What we do day-to-day is managed by our Chief Executive, supported by a strategic management group of eight directors. The directors are accountable to the Chief Executive and Board of Trustees. In addition, there is an elected National Forum which supports and advises the Board and champions the work of the charity.

We also benefit from a Royal Patron (HRH The Countess of Wessex), a President (Jane Asher) and a number of Vice Presidents. These are people who have served and continue to serve the charity voluntarily in a range of important ways. 

We also have around 110 volunteer-led branches around the UK.

Our Chief Executive and Strategic Management Group  

Mark Lever – Chief Executive

Mark Lever

Mark joined us as CEO in March 2008. He chaired the Government's External Reference Group for development of the national strategy for adults with autism and sits on the Department of Health's Autism Programme Board and Social Care Reference Group.

Q and A with Mark

Why is autism an important cause to you, personally or professionally? 

I have always been struck by the lack of fairness in 'the system' for autistic people and their families. Addressing lack of fairness is a major driver for me personally.

What’s the best thing about working for an autism charity? 

There is never one right answer to a problem or challenge. You have to listen to a wide range of views and try to come up with an approach that will benefit the majority.

Have you ever taken part in a fundraising event, and if so, which one? What was it like? 

I take part in the annual cycling challenge, typically riding 300 miles over three days. I've done this every year for the last eight years and raised over £40,000. Every time I say I am getting too old, but still come back for more. The willingness of people to support the charity and learn more about the cause never ceases to amaze me.

If you could change one thing about the UK to make it a better place for autistic people, what would that be? 

I'd get everyone to watch our TMI film and challenge them to reduce one source of sensory overload that might exist in their school or workplace.

Hannah Barnett – Director of Adult Services

Hannah Barnett

Q and A with Hannah

What’s the most interesting part of your job? 

The best thing about my job is visiting the adult services across the UK and seeing the amazing work that staff do every day to support people to live as independently as possible. The dedication, enthusiasm and energy of the staff I meet is fantastic. We have a team of people who are all working hard to make a small difference to the people we support.

What’s the best thing about working for an autism charity? 

I have been working for The National Autistic Society for 22 years, and every day I can learn something new about autism and how it impacts on the individual, their family and society. Fortunately, I am in a position where I can share the knowledge with others and hopefully make life a little easier.

If you could change one thing about the UK to make it a better place for autistic people, what would that be? 

If I could change something it would be to make society more tolerant of differences, regardless of what they are. A little understanding goes a long way to support someone who maybe having a bad day!

 

Alastair Graham – Director of Fundraising and Commercial Development

Alastair has overall responsibility for the charity's voluntary income generation and for marketing the charity to all sorts of different stakeholders. His remit includes membership and branches, training and consultancy marketing, brand, publications and new media, data services and supporter care.

Jane Harris – Director of External Affairs and Social Change

Jane and her team lead our charity's work to help society as a whole understand autism. The team makes sure national and local government policy reflects a better understanding of autism as well as helping the public to understand how they can interact better with autistic children and adults. This includes supporting over 100 local NAS branches to engage with politicians and the public, recruiting volunteers more generally and working with the media to create more understanding of autism and our charity's work.

Paul Harper – Director of Governance

Paul is responsible for the charity’s governance arrangements, data protection and information security, procurement and pensions. Paul also leads on a number of key projects focused on improving the future sustainability of the charity.

Q and A with Paul

Why is autism an important cause to you, personally or professionally?

I am personally committed to a world where everyone is given the opportunity to live the richest life they can, and this is very important for people on the autism spectrum.

What's your favourite example of how the charity has changed the life/lives or a particular person or group?

Seeing the improvements our schools and adult services make to people, so that they can lead meaningful lives integrated in mainstream society.

What’s the most interesting part of your job?

Its not a 'sexy' role, but providing the infrastructure for our charity to operate within. Without these foundations, we would not operate.  

What’s the best thing about working for an autism charity? 

Seeing the impact we make for the lives of autistic people, and also working with people on the autism spectrum.

Have you ever taken part in a fundraising event, and if so, which one? What was it like?

Yes, being the chef at the annual head office BBQ, feeding the hoard of workers, was great fun. Also, collecting donations at Euston station, and having the chance to stop people to engage them in discussions about autism.

If you could change one thing about the UK to make it a better place for autistic people, what would that be?

Giving all children on the autism spectrum the chance to thrive in school.

