidebook. You can subscribe to specific TOP TEN update emails here.

First adult self-assessment test for repetetive behaviours in autism

Psychologists, including Sue Leekham from the Autistica-founded Wales Autism Research Centre at Cardiff University, have developed the first self-assessment test designed to help diagnose autism in adults.

Published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the test measures how adults are affected by repetitive behaviours – one of the core criteria used to diagnose autism.

These behaviours can include lining up objects or arranging them in patterns, fiddling obsessively with objects, or insisting that aspects of a daily routine remain exactly the same.

Researchers say the test is a reliable method of measuring these behaviours to indicate when they are unusually frequent or severe.

The trial showed that while adults without an autism diagnosis showed a high tendency for repetitive behaviours, the individuals with an autism diagnosis consistently scored significantly higher on this measure.

The test on its own cannot diagnose autism but has been designed to help in the diagnostic process.

The next step will be trialling the test on people of all ages with autism before implementing its use in clinics across the UK.

People aged over 18 are encouraged to participate in the research by visiting: http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/rbq2a/online/.

Call for proposals

Our call for proposals in partnership with the Autism Research Trust has now closed and we have had some excellent submissions for projects researching interventions around the time of diagnosis. Selected applicants have been invited to submit full proposals that will be reviewed as part of our normal review processes. Final decisions on funding will be made by our Scientific Review Panel in February 2016.

Inspiring a new generation of autism researchers

We consider it very important to use the most experienced autism researchers to lead our projects, but also to foster emerging talent so that autism research has a bright future in the UK.

Through our Casting Light on Mental Health research project we are funding four PhD student Fellows, all of whom bring a unique range of experiences and personal motivations. We will be sharing profiles of each of these individuals over the coming months. First is Hannah, who is based at London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.

Meet the researcher: Hannah Pickard 

“I was particularly attracted to autism and mental health research because I have grown up alongside a brother who has autism and I have seen him struggle with many debilitating mental health issues, including both stress and anxiety. I am passionate about research helping people like him to get effective support.”

Read her full profile or see her speak on our Casting light on mental health film.


Researcher news

If you carry out autism research or are thinking about getting into the field, please get in touch. We are launching a Researcher News bulletin, which will be sent out regularly by email and will include funding opportunities from both Autistica and other bodies, key research papers that have been published, and other news of interest to the research community.

If you don’t think that you are registered with us as a researcher, please email us to be added to the mailing list.  

Tell us your story

Help us highlight the importance of research through your eyes

We are proud of our unique approach to research, where all the work that we do is shaped by the people that we serve. We know how important research is in supporting families, providing better understanding of autism and ultimately improving the quality of lives for all those with autism and their relatives, but we think this message is so much stronger coming directly from the families our research aims to help.

We want to raise the profile of research in the autism community so we need your help to bring this message to life.

Please get in touch if you have a personal connection to autism and can share your story with photographs to express how research could help you.

We will feature some of your stories on our website and keep others on file for media requests – we will always ask you before sharing your story.

Contact Rebecca Sterry, Communications Manager on 05601 188981 or email rebecca.sterry@autistica.org.uk. Please include a phone number when emailing. 

We look forward to hearing from you.

See our stories page, for the families that have shared their experiences already, including Francesca (pictured) talking about her son Tim and her motivations for supporting Autistica’s work around early diagnosis.

Fundraising events

Abseil for autism with a paralympic legend!

We are delighted to announce Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE, British Paralympic gold medal-winning swimmer, is joining Autistica for our charity abseil at the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Olympic Park!

We asked Jessica-Jane to be involved with Autistica’s abseil as we know what a huge inspiration she is for young people and for those on the autism spectrum. Abseiling in a familiar environment for Jessica-Jane, the Olympic Park, is the perfect backdrop for the UK’s highest freefall

Jessica-Jane says “I can’t wait to freefall the ArcelorMittal Orbit to help Autistica raise funds for autism research”.

To secure your place, you can sign-up online. For more information, please do get in touch with the Autistica team on 05601 183 601 or email friends@autistica.org.uk.

Register by Friday for the Royal Parks Half Marathon.

The deadline is fast approaching to register for London’s premier half marathon – the Royal Parks Half Marathon. We have a handful of places left in Britain’s most beautiful city run.

Thousands of supporters turn out for this event every year which starts and finishes in Hyde Park, taking in St James’s Park, Green Park, Kensington Gardens and many magnificent landmarks along the way.

