Now, here is an interesting event taking place this weekend.

I first met Caitlin at the Nordoff Robbins Scotland 20th birthday party last year. The wonderful Clare Grogan was leading the celebrations at the party when Caitlin decided to join in. There, in that moment, was another reminder of how music transforms lives.

Cailtin is 7 and attends regular Music Therapy sessions in Glasgow and she has now inspired a new event, taking place in Glasgow at the O2 ABC next week. This news item explains it all…


Scotland’s music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins Scotland, is holding a gig on Saturday 19 August, 12 noon-2pm at the O2 ABC Glasgow.  Called Caitlin’s Gig, after one of the charity’s young clients, the concert features Foreign Fox, The Humors and DJ, First Wedding Dance.

The gig was inspired by Caitlin McFadden and her mum, Pauline, who both love attending live music events. Caitlin, aged 7, is in a wheelchair and has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, periventricular leukomalacia and has a visual impairment. She used to be sensitive to sound. Music therapy has helped her get used to different sounds and volumes and now she loves live music events as her Pauline explains:

“Music Therapy has reduced Caitlin’s anxiety about noise and sound and increased her confidence. It has helped with her social integration as I made the decision to take her to her first music festival last summer and she loved it. I strongly believe what helped her settle with live music was her time spent at Music Therapy and how it can’t quite be controlled the way the music can on the radio. This was something I had wished for and never thought we could achieve so soon, spending a weekend at a music festival was good for our relationship too. Life wasn’t just about appointments. That weekend it was about having fun.”

Pauline carried out a survey with over 20 families to find out whether attending live music was something they would like to do as a family. The main issues were not being able to be together as a whole family within the audience as wheelchairs are usually in a separate area, needing plenty of space to move about and suitable changing areas.

Pauline explains:

“This is about inclusion. We are giving young people the chance to experience a live music event with all the challenges that it may present: being in a public space, sensory overload, being in a crowd. I want my daughter to be able to go to gigs with her mates when she is older like any other teenager and this kind of event will help prepare her.”

Thanks to the support of the O2 ABC, the bands, funder John Watson’s Trust and sponsor, SSE, the costs of the gig have been kept to a minimum. Book Tickets Here!

“The aim is to remove barriers and make live music easier for disabled young people to attend with their families so they can all experience the shared energy and buzz of being part of an audience. We have made some adjustments with the help of the venue and the bands to ensure that it is a totally inclusive event.

We will be evaluating its effectiveness with an independent education assessor and autism consultant, Jim Taylor. It is open to anyone with or without disability,” explained Carolyne Nurse, Fundraising Director at Nordoff Robbins Scotland.  “Our head music therapist will be available at the event to talk to families who are interested in finding out more about Nordoff Robbins music therapy.”



This event will be different from others in that our intention is to provide learning experiences where young people and their families will develop new skills; skills that will enable them to attend other events, not just those that may be described as ‘autism friendly/disabled friendly’ and so on. This is exciting.

There are still some tickets left. Come and join us, bring your bairns, come up and say hello.

Thanks Caitlin.

Another Autism Awareness Week is upon us. Over the last month or so, I have asked 100 people (an exaggeration…) what it is that we should be aware of, what is the message? It’s not an exaggeration to note that the answers have been varied and inconsistent. I’ll look forward to the debate, the discussion, the conversations but maybe this will be the year that we will move things forward?

It will be a busy week and I will be speaking at the following events. If any of you are attending the following events, come and say hello, teach me stuff, tell me what you think;

Saturday 25th
Let’s Get it Right for Autism Event, Livingston
For more information look here:

Monday 27th
The Richmond Fellowship, Glasgow – Launch of their Autism Strategy document
For more information look here:

Tuesday 28th
St Mary’s Primary School, Polbeth, Bathgate – Parents Event
For more information look here: St Mary’s ASD Parent Group

(p.m.) Hamilton Accies Community Trust event
For more information and to register click here: Eventbrite

Wednesday 29th 
Autism Network Event, Dumfries and Galloway

Thursday 30th 
Glasgow City Council – Event organised by the Inclusion Team

So much good stuff going on, so many good people doing it. And where there isn’t?

Well, there really is no excuse…

‘I never want you to have to ask the awkward whys 

I always want you to have somebody by your side’. 

Robyn Steward, from her song ‘Panic Attacks’.

Robyn is, in her words, a person on the Autism Spectrum. She is also an Autism Trainer, Conference Speaker, Author, Musician and wearer of the coolest hat. I have shared a conference platform with her on three occasions this year and been blown away by her insight and wisdom. She is the author of a wonderful book called ‘The Independent Woman’s Handbook to Super Safe Living on the Autistic Spectrum’. It is a valuable and important book and I have found myself recommending parts of it to people with Autism, both female and male, to schools and to parents. It deserves to be read widely and I only worry that the title may limit its reach? It shouldn’t.