 

Dr Jacqui Ashton Smith – Executive Director of Education

Jacqui Ashton Smith 

Jacqui is responsible for the range of education provided by the NAS and NASAT which includes six all age Independent Residential Schools and two free schools. She is responsible for the development of the NAS/NASAT education portfolio to increase the range and reach of specialist education provision. Jacqui is a qualified teacher with postgraduate qualifications in education, special needs and autism. She has a Doctorate in Education and an MBA (Masters of Business Administration), is a trainer for The National Autistic Society, presents at national and international conferences, is a member of the Accreditation Standards Body and a member of the AET Expert Reference Group.

Carol Povey – Director of the Centre for Autism

Carol is the Director of the Centre for Autism which aims to build capacity in the autism sector, to help innovate and develop good practice and provide a hub for greater collaboration, both UK wide and internationally.

Jenny Paterson – Director for Scotland

Jenny Paterson, Director for Scotland 

Jenny leads our work in Scotland and has ambitious plans to grow the charity so that we can offer high-quality support to even more people who are on the autism spectrum. She has a post-graduate diploma in autism and sits on the Governance Group for the Scottish Strategy for Autism. Jenny’s vision is for Scotland to become an autism-friendly nation and she is working with the autistic community, the private sector, and other third sector organisations to influence policy makers and make this happen.

Wande Showunmi – Director of Human Resources

Wande and her team are responsible for developing and delivering the charity's people agenda which means helping to sort out both the big and small things that relate to human resources, learning and development and employee wellbeing.

The National Forum

The National Forum represents the views of our members and is tasked by the Board of Trustees to undertake programmes of work to review and to provide feedback to the Board on a range of specific initiatives and projects that are designed to help deliver the charity's strategy. The Forum is also a source of candidates for the Board of Trustees, enabling members to gain first hand experience of the Board’s work before they apply to become a Trustee.

We have some 20,000 members, all of whom are entitled to vote at the Annual General Meeting of members. The membership elects the National Forum on an annual basis to represent their views.

The National Forum comprises of a maximum of 45 members, 5 of whom will be appointed by the Board with the remaining 40 elected on a regional basis by NAS members resident within the relevant regions. National Forum members are elected for four years and may stand for re-election, serving a maximum of 8 years.

2017 National Forum elections

The 2017 elections for new members of the National Forum have now been completed and the winners, who take up their seats immediately, were:

Southern England Region (one vacancy)

Helen Bell

North and Central England Region (five vacancies)

Deborah Bhatti
Debbie Hobbs
Melanie Hordley
Thomas Madar
Philip Morris

There were two spoilt papers.

Members of the National Forum

Mike Stanton (National Forum Chair) 
Simon Abrams

Christopher Barber

Helen Bell
Deborah Bhatti
Judy Berkowicz
Clare Beswick
Vanessa Bobb 
Kabie Brook
Dr Sophie Castell
Felicity Chadwick-Histed
Monica Devlin
Diana Elliott
Francis Harvey
Caroline Hearst
Phil Heslop
Debbie Hobbs
Melanie Hordley
PJ Hughes
John Imlach
Karen Jones
Arran Linton-Smith
Jackie Luland
Steven McGuinness
Kelly McLeod-Andrews
Thomas Madar
Jo Minchin
Glyn Morris
Philip Morris
Ben Nicholas
Alison Pope
Stewart Rapley
Pamela Reitemeir
Anna Roads
Sara Truman

Adrian Dean Whyatt

There are two members who prefer their names not to be disclosed on a public website.

Our Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees are legal trustees of our charity. They are appointed through a Board Nominations Panel which is tasked with the recruitment of trustees to meet the needs of the Board in terms of relevant skills, experience and aptitude. All appointments are confirmed first by the Board itself and then ratified by a vote of members at the Annual General Meeting. Trustees are appointed for a term of four years, after which they may be re-appointed for one further term.

The trustees elect a Chair, who acts as the chairperson of the charity. Our Chair of Trustees is Carol Homden. 

Read the latest Trustees' annual report and accounts.

Our trustees

Judy Berkowicz
Clare Beswick
Dr. Sophie Castell
Felicity Chadwick-Histed
Stephen Davies
Amanda Forshaw
David Harbott
Dr. Carol Homden CBE (Chair)
Professor Sylvia Johnson
Elisa Menardo
Kris Murali
Stewart Rapley
Pamela Reitemeier
David Reeves
Mike Stanton

Trustee biographies

Judy Berkowicz

I am an older female on the spectrum and they are very much under-represented on the charity's board. I also have a son who is on the spectrum. As more research is being carried out there is more evidence to show that women on the spectrum do not present the same way as men and this needs to be addressed so that females also feel that their needs are being met. I am in my sixties and am interested in the autism and ageing studies which are now underway and feel I could offer input to the charity in that field. I have a lot of experience with adults with autism of all ages, both male and female, as I run a forum for adults on the autism spectrum. Through the site I know the concerns that worry people such as unemployment and benefit changes. The site also holds several meet-ups during the year giving me and others on the spectrum a chance to get to meet other Aspies and talk through the difficulties we all face, but also having a chance to feel comfortable while out in a group and improving our socialising skills. As I am retired and live in London attending meetings during the day will not be a problem and also means I will have the time to spend on committee work.