The Half Marathon takes place on Sunday 11 October so there is still plenty of time to prepare. ASICS have great 2 month training plans building up to race day and you can get your own personalised plan here.

By signing up to run the Royal Parks Half Marathon, you’ll also get the amazing benefit of free access to Fitness First gyms every Friday up until the race. This is a great opportunity to mix up your outdoor running with some other cross training, at no cost to you!

The deadline to register is Friday 21 August, so don’t delay! Sign up online

Join the conversation online #raceforautism


RideLondon cycle stars

We want to say a huge thank you to our eight fabulous cyclists who took part in this year’s RideLondon for Autistica. Riding 100 miles on a very hot August day is no mean feat and we are completely in awe of their amazing dedication!

The team raised over £5,800 for autism research, an incredible amount for which we are so grateful. Now give those legs a well-earned rest!

Trusts and foundations

We are grateful to have had recent pledges of support from the following organisations:

  • Alison Hillman Charitable Trust (£5,000)
  • Violet Mauray Charitable Trust (£2,000)
  • Appletree Trust (£1,000)
  • Annett Charitable Trust (£1,000)
  • Doris Field Charitable Trust (£1,000)


Jessica-Jane Applegate Paralympic Gold British Autism Autistica Abseil

Paralympic champion Jessica-Jane Applegate abseiling for autism

We are delighted to announce that Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE, the British Paralympic gold medallist swimmer, is joining Autistica for our charity abseil at the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Olympic Park.

Abseil for autism Autistica Stratford London Arcelormittal Orbit We asked Jessica-Jane to be involved with Autistica’s abseil as we know what a huge inspiration she is for young people and for those on the autism spectrum. Abseiling within the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where she won Gold in the London 2012 Paralympics and broke a Paralympic record, will be a great way to recognise her amazing achievements and raise awareness for autism research.

Jessica-Jane, who comes from Norfolk, started swimming at a young age and by the age of 13 she was setting regional records and was selected for a UK sporting talent programme. Jessica-Jane has an autism spectrum disorder and whilst this presents some real challenges, she has gone on to break world records and win medals around the world. She competed in both the 100m backstroke and 200m freestyle in the London 2012 Paralympics where she won gold and set a time of 2:12.63, a Paralympic record.

Jessica-Jane Applegate Paralympics Gold Medal British Autism Abseil AutisticaRecently she became World Champion in S14 100m Backstroke, Silver medalist in the S14 200m Freestyle & Silver medalist in the S14 200m Individual Medley at the Glasgow 2015 IPC World Championships. One week later she managed to break the World record in the S14 400m Individual Medley whilst competing at Sheffield. She is working hard towards the trials in April 2016 to qualify for the Rio Paralympic Games.

Jessica-Jane says “I can’t wait to freefall the ArcelorMittal Orbit to help Autistica raise funds for autism research”.

Join us
at the ArcelorMittal Orbit on Friday 25th September and do something amazing for autism https://www.autistica.org.uk/event/abseil-for-autism/



Thank you to all those who have contributed to the James Lind Alliance (JLA) consultation on the AUTISM: TOP TEN RESEARCH PRIORITIES. Thanks to a good response across a broad range of people from the community, the steering group have now decided to close the survey.

We were pleased that 1213 people responded to the survey, and this resulted in a total of 3,331 questions that people want autism research to address.


Respondent groups break down as follows:

23% – individuals on the autism spectrum or strongly suspect they are on the spectrum

52% – family members and caregivers

25% – clinicians and professionals


Professional groups in other past JLA initiatives have proved difficult to get responses from but thanks to our strong partner network we were able to target these so that we got a good number of responses from GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists, paediatricians and other healthcare professionals, as well as those within education, voluntary sector and care settings.

Having seen break-downs of the data, the steering group were happy that we had received responses from a broad range of people from across the community.


Feedback on the project so far has been broadly positive, with comments such as:

‘”Very pleased to see the approach you are taking to generating research.”
“Thank you for taking research into autism seriously.”


The next stage of the process is the cleaning of the data and categorising it so that we can start to address which questions have already been answered by good quality trials, and which (the majority) will be truly unanswered questions. Then we will pull together a long list that we will ask you to vote on allowing us to prioritise and shorten, so that this can be taken to a final priority setting workshop.


More information about the process can be found in the James Lind Alliance Guidebook.

