Big Autism Play Day 2018

Objectives of the day –

  • Introduction to the play style in autism
  • Understanding the patterns of difficulties and differences in autism and using this information to develop learning and play
  • Building solid support strategies for learners with autism to develop interaction, communication and engagement
  • Using play strategies to support the development of communication, social & cognitive skills
  • Identifying barriers to play – and successful strategies to overcome these
  • Creating irresistible sensory toys ‘on a shoestring’
  • Creating appropriate sensory spaces for children with autism


9.00am Coffee & registration

9.30am Introductions to the day & presenters.

A playful start to the day with Richard Hirstwood

9.45am -10.00am  Playing Different – Learning Different – Thinking Different!
Session led by Chris Barson. Our young folk on the spectrum can be pretty complex sometimes! Chris will start the day with a gentle paddle in the wonderful waters of autism theory to give us a feel for what makes kids with autism tick.

10am – 11am Speaker to be confirmed.


11.20am – 12.00am Now That’s My Kind of Play!

Session led by Chris Barson.   What do we do about special interests and youngsters on the autism spectrum? Some youngsters get really interested in one thing. Some youngsters get really interested in lots of things. Some interests can last for decades. Some come and go but are always THE most important thing in the world at that time! In the world of autism we call these ‘special interests’. What do we do about special interests and kids on the autism spectrum?’

12pm – 1pm  Student Voice:  Capturing, sharing and celebrating communication.

Session led by Carol Allen.  Autism is usually identified with communication difficulties.  Communication is at the heart of all relationships and all teaching and learning and therefore encouraging, developing and celebrating student voice is a vital element of any educational approach.  This session will look at the range of routes we can use when working with our students.  We will look at early, non-verbal communication and consider how to connect and ‘read’ what our students are sharing with us.  Continuing on we will look at creative ways to facilitate communication including using puppets, games, video, apps and low and high tech AAC.  The session will move towards an evaluation of social media and the evolution of the on-line world as a vehicle for international and authentic student voice.

1pm – 2pm LUNCH

2pm – 3pm ‘It’s a Material World! – having fun and making great play resources for kids with autism.’
Session led by Judy Denzilo. Ever wondered how to make irresistible play resources that kids with autism will just have to engage with? Judy has been amazing youngsters on the spectrum for years. She literally has hundreds of ideas she can’t wait to show you. Be warned – this session will spark your imagination!

3pm – 3.45pm Creating Sensory Spaces for Pupils with Autism
Session led by Richard Hirstwood. It doesn’t matter how big the sensory space is – it’s how big the sensory is in the space! Richard will share his ideas for harnessing the power of colour and light with hard to reach and hard to teach young folk on the spectrum. Hey! Children with ASC have this incredible visual learning style so let’s go light it up!

Our presenters include:

  • Richard Hirstwood with over 25 years of sensory experience 1.3 million views over 1800 subscibers on YouTube in addition to 40 Vimeo channels developed for schools make him one of the most watched people in special education today. Most of Richards work is now ‘hands on’ and in 2017 he will be working worldwide as well as the U.K. He has a understanding of sensory play developed through hands on experience not reading.
  • Chris Barson After studying drama at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff he started out as a drama tutor with Arts for Disabled People in Wales.  After working with the NAS Regional Development Team, Chris went to work at the Royal College of General Practitioners. Chris rejoined NAS in 2004. Chris has contributed to the design and delivery of courses provided by Canterbury Christ Church University, and University of Cumbria. Chris is a contributing author to ‘The Autism Spectrum in the 21st Century:Exploring Psychology, Biology and Practice’ Jessica Kingsley Press 2010 (Highly Commended 2011 BMA Medical Book Awards) He founded Positive About Autism in January 2009 he is one of the most inspirational people to hear .
  • Judy Denzilo For over forty years Judy hase been working in the field of play and leisure for disabled people of all ages. Judy was one of the inovators of the first toy libraries and she is a highly experienced specialist in developing sensory play opportunities for children and adults – bringing a treasure trove of fabulous resources to explore
  • Carol Allen is an Independent Education Consultant.  Recognising that communication lies at the heart of all effective teaching, the majority of her work has centred on creative and engaging use of technology to support communication in its widest sense.
 Why the ‘Big Autism Play Day’?

Evidence seems to suggest that parents get an inkling that their child is on a different. and sometimes unusual, ‘development trajectory’ early on.

It might just be “the way they look at things” or the length of time they spend looking at things. It might be what they spend time looking at. It’s often stuff that other kids don’t seem too interested in. It might also be to do with what they avoid looking at. Like us for instance!

One thing is for sure – young folk with autism have a whole different bunch of systems for finding out about and exploring their world. So it’s vital for parents and practitioners to be able to tune in to the learning strengths and preferences of young people on the spectrum. This might be incorporating special interests to motivate and make learning ‘irresistible’ or bringing  more visual and sensory elements to play. Or more repetition.

How do we get play going with a child who seems to want to be alone? How do we help them to become more regulated, interested and engaged with us? How can we play in a way that will support children’s development and be fun for everyone?

When and where?
16 March 2018 – NCVO, All Saints St, London N1 9RL.
Who should come to this? 

The Big Autism Play Day focuses on supporting pupils aged roughly 2 to 19 years (all abilities) and will be helpful for: Parents, Foster Carers,Teachers, Learning Support Assistants, Early Years Practitioners / Nursery Nurses, Play Workers, Respite / Short Breaks Providers, Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists and other autism professionals.

Course notes?

All pertinent presentations & documents from the day will be available on our website, for you to continue your learning journey long after the training has finished.

Times & housekeeping: 

The day begins from 9am for coffee and registration, with the presentations starting at 9.30am. We will finish around 4pm. All refreshments & lunch will be provided.

Previous delegates have said:

‘Great team – excellent presentations’ Helen Nicolson, Bexley
‘I enjoyed the pre-course portal – it set the scene well’ Mary Pope, Palatine School
‘This is the best course I’ve ever been on – loved it!’ Steph Knight, Addington School
‘Good balance – loved the practical examples’ Kate Nixon, NAS
‘An inspirational, applicable & energising day’ Esther Knott, Salvation Army
‘More time for play and discussion’ Emma Bennett, Willowdene School
‘Speakers to have longer!’ – Sophie Alldis, Woodlands School
‘Make the course over two days – I’d have loved a second day!’ Hayley Reader, Waverley School


Early Bird Tickets – £245 plus VAT per place BEFORE 17 February 2018, including refreshments & lunch.

Standard Tickets – £265 plus VAT per place AFTER 17 February 2018, including refreshments & lunch.