Clare Beswick

I have a wonderful brother with autism who has taught me so much about life, and other extended family members on the spectrum. I worked with families with very young children with autism for many years, leading and developing early years services. I have a postgrad qualification in autism and regularly attend conferences and workshops to keep my knowledge up to date. I have written and edited books for early years practitioners on autism and special needs. I was a trainer for Parentline Plus and worked with Daycare Trust. I have been a Trustee of Wirral Autistic Society since 2006 and also serve on the Quality of Care committee. An NAS national councillor since 2012. I was involved in the charity's autism and aging project. I am involved with Blue Smile, a Cambridge based charity providing arts based therapy and mentoring in schools to improve the mental health of pupils age 3 to 13. I act as an advocate for my brother with autism and consider this a privilege.

Dr. Sophie Castell

I am mum to Nicholas, my wonderful son who inspires me every day. After he was diagnosed, my family benefited enormously from the advice provided by the NAS and I co-founded the NAS Enfield branch in 2005 to improve the support for people with autism and their families locally. Subsequently, I became a councillor of The National Autistic Society in 2007 and was elected to the Board of Trustees in 2010, where I serve on the Plans and Resources Committee and the Brand and Commercial Development Committee. My professional background includes over 20 years in strategic planning, marketing and branding, working for major international companies (including Coca-Cola and Unilever) and later running my own marketing consultancy practice. I started my career as a research scientist, gaining a PhD in biochemistry. I recently re-joined Coca-Cola as Global Category Director for their water business and am also currently a governor of Durants School, the autism-specific secondary school in Enfield.

Felicity Chadwick-Histed

Our older son, who has autism and moderate learning difficulties, attends Sybil Elgar School where he has thrived and developed beyond our hopes. I was elected Councillor in 2013 and I’ve been a member for over ten years of the Richmond-upon-Thames group, where we live. With 14 years charity trustee experience, I am Trustee of NUS’ Charitable Services and Chair of Camphill Village Trust. I helped found a local charity for children with autism and I served for five years as Parent Governor/Vice-Chair of Governors for Marjory Kinnon SEN School in Hounslow. I was Director of Fundraising for three UK charities, and am now consulting for voluntary sector, private and public sectors in corporate governance, funding, change and risk management, corporate planning and communications. I am co-founder and director of two internet-based businesses and one management consultancy.

Stephen Davies

I joined the charity as a Trustee in 2013 and I am also a member of the Brand and Commercial Development Committee. I currently work for BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, in a role that covers a range of responsibilities in music, book publishing and education. Having a son with autism, I appreciate the huge effort that goes into communicating, supporting and fighting for those with the condition. I live in London.

I am delighted to have recently joined the charity as a trustee, attending my first Board and Forum meetings in March 2017, and will also be serving on the Services Quality and Development Committee.

Amanda Forshaw

I am the Mum of two sons, the eldest of whom has Asperger Syndrome and learning disabilities, and as a parent feel I have an insight into what a child, and now an adult, on the autistic spectrum faces every day, and the impact of this upon his or her whole family. I am very proud of him, and every day we as a family learn more about how he experiences the world and how we can best support him. 

Professionally, I am a qualified social worker, with a long and varied career working in both local authorities and in charities. I am currently the Chief Executive of Caritas Care, a medium sized charity based in Preston Lancashire, which provides a range of regulated care services for both adults and children, and a number of community projects. I care passionately about creating opportunities and innovative responses to meet the needs of children families and adults, and am also a Trustee of Children England and CVAA (Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies). I live in Southport, a seaside town in the North West of England.

David Harbott

I do not have autism in my own family, but a nephew received a diagnosis whilst at primary school. I was appointed to the charity's Board in 2013 as a non-councillor trustee and serve on the audit and risk committee. A qualified accountant, I have spent the majority of my career as a Finance Director in the telecommunications and IT sectors. I was a non-executive director and chaired the Audit Committee for my local NHS Trust, I was a trustee and honorary treasurer of a London based drug treatment charity for ten years, and I mentor young people as part of the Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme. I live in North London.