Robyn Steward writes about Women and Autism


I knew that Robyn was a talented musician and think back with joy of the day in Manchester when she took me on a search for a plastic trumpet! I didn’t know that she wrote and performed her own songs, however.


Robyn Steward playing her guitar at an Autism Conference.


Robyn performed her song, ‘Panic Attack’, at a recent conference.

‘What’s this thing that’s happening to you? 

The same thing happened to me’. 

Robyn’s story is thought-provoking and there is much we can learn from her. She probably won’t thank me for saying this but she is a teacher. The audience leave her presentations having learned something, something that can change or improve thinking.

She will be speaking at the Medica conference in Glasgow. This will be the fourth time I will have heard her in 2016. And I am looking forward to it.


And she promises to bring me a cd recording of the song.

‘I never want you to have panic attacks in the middle of the night’ 

Thanks Robyn

You’ll find Robyn’s website here.

“You have to provide an irresistible invitation to share attention and communication…!”.

 And then she held the Conference spellbound for an hour.


Gina Davies. Where? At the Medica Conference of a few years ago in Glasgow. Conference delegates (and the Chair) were then left enthralled by a powerful and practical presentation from Gina, at yet another excellent Conference. With the help of a singing monkey (don’t ask…), Gina’s presentation was a highlight in what turned out to be a wonderful conference. She described how shared attention was taught in her Centre; how those ‘irresistible invitations’ were made and how communication was made ‘worth the effort’ for young people with Autism. It had a big impact on me then and I have since quoted her on numerous occasions. See

And now Gina is returning in November at the Medica cpd November conference on Autism and also presenting a half day workshop! Read about that here.

This is not to be missed. These are the Conferences that make a difference.

Oliver Sacks, Neurologist and writer, has died. Author of ‘The Man Who Mistook his Wife for A Hat’ and ‘An Anthropologist on Mars’, he was described by one rival as “a much better writer than a clinician”. In my view, his writings encouraged us to look anew at common challenges and issues. For a while, books such as ‘An Anthropologist on Mars’, provided a language and a way of thinking that allowed us to perceive, describe and understand things in a different way. That particular book also introduced many to Temple Grandin, another who has helped to challenge our thinking. Coincidentally, I was reminded again of how some books changed our thinking when speaking at a conference in Glasgow last month. Jayne Porter from the Autism Network Scotland shared her enthusiasm for the literature of Autism by quoting from Claire Sainsbury’s ‘A Martian in the Playground’. These book titles alone and the thinking behind them formed the basis of many interesting discussions in schools at the time.

Oliver Sacks’ obituary by Mark Smith in the Glasgow Herald told of how he received the Lewis Thomas Prize from Rockefeller University. The citation declared, ‘Sacks presses us to follow him into uncharted regions of human experience – and compels us to realise, once there, that we are confronting only ourselves.’

I am reminded again of Clarence Baker, from the great reggae band, Misty in Roots,

‘When we tread this land, we walk for one reason. The reason is to help another man to think for himself’.

Oliver Sacks did that. I’ll maybe go back to the book.

Buy his books here.

Jim Taylor is presented with his award

NAS Lifetime Achievement Press Release

It has taken me some weeks to come to terms with receiving this honour. To be nominated alongside colleagues with the capabilities and standing of Dr Jacqui Ashton Smith and Dr Luke Beardon, both of whom have inspired and motivated me for many a year, was a great honour in itself. But to be given the Award on the night both surprised and delighted me. I am so grateful to colleagues who nominated me,  the judges who made the final decision and to the National Austistic Society for this fantastic accolade. The evening in the Royal Hall in Harrogate was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences in all my time working in the field of Autism.

Continue reading

“I was delighted and deeply honoured to receive news that I had been nominated for a Lifetime Achievement Award at the NAS Annual Awards ceremony in Harrogate in March. My thanks are due to those colleagues who nominated me and to the NAS Awards committee who have placed the nomination in the final three. For me, to be nominated alongside two good friends and colleagues like Jacqui Ashton Smith and Luke Beardon, is an honour in itself. Jacqui has been an inspiration and support for many years and I have really enjoyed working alongside Luke at national conferences in the last few years.

But a ‘Lifetime’? I’ve only just got here.”

Read all the other nominations for the Autism Professional Awards 2015.

The lifetime achievement nominations by the national autistic society

Read the press release about Jim’s nomination from the NAS here.

The Book Loft in Columbus, Ohio, is a huge, sprawling shop in an old house with many rooms and many treasures to be found. Too engrossed in the shelves to know what was happening around me, I’d taken one step back and stood on an old woman. She just smiled and said, You die when you have read all the books! We both agreed to keep reading the books.

Continue reading