In the meantime if you have any questions about the specific approach we are taking in autism, please get in touch by emailing Top10@autistica.org.uk

We plan to send updates on the process every 4-6 weeks until we come to publish the final Top Ten list in April 2016. You can subscribe to these emails here.


in partnership with:

and 20 further supporting organisations.

Hannah Pickard landscape

Meet the researcher: Hannah Pickard

Hannah Pickard is one of 4 fellows funded by Autistica at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience as part of our Casting Light on Mental Health project.

What is your research background?
Over the last four years I have completed both an undergraduate BSc degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Research Methods in Psychology, which have given me a vast amount of research experience to undertake my PhD in autism and mental health.

My research background has focused on exploring the cognitive theories associated with autism (e.g. Theory of Mind, Executive Functions and cognitive processing styles) and how these manifest within the general population. Whilst conducting my research I have had the opportunity to adapt and develop new cognitive tasks and questionnaires, which I have incorporated into my research design to investigate the cognitive theories associated with autism in the general population. In addition to my research experience, I have recently been involved in a study investigating the camouflaging strategies used in social situations by individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The aim of this study is to operationalise camouflaging strategies and observe the gender differences in the different types and amounts of camouflaging used.

What attracted you to do research into autism and mental health?
Autism is a condition that is very close to my heart. I was particularly attracted to autism and mental health research because I have grown up alongside a brother who has autism and I have seen him struggle with many debilitating mental health issues, including both stress and anxiety. I believe that he and others like him need additional support to help treat and prevent these problems from occurring. I am very passionate about autism and mental health research and feel extremely grateful that I have been given the opportunity to make a positive impact in an area that has significant implications for life satisfaction for many individuals on the spectrum.

Tell us a bit more about your brother
My brother’s name is John, he is 28 years old and he was diagnosed with ASD when he was 3 and a half. My brother lives at home with my parents and we have a good sibling relationship. We both share a love of video games and John likes to keep me up to date with all the new games he is playing, particularly if he thinks it’s something I would also like. For the last two years running we have had a fantastic time going to the Euro gamer convention here in London, where you have the opportunity to try out upcoming games and compete in competitions for prizes. In addition to sharing a love for games, we also both enjoy going to theme parks, watching movies and finding new quirky places to eat in London.

Hannah and John

John is an adult with high functioning autism who is very bright, often extremely funny (although half of the time he doesn’t realise!) and most of all caring. He can be very social within our family dynamic, but outside of this he does not seek any social interaction and much prefers doing things alone. Over the past year my brother’s life has been very stable and he is looking forward to potentially moving from a temporary to a permanent job role within the company that currently employs him. However, in the past my brother has experienced a great deal of anxiety and stress throughout his time at university, attending job interviews, socialising within his job role and dealing with the change of finishing temporary job contracts and going back to being unemployed and having an unstructured routine. The lack of support my brother has received throughout this process has put a lot of stress on my whole family and particularly my parents, who try their hardest to support and help him during these difficult times. Despite the periods of uncertainty my family have gone through, I am extremely happy to say that my brother is doing exceptionally well and is becoming more and more independent every day.

What are you working on with Autistica?
I am currently working alongside Autistica to help promote and bring awareness to the research investigating autism and mental health. I am looking forward to working with them very closely in the future to build a better understanding of the triggers and mechanism behind the high prevalence rates of mental health issues (including stress and anxiety) among individuals with ASD.

I have also recently signed up to the Abseil for Autism event where I will be abseiling down the ArcelorMittal Orbit at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. I am extremely excited to join the Autistica team and take part in this fantastic experience to raise money for autism research.

What will your average day involve?
My average day as a research fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) will involve me developing my knowledge in the area of autism and mental health and applying this knowledge to design my own research studies. On a daily basis I will be co-ordinating with my supervisor, colleagues and individuals with autism and their families to make the greatest impact I can in the area of mental health research.

Autistica put’s families at the heart of everything they do, and this is the reason why we are embarking upon research into mental health: their top priority. How will you involve families and individuals in your research and promote the findings to the wider autism community?
I think it is extremely important to involve families and individuals with autism in my research as much as possible, as these are the people who will be directly affected by my research. To further involve them in my research and to promote my findings to a wider population I plan to create a website where I can share all of my current research project ideas and findings, as well as collect valuable information from those who would like to have any input throughout my time as a research fellow.