Dr. Carol Homden CBE (Chair)

My older adult son has a diagnosis of ASD and MLD and after many difficulties is now suitably placed in a National Autistic Society residential care home in East Anglia. Professionally, I started my career by setting up print media enterprises in East Anglia before moving to London as a freelance arts journalist and editor. I then became Director of Marketing and Development at the University of Westminster, later moving to the British Museum in 1999 as its first Director of Marketing and Public Affairs. In 2003 I joined the Prince's Trust as Commercial Director before becoming in 2007 Chief Executive of Coram, the oldest Children's charity in the UK. When selected to chair the Board of Trustees in 2011, I relinquished (after five years) being Chair of the Avenues Trust, a provider of residential community and domiciliary services for adults with learning disability. We live in north London.

Professor Sylvia Johnson

I am a recently retired academic having previously worked at Sheffield Hallam University and in secondary schools. I am also mother to an adult with Asperger syndrome who shares my love of mathematics and has a fantastic sense of humour. I became an NAS Trustee in 2013 and have been invited to join the Board of the NAS Academies Trust and the Service Quality and Development Committee of the charity's Board. At Sheffield Hallam University I facilitated the development of the Autism Centre, helping to secure funding at various stages for specific projects and supporting staff appointed from practitioner backgrounds to develop their research. I live in Sheffield and as well as supporting other organisations, I am also a member of the Board of Autism Plus and help run a snooker club for adults with Asperger syndrome there.

Elisa Menardo

I joined the NAS Board in September 2016 as a non-councillor trustee and I am also a member of the Brand and Commercial Development Committee. I have a long-standing intellectual interest in neurodiversity and hope that by serving on the board I might help to bring about a situation where autistic individuals, whatever their cognitive ability, and their families and friends are valued and appropriately supported to live the lives they want to live.
 
Professionally, I work in public affairs and policy for an investment bank and focus on financial services regulation. Previously I advised on financial services regulatory matters and ran the regulatory change advisory function in a number of investment banks. Before that I worked in the General Counsel’s Division of the UK Financial Services Authority, the European Commission and Herbert Smith Freehills, where I qualified as a solicitor. I currently chair a a specialised policy committee in a European financial services trade association and in the past I also served  as a trustee, board member and chair of a voluntary charitable organisation (the alumni association of my university) in the UK and Italy.
 
I am Italian, fluent in English, French and German and also have reasonable Spanish. I hold a MSc (Laurea) in Economics and management of public and international organisations from Università Bocconi (Milan), as well as professional qualifications in law from the College of Law (Guildford).

Kris Murali

I do not have autism in my family but joined the NAS board as a non-councillor trustee in 2010 and currently chair the Audit and Risk Committee as well as serving on the Governance Committee.  Professionally, I am currently the Group Director - Finance and Resources of SENSE (the National Deafblind and Rubella Association) and also a board member at Inquilab Housing Association (which operates 1,100 properties meeting the needs of diverse communities). I am also a member of the business advisory panel of the Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality, a member of the Audit Committee of the Chartered Management Institute, and Trustee and Chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee of Greensleeves Homes Trust, a charity that operates 16 residential care homes across the UK. I live in Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire.

Stewart Rapley

I live in Manchester with my wife, Bronwen. I have two adult children - both of whom have now left home.  In my work; I am an independent Project Manager working on contracts with large organisations who are going through major programmes of change. 

My link with all things autistic started after my youngest son (then 13) was diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger’s following some difficulties at school. I was subsequently also diagnosed. My search for support information led me to the NAS. Given my background in helping organisations it was suggested I seek election to the Council - where I have served for about three years. I was elected as a Trustee from the Council in 2015 and hope to use my experience in helping large organisations in change to support the NAS as it goes through the next challenging years.

David Reeves

I am a technology and marketing specialist with almost 40 years’ experience in the UK and internationally. My experience includes 15 years in senior management positions with Sony following a series of successful roles in the marketing sector. I was President and CEO of Sony PlayStation in London for six years, overseeing a turnover of over £3 billion. I currently run my own company, David Reeves Consulting and am also a Trustee for Autistica (UK), Sense (UK) and St John Ambulance as well as Senior Independent Director of Keywords International, PLC, RED Entertainment (Dubai), Consultant at the Quantic Group and an accredited Growth Accelerator Coach for UK companies. I am fluent in German, Japanese and French and hold an MBA in Marketing as well as a BSc in Chemical Sciences and PhD in Chemical Physics and Astrophysics.

