Cure vs acceptance of autism

Dr Virginia Bovell, Prof Jonathan Green, Ros Blackburn, Martijn Dekker, Dr Damian Milton

Dr Virginia Bovell
Virginia Bovell is the mother of Danny, 22, who was diagnosed with autism and severe learning disabilities at 3 years old. She was one of the founding parents of TreeHouse school and its UK umbrella charity, Ambitious about Autism, for whom she is a Vice President, and a former trustee of the National Autistic Society. She was active in UK campaigning and policy work in relation to autism and special educational needs for several years, contributing to a range of national guidance documents regarding early intervention, education and the ‘management’ of autism in children and young people. She completed her doctorate in ethics and autism in 2015 and is now an honorary Research Associate at Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE), University College London Institute of Education.

Professor Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green trained in Paediatrics in London and Psychiatry in Oxford and Manchester, UK. He has a long standing clinical and research interests in autism and other aspects of social development in children. He has led a number of clinical trials in autism including the MRC Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT), which is one of the largest psychosocial intervention trials to date, and its 5 year follow up into middle childhood; the i-BASIS infancy prodromal intervention trial, which is the first truly prodromal RCT in ASD, and the PASS implementation in South Asia, which is the first systematic adaptation and testing of an evidenced intervention for autism spectrum disorder into a LMIC context. He is part of a MRC methodology research group developing better methods of process and causal analysis in trials and works on studies of therapeutic alliance and mediation processes. Clinically, he runs a regional specialist Social Development Clinic at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, which undertakes assessment and treatment innovation with ASD and other impairments of social development in children.

Ros Blackburn
Ros is a 47-year old autistic who has overcome many of the problems associated with her condition, but still feels that ASD is a huge disability and disadvantage that she would much rather be without.

Martijn Dekker
Martijn (rhymes with 'design') Dekker is a 42 year old autistic father of three who divides his life between the Netherlands and the UK. Diagnosed with "299.00 Autistic Disorder" (DSM-IV) in 1995 at the age of 21 after two decades of being different without knowing why, he ran an international support network for autistic people called InLv which was cited in "Neurotribes" by Stephen Silberman (2016) as "another nutrient-rich tide pool that accelerated the evolution of Autistic culture". In the 1990s and 2000s he was a regular on the autism conference speaking circuit. Between 2006 and 2015 he served on the board and organising committee of Autscape, the UK conference run for and by autistic people, in various capacities, including chair, programme coordinator and technical manager. Two decades of experience working with, living with and loving fellow autistic people have given him a view on the theme of "Cure vs Acceptance" that is both passionate and nuanced.

Dr Damian Milton
Damian has completed his doctorate at the University of Birmingham. He is a member of the programme board for the Autism Education Trust, and a member of the scientific and advisory committee for Research Autism. Damian works for the National Autistic Society as Head of Autism Knowledge and Expertise (Adults and Community) and as a researcher for London South Bank University. Damian’s interest in autism began when his son was diagnosed in 2005 as autistic at the age of two. Damian was also diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2009 at the age of thirty-six.


This panel discussion will debate the ethical issues that often divide the autism community regarding: (1) seeking to prevent and/or cure autism autism vs (2) welcoming autism as a natural expression of human diversity. [ view full abstract ]


PL-6 » Panel Discussion (16:30 - Friday, 16th September, Pentland Auditorium)