What impact do you think your research will have on people with autism and mental health issues?
I hope that my research will have a very positive impact on individuals with autism and their families, as both are affected by how debilitating mental health issues can be on a daily basis. My research will focus on investigating the cognitive underpinnings of mental health problems in this population and will give us a better understanding of how to adapt or create new effective interventions to prevent and treat these symptoms. I am confident that my research will give us the knowledge to be able to provide support for those who are dealing with mental health issues on top of the behavioural difficulties already present in autism. In the long-term I hope my research will help improve the lives of these individuals and their families.

Can you recommend any previous studies that might be relevant for readers who are interested in autism and /or mental health research?
If you are interested in learning more about autism and/or mental health research I recommend taking a look at the following articles:

General background of autism:

Happé, F., Ronald, A., & Plomin, R. (2006). Time to give up on a single explanation for autism. Nature neuroscience, 9(10), 1218-1220.

Happé, F., & Ronald, A. (2008). The ‘fractionable autism triad’: a review of evidence from behavioural, genetic, cognitive and neural research. Neuropsychology review, 18(4), 287-304.

Mental health in autism:

Simonoff, E., Pickles, A., Charman, T., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., & Baird, G. (2008). Psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders: prevalence, comorbidity, and associated factors in a population-derived sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(8), 921-929.

White, S. W., Oswald, D., Ollendick, T., & Scahill, L. (2009). Anxiety in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Clinical psychology review, 29(3), 216-229.

When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?
When I am not working I like to travel as often as I can and experience new cultures and cuisines from all over the world. I love spending time with my family and friends and going to the cinema, music events and exhibitions. I also swim regularly and am enjoying playing with my newest house member: Koto the cat.

Find out more about our mental health project here.

Autistica casting light cover image






Mental Health Autism Research Autistica Casting Light

E-Newsletter July 2015



We are proud to launch the Autistica mental health and autism research programme. Our research is always guided by the views of people affected with autism and our One in a Hundred report based on the views of over 1000 families and individuals showed us that mental health in autism was their top priority.

Our new Chief Executive Jon Spiers has been meeting with other organisations from across the autism and medical research community to see how we can work together to change the lives of those with autism and their families.

We continue to collect responses to our James Lind Alliance survey on research priorities and launched a call for proposals for researchers to submit projects aimed at diagnosing autism earlier and supporting families better at the point of diagnosis.

Our most recent annual accounts are now online so you can see what we achieved in 2014 and our plans for the remainder of the year.


Casting Light on Mental Health in Autism

We have now launched our mental health research project, an exciting multi-centre programme of studies with The University of Warwick and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London.

Anxiety and depression are ten times more common in those with autism than in the general population and yet no autism specific treatments have been developed for those experiencing these debilitating problems. If you want to help to fund work in this groundbreaking area, to help us to make a difference within four years, please make a donation today.

We held a launch event at the Royal Society of Medicine where we invited the lead researchers and fellows that we will be funding as well as some supporters and representatives from other autism and mental health charities. At the event, we unveiled a new film to showcase the work, hearing directly from families why it is so important.

You can find out more about the project on our website and our brochure, Casting Light on Mental Health gives more detail on the individual projects that we are funding.

You will have also received an email from our supporter, Mike Fitzpatrick, a GP and parent who explains from a personal perspective the importance of donating towards this work. You can view his message again here.

Top 10 Research Priorities: Survey closing soon

We have had great success with the James Lind Alliance Top 10 Research Priority Setting Partnership survey that we launched in May. The initiative aims to identify the top questions that future research should answer, by asking those affected either personally or professionally.

A range of partners are now involved, from autism specific charities to disability organisations, parent support groups and Royal Colleges representing doctors. This has meant that  response figures have been wide reaching and we are hearing from all target groups – clinicians, parents and carers and importantly individuals on the autism spectrum.

The survey will close on Monday 20 July, so if you haven’t already responded with your top questions for autism research, please do so now, or forward on to anyone that you know who may not have taken part.

We will keep you updated on the next stages, when we begin to sort the data and take votes on the final top 10.

Call for proposals on intervention at diagnosis

We have just launched this call and invite any researchers to submit a letter of intent if they feel that this is an area in which they want to work. This call is in partnership with the Autism Research Trust. You can find out more information on the funding pages of our website.






New Research Director to join Autistica

We are pleased to announce that James Cusack join Autistica as our new Research Director in September.

James will be moving from the University of Aberdeen where he has gained broad experience working within the field of autism, holding specific expertise in autism research.

In recent years James has sat on a number of advisory panels discussing the role of research in autism and he was vocal in campaigning for Scotland’s first ever autism strategy. James has also been a member of Autistica’s own Science Review Panel since January 2014.