Pamela Reitemeier

I have three children, one of whom has autism and is currently on transition to adulthood. Professionally, I work for a voluntary organisation in Hertfordshire - ADD-Vance - which offers training and support to professionals and parent carers on autism and ADHD. I am also networked with a number of autism-related parent carer organisations locally, including harc, our NAS Branch. Prior to this, I worked for UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) for over a decade in Africa, Asia and the UK in information/external relations/communications. I joined the NAS Council in 2004, acting as Senior Councillor from 2006 – 2012 when I sought election as a trustee (the Senior Councillor is constitutionally precluded from being a trustee). As a Trustee, I serve on the Services, Quality and Development Committee. I live in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

Mike Stanton

My son, now in his thirties, has a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. I am a founder member of the Furness branch of the NAS. I also support a local group run by autistic adults, Autism Unite and am a member of the Cumbria Autism Partnership Board. I have joined the NAS Board after serving for 13 years on the NAS Council, latterly as Senior Councillor, and now chair the new National Forum which replaces Council in line with the decision at the 2015 AGM. As well as my experience as a family member I also have a professional connection to autism. I have just retired after a career as a teacher in special education and I write and lecture on autism.

Our Royal Patron

Our royal patron is Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex.

HRH The Countess of Wessex has been our charity's royal patron since August 2003. The Countess took over this role from Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, who worked actively with our charity for many years.

Our Royal Patron, Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex

HRH The Countess of Wessex made her first visit on behalf of the charity to our Robert Ogden School, where she was greeted by both pupils and staff.

Watch her message below in honour of our 50th anniversary in 2012:

Our President

Our President is actress and author Jane Asher.

Jane Asher has been our charity's president since 1997, after serving for many years as vice president. Jane supports the charity in various fundraising and awareness activities, including attending corporate meetings, opening and visiting our services, helping to organise a variety of events, including the Stars Shine for Autism Christmas Concert, and raising awareness through media work.

Our President, Jane Asher

Jane Asher is an actress, writer and businesswoman. As well as her work in theatre, film, radio and television she has written more than a dozen books and runs her own business, Jane Asher Party Cakes and Sugarcraft. She has also written three best-selling novels.

Jane regularly appears on television and in feature films, and has also performed many times on stage in the West End and at the National Theatre.

Our Vice Presidents

Lady Astor of Hever
Colin Barrow CB
John and Sally Bercow
Baroness Browning
Alan Cheyney OBE
Peter Cullum CBE
Simon Cullum
Professor John Dickinson
David Downes
Judy Lusty
Dr Christopher Mason MBE
John and Marianne Swannell
Lord Don Touhig

Lady Astor of Hever

Lady Astor is the wife of Lord Astor of Hever, Under Secretary of State for the Ministry of Defence; and mother of a daughter with autism and dyspraxia.

Liz was educated at Harrogate Ladies College, in Yorkshire. She attended secretarial college and worked as a model before discovering her real vocation, which was teaching young children and children with disabilities in particular.

When her youngest daughter was four, she was diagnosed with autism and dyspraxia. Liz spent the following years learning everything she could about autism whilst also devoting her time to teaching her child learn to walk, talk, and develop as much as she was able.

Liz climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania when she was 49 in aid of The National Autistic Society. Over the ensuing ten years she led fundraising treks to Outer Mongolia, Machu Piccu and Cuba. She also abseiled down Canary Wharf and ran the  London Marathon in 2005, as well as three half-marathons. To date, she has raised over half a million pounds for the NAS, and many thousands for other national autism-related charities. She has given talks on her experiences and interviews for the press, radio and television.

Liz is also President of the Kent County Agricultural Show and President or Patron of many Kent-based charities.

Liz continues to work with her daughter, who is now twenty and at a special needs college. Her next great challenge is to find a plot, planning permission and funding to build a house for her daughter and two other people with autism in Kent as well as a shop or cafe where they can work.

In 2006, she published her memoir, Loving Olivia: bringing up my autistic daughter, to critical acclaim. Her debut novel Since you went away has just been published by Argo Navis. She is busy writing her next novel.

Dr Gillian Baird OBE

Dr Gillian Baird is a leading expert in autism and Chairman of the British Academy of Childhood Disability.

Gillian is a paediatrician and has led the neuro-disability clinical service at the Newcomen Centre for Developmental Medicine at Guy’s Hospital in London for a number of years. The service has a high reputation for the work that it does with families, and for the way in which a clinical service has been combined with academic research.

Gillian is Chairman of the British Academy of Childhood Disability and chairs the NICE Guideline Development Group for children and adults with autism. She also has a chair in paediatric neuro-disability at King’s College London.

In 2011, Gillian was awarded an OBE for her services to medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London.

Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge and Director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC).

Simon was a co-author of the first study to show that children with autism have delays in the development of a theory of mind (Cognition, 1985).

He holds degrees in human sciences from New College, Oxford, a PhD in psychology from UCL, and an M.Phil in clinical psychology from the Institute of Psychiatry. He held lectureships in both of these departments in London before moving to Cambridge in 1994.

Simon is author of Mindblindness (1995), The Essential Difference (2003), Prenatal Testosterone in Mind (2005) and Zero Degrees of Empathy (2011). He has edited a number of scholarly anthologies, and has also written books for parents and teachers. He is author of the DVDs Mind Reading and The Transporters, which help children with autism learn emotion recognition. Both were nominated for BAFTA awards.

He has been awarded prizes from the American Psychological Association, the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA), and the British Psychological Society (BPS) for his research into autism. He has been President of the Psychology Section of the BA, Vice President of the International Society for Autism Research, and The National Autistic Society, and received the 2006 Presidents' Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychological Knowledge from the BPS. His current research is testing the 'extreme male brain' theory of autism at the neural, endocrine and genetic levels.

Simon is an Editor-in-Chief of the online open-access journal Molecular Autism.

Colin Barrow CBE

Colin Barrow CBE is a former leader of Westminster Council and was Chairman of The National Autistic Society for six years until 2011. Colin is also the parent of a child with autism.

Colin studied Moral Sciences and Law at Cambridge University and upon graduating in 1974 took his first job as commercial manager at the oil and gas engineering company, John Brown Group.

In 1983 Colin joined the Man Group - or as it was then known ED&F Man - to spearhead its entry into the alternative investment market. Colin left to become Chairman of London-based Sabre Fund Management in 1996.

The following year Colin’s lifelong interest in politics led him to become a Conservative member of Suffolk County Council. He also became involved with the NAS along with a number of other charities. First elected to the NAS Council in 2003, that year also saw Colin become a Trustee and the Treasurer for the charity. Colin was Chairman from 2005 and remained in this post until 2011, when he was appointed a Vice-President.

In 2002 Colin became a Member of Westminster City Council, and in 2008 he was elected leader - taking on the highest profile local government role in the country. Colin announced his retirement from council leadership in March 2012, to spend more time writing and lecturing.

He is a co-founder of Localis, a think-tank dedicated to strengthening local government, and a director of the Rambert Dance Company, as well as a member of the Centre of Policy Studies. Colin is also Executive Chairman of hedge fund Alpha Strategic.

Colin was made a CBE in 2004 for services to local government.

John and Sally Bercow

John and Sally Bercow are parents to a son with autism. John is Speaker of the House of Commons and Sally is a political activist. 

The Rt Hon John Bercow MP has been Speaker of the House of Commons since June 2009 and the MP for Buckingham since 1997.

In 2008, John was asked by the Government to conduct a substantial review of children and families affected by speech, language and communication needs. As the father of a son with autism, he is passionate about autism issues and was a leading supporter of the Autism Bill, which became the Autism Act 2009.

Sally Bercow is a political activist and committed autism campaigner. She has twice chaired The National Autistic Society event at the Labour Party Conference. She frequently uses media appearances and her social media profile to raise awareness of the condition.

Both Sally and John are champions for people with autism and their families and invaluable supporters of the NAS.

The pair kindly agreed to host a reception to welcome our new Vice Presidents and celebrate the NAS’s successful 50th birthday.

They are also Parent Patrons of the charity Ambitious about Autism.

Baroness Browning

Baroness Browning is a Conservative peer and parent of an adult son with autism.

Until recently she was Minister for Crime Prevention and Anti-Social Behaviour Reduction at the Home Office and is a former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party. She served as an MP for Tiverton and Honiton from 1992 to 2010.

As the mother of a son with autism, Baroness Browning has long been a passionate advocate on behalf of people with autism and their families. In 2008 she introduced the 'Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament which paved the way for the Autism Act 2009.

She speaks regularly in the House of Lords on behalf of people with autism, and invokes her personal experience as a parent to call for access to the right support for families around the country. 

Baroness Browning is a former Special Councillor of NAS and has been Vice President since 1997. She is also Patron of Research Autism.

Alan Cheyney OBE

Alan Cheyney is a former Chair of The National Autistic Society and a longstanding autism campaigner.