From a young age James has worked directly with families affected by autism, as well as having experience in clinical, educational and social care settings.

Read more about James’ background and motivations for joining Autistica here.

There will be a period of overlap between James’ appointment and our existing research lead’s departure to ensure that the transition is smooth and existing working relationships can be sustained.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Simon Wallace for his exceptional leadership as Research Director throughout his time at Autistica and wish him all the best in his move overseas.

Fundraising Events

Abseil for Autism

Do you have a head for heights? Autistica’s Abseil for Autism will take place on Friday 25th September 2015 at the ArcelorMittal Orbit, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and we’d love you to join us and our new CEO, who will be braving the drop. The descent distance is just over 260 feet, making it the highest freefall abseil in the UK!

The event will last between 1-2 hours – this includes your arrival at the Orbit, undergoing a safety briefing and taking part in the free fall abseil. This makes it the perfect opportunity to slip away from your desk for an extended lunch break if you work close by or take a Friday afternoon off to do something amazing for autism.

To secure your place, you can sign up super quickly and easily here. For more information, please do get in touch with the Autistica team on 05601 183 601 or email friends@autistica.org.uk

Royal Parks Half Marathon

Join the Autistica team at London’s premier half marathon for our most popular run of the year!

The Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon is an incredible challenge at just over 13 miles, with Hyde Park providing the spectacular backdrop. Thousands of supporters turn out for this beautiful run through St. James’s Park, Green Park and Kensington Gardens and the Autistica cheering team will be there in full force to support and encourage our runners to keep those legs moving for a fantastic cause.

The deadline to sign up is Friday 21st August so if you’re interested, please do get in touch with the team via email friends@autistica.org.uk or call 05601 183 608.

Alternatively, you can sign up straight away on our website. We’d love you to join us for this amazing event to raise much-needed funds for autism research.



Big thanks to our runners who took part in the British 10K last Sunday and fundraised an impressive amount for Autistica. The team had fun cheering them on to the finish.

For other upcoming runs and challenges see our calendar on the website.

Sensory projector sales giving to Autistica

We thank technology company Optikinetics and their unique [Opti] Aura projector for their continued support.

Their multi-effect projector has been designed specifically to give families the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of sensory rooms in their own homes and for every Aura projector sold, Optikinetics continue to donate a minimum of £2 to Autistica. For more information or to place an order please visit the Opti Aura website.

“My children really love the Aura. It is simple to use and is perfect for playtime.” Becky, Mother of two and Autistica supporter.

Trusts & Foundations

We are grateful to have had recent pledges of support from The Swire Charitable Trust (£5,000) and the Sylvia Waddilove Foundation UK (£10,000).

Autistica is the UK’s leading autism research charity. The organisation funds and campaigns for medical research to understand the causes of autism, improve diagnosis, and develop new treatments and interventions, acting as the bridge between people with autism and researchers. Since being founded in 2004, Autistica has raised over £8.5 million in support of autism research. 



Click here to view the original e-news email, and to share or forward to a friend.




James Cusack photo

New Research Director to join Autistica

James Cusack will be joining Autistica, in September, as the new Research Director.

James will be joining the charity from the University of Aberdeen where he has gained broad experience working within the field of autism, holding specific expertise in autism research.

He undertook a PhD at the University of Aberdeen where he studied how people with autism detect the actions of others.  In his post-doctoral studies he led the development of an automated measure of facial imitation which is being used in the study of autism, mood disorders and schizophrenia.

James has sat on a number of advisory panels discussing the role of research in autism, and was vocal in the production of the report A future made together and the publication regarding Educational provision and outcomes for people on the autism spectrum. He was part of a core stakeholder group which successfully campaigned for Scotland’s first ever autism strategy. He has also been a member of Autistica’s own Science Review Panel since January 2014.

From a young age James has also worked directly with families affected by autism, as well as having experience in clinical, educational and social care settings.

He said: “I am delighted to be joining the team at Autistica at such an exciting time for the charity and autism research.  Autistica’s outstanding community-driven research strategy gives us the perfect framework to support world-class research which can improve our understanding of autism and improve the lives of those affected by autism.  I look forward to meeting the scientists, supporters and families affected by autism who are involved with Autistica over the coming months.”

There will be a period of overlap between James’ appointment and our existing Research lead Simon Wallace’s departure to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible and that existing relationships can be continued.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Simon Wallace for his exceptional leadership throughout his time at Autistica and wish him all the best in his move overseas.