Alan was one of the first parent members of the NAS. He joined the Executive Committee (the precursor to the Board of Trustees) in 1970 and became Honorary Treasurer in 1972. In 1983 Alan became Chairman of the NAS, a post he held for six years. He was also Secretary General of Autism Europe from 2001 to 2004.

In recognition of his service to the NAS, Alan was made a Vice President in 1986.

Alan received an OBE in 2000 as acknowledgment of 30 years spent in a voluntary capacity to further the development of education, care, training and advisory services for children and adults with autism and their families.

Alan is himself a parent to a disabled daughter who has Rett syndrome.

Peter Cullum CBE

Peter Cullum CBE is Deputy Chairman of Towergate Insurance, Europe’s largest privately owned insurance broking and underwriting company. Peter has a son and grandson with autism and is a major donor to The National Autistic Society

Peter began his insurance career in 1969 with the Royal Insurance Group and progressed to sales and marketing positions within Commercial Union and ITT London and Edinburgh where he became marketing director in 1988.

At the age of 21, he became the youngest person to pass the Chartered Insurance Institute fellowship examinations.

Peter was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005 by Ernst & Young. In 2008, he was awarded title of M&A Deal Maker of the Year, and Management Today’s Entrepreneur of the Year.

He is a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute, Associate of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and gained a MSc degree awarded by City University in 1975.

Peter founded the Peter Cullum School for Entrepreneurship in 2006 at Cass Business School and has provided £10milllion to fund budding entrepreneurs.

The same year he set up The Cullum Family Trust, which is a registered charity to which he has donated over £20million during the past three years and focuses on numerous charities supporting deprived children, autism and local charities in Sussex. Through the Trust he has committed to a transformational education project in Surrey.

In 2007 he was awarded his doctorate in business administration by Cass Business School and in 2010 the CBE for his contribution to business, entrepreneurship and charitable causes. He sits on the Coutts Bank Advisory Board for Philanthropy.

He remains a keen Norwich City football fan.

Simon Cullum

Simon Cullum works closely with The National Autistic Society through the Cullum Family Trust. He is the son of Peter Cullum and parent to Codey, who has autism.

Simon works at Towergate Insurance, where he has been for 15 years on continuous service. Simon has worked in Inbound Marketing for the past nine years, after the first six years in various IT support roles.

Simon’s five-year-old son, Codey, was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and a half, after his teachers noticed that Codey was experiencing many difficulties in class. Following continuous specialist speech therapy and occupational support sessions both in and outside of school, Codey has made excellent progress with listening and speaking and is also making great progress socially. Codey attends a GBMAA martial arts academy where the excellent children’s program, delivered by world-class instructors, helps him enormously with listening, concentration and social skills.

Simon is extremely proud of his son’s progress which has been nothing short of remarkable, though he has concerns about some aspects of Codey’s future, particularly whether he will be able to live independently, learn to drive and find employment. However with continued appropriate support from both a loving family and various supporting professionals, anything is possible for Codey: he is a very happy boy with some close friends who genuinely enjoy spending time with him.

After noticing a lot of his own characteristics in his son and learning a lot about autism, Simon arranged a diagnostic assessment for himself in July 2012 and was subsequently diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Simon’s diagnosis provided him with a sense of meaning and explanation into many years of unexplained struggles and difficulties and even helped to close a chapter in his life as a child, where he was bullied at school, even by teachers on occasion, and never received the extra support or help which he has seen make such a difference to this son.

Knowing first-hand what a hugely significant, positive difference early intervention and extra support of the right kind can bring to children with autism - and indeed their families - is a real motivator for Simon to become more involved in the world of autism and Asperger syndrome. Simon believes that the understanding and specialist extra support provided to children with autism in schools can, and does, make a significant difference, both at the time and in perpetration for their future lives.

Simon is involved in the Cullum Family Trust, which has committed to a transformational education project in Surrey.

Professor John Dickinson

Professor John Dickinson

Professor John Dickinson acted as Vice Chairman of The National Autistic Society Board of Trustees between March 2010 and October 2011. He and his wife Christine are parents of a daughter with autism.

John studied mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He then pursued research work in theoretical statistics at Leeds University before taking up a lectureship there in management science. His interest in finance and accounting took him to the University of Perth in Western Australia. He qualified as an accountant, returning to the UK after five years to take up Chairs in Accounting and Finance in Stirling and then Glasgow.

As Chairman of Glasgow Business School, John travelled widely throughout Africa and the Far East, teaching, consulting, and presenting research findings at international conferences. His final post was as Principal of what is now the University of Winchester, a position he held for eight years.