Mike and James Mental Health Autism Autistica Research

My son, James

I want to tell you about my son, James. He’s 23, has autism and a severe learning disability. Like many young people with autism, he has experienced particular difficulties in making the transition from the structured environment of school to the unpredictable, perplexing world of ‘the community’. As a result, he has become increasingly anxious, withdrawn and inclined towards episodes of challenging behaviour, including self-injury and aggression.

His story is distressing but all too familiar for so many of us.

We know that 70% of people with autism suffer from mental health conditions. These can have a huge impact on an individual’s ability to sustain a job, social and family relationships and a good quality of life.

Having been a GP for over 30 years I know that it can be difficult to recognise mental health problems in people with autism and that such problems are often missed or mistakenly diagnosed. I also know, both as a parent and as a doctor, that current mental health treatments aren’t always appropriate or effective.

That’s why I was delighted to chair Monday evening’s launch of Autistica’s latest research project focusing on mental health in autism. We hope that, through funding high quality research in this virtually untouched area of science, we can make a real difference to the lives of people with autism and their families in a very short period of time.

Mike and James Autistica Research Mental Health Autism

The Autistica programme involves leading researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience in London and at the University of Warwick. The research aims to investigate the mental health conditions most commonly associated with autism, such as depession and anxiety, and produce practical outcomes and autism specific treatments within four years. You can watch Autistica’s short film ‘Casting light on mental health in autism’ produced for the project and learn more about the specific research projects here.

If people like my son get the right treatment and support, they can thrive and live a more independent and fulfilled life in the community. This is why I believe that research like Autistica’s can make a huge difference to the 700,000 families living with autism in the UK today.

I hope you will join me in supporting this genuinely transformative project. Autistica receives no government funding and relies entirely on the generous support of their donors to carry out this groundbreaking research. By giving £20 a month, you can help researchers work with families like mine across the UK to find new and better ways to live with autism and mental health difficulties. Please click here to make a one-off gift or to set up a regular donation.

Thank you,


Picture of female researcher looking through microscope

Call for proposals – announced today


Autistica is today launching a call for proposals in association with Autism Research Trust for research on interventions around the time of diagnosis.

From our One in a Hundred report we heard from many individuals on the autism spectrum and families that getting a diagnosis was a real challenge but also there was very little in terms of intervention and support delivered to them during that period. Autistica is looking to fill that gap by encouraging research proposals to support families, who have young children (up to 10yrs old) on the autism spectrum, just before, during and/or immediately after diagnosis.

Please visit the call for proposals page on our website for more information and details of how to apply. Budgets can be up to £150,000 over a two or a three year period.

The first stage is to submit a letter of intent (LOI) by Sunday 2nd August 2015. Communication to applicants as to whether they passed the first stage or not will be made by 10th August 2015 and full applications must be received by 27th September 2015. Final funding decisions will be communicated to applicants by mid-February.

Any questions regarding the call for proposals should be directed to Autistica’s Research Director simon.wallace@autistica.org.uk.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Jon Spiers landscape photo

Message from our new CEO

Dear all,

Today, I officially join Autistica as CEO. I am enormously excited and humbled to become part of this dedicated, passionate and dynamic organisation. It’s clear that so much has already been achieved by Autistica and our research partners in pushing forward our scientific understanding of autism and it is just as clear that a vast amount remains to be done.

We know that research is still a far distant second to support services when it comes to charitable and state investment in autism. We know that, despite an NHS uniquely conducive to research and a highly effective science infrastructure, the UK lags far behind the US in overall spend relative to our size. We know that families and individuals with autism still lack the answers they want and deserve, from how we can diagnose autism earlier to which mental health treatments are most effective and appropriate to how we can better support older people with autism.

There is a quote from US President Barack Obama which has stayed with me ever since I first heard it almost a decade ago: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” All of us linked to Autistica – our staff and Trustees, our researchers, our advisers, our donors, our suppliers, our partners, and of course the families and individuals we help – must be the change that we seek in autism.

I know that I have a lot to learn personally: about autism, about Autistica, about leading such a vital organisation. I welcome any advice you may have for me. I also know that we all have a lot to learn as we set out to answer the big questions in autism research, guided of course by the priorities of the autism community in all its forms. I look forward to meeting all of you in due course, understanding your personal views and motivations, sharing my own perspectives and learning from you all.

With very best wishes,

Jon Spiers signature

Jon Spiers, Chief Executive