John first came into contact with the NAS through our Helpline, as he and his wife Christine sought a diagnosis for their younger daughter. John and Christine both became members of the charity and now have life membership, along with their daughter.

John was elected to the NAS Council in May 2000 and then joined the Board as a Trustee in May 2002. As Vice Chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Governance Committee, John led the national recruitment process for the charity’s new Chair in 2011.  

John has also served as an executive committee member and as General Secretary (from 2004 to 2010) of Autism Europe. As an invited member of the Department of Health’s Advisory Group he assisted with the formulation of the Autism Bill, and has been involved in the continued monitoring of the subsequent Act’s implementation. He was also a Trustee of Research Autism from its foundation in 2003, leaving its Board for health reasons earlier this year. At a local level he has chaired parent support groups and acted as a Trustee of Hampshire Autistic Society and charities serving carers.

On standing down from the NAS Board in October 2011, John was made a lifetime Vice President in recognition of his services to the charity. Since then he has remained closely involved with our current major governance review and the shaping of the proposals for constitutional change. He remains actively engaged with the NAS on a variety of fronts.

David Downes

David Downes

David Downes is a renowned artist with high-functioning autism and a committed supporter of The National Autistic Society. 

David completed an MA in communication design at the Royal College of Art in 1996. He has since worked on a range of high-profile projects, from landscapes and drawings, to a major commission for the BBC. Recently, David was commissioned by the Savoy Hotel to create a picture of the Diamond Jubilee Pageant that now hangs in the foyer of the hotel. 

As part of his support for the NAS, David ran the London Marathon in 2009. He has also contributed original artwork for auction at special events, including a depiction of the renovated St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and more recently, a piece showing the London 2012 Olympic Park for the NAS Spectrum Ball in 2012.

David has now been commissioned by the Anderson Foundation to produce pieces depicting the classic Premiership venue, Tottenham Hotspur FC’s White Hart Lane stadium, and one of the team’s brand new training centres. These will be auctioned to support the NAS. As a keen football fan, David was thrilled to work on these spectacular pieces that will showcase his intricate and detailed style, as well as offering a fascinating insight into London’s changing vista.

David has raised thousands of pounds for the NAS, establishing himself as a valued beneficiary and committed advocate of our work.

Judy Lusty

Judy Lusty is a former Chair, Vice-Chair, Trustee and Councillor for The National Autistic Society.

Judy has been a member of the NAS since the mid-1960s, and joined the Executive Committee (the then Board of Trustees) in the 1970s. She has been involved at the heart of the NAS ever since.

In 1990 she was appointed as Vice-Chairman a position she held for six years before being promoted to Chairman. Judy made the decision to step-down as Chair in 2000 because she felt it was important that the organisation had some fresh blood. She then became a Senior Councillor and Vice-President.

In addition to her involvement with the NAS, Judy also set up three establishments for adults with autism in Gloucestershire, where she lives, called MIDCAS (Mid Counties Autistic Society). 

Judy is an interior designer by profession and has two adult children who have Fragile X syndrome, a condition associated with autism.

Dr Christopher Mason MBE

Dr Christopher Mason MBE was lead councillor for autism in Glasgow City Council from 2001 until 2012, when he retired after 30 years in local government. After retirement Christopher was appointed Carers’ Champion by the City Council, which gives him active involvement with families affected by autism.

Christopher was a (Liberal) member of Strathclyde Regional Council from 1982 to 1996 and of Glasgow City Council from 1995 to 2012. In Strathclyde he worked for improvements in services to children and families affected by autism and by the time the Regional Council was scrapped in 1996, the first autism units attached to mainstream primary schools had been established.  

In 2001 he was invited to chair a City Council task force on the measures needed to make life better for people affected by autism. In 2003 and 2007 he was appointed to chair the Council’s standing working group on autism, charged with promoting and monitoring improvements across a range of public services.

The group brought together staff from the Council, the NHS, the three voluntary societies operating in Glasgow, and people who use services. It established sub-groups on the criminal justice system, housing, and employability, which were able to secure improvements in services in their areas of interest.

Christopher was a co-founder of the Strathclyde Autistic Society with Jane Hook MBE and the late Bill Hook, whose daughter has autism. He also worked with Jane and Bill to start the Buddies' Club, an after-school group for children with disabilities.  

Christopher taught politics at Glasgow University from 1966 until 1994 and held a seconded appointment in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1971 to 1973. He is the founder and former Chairman, now President, of the Clyde Maritime Trust; which owns The Tall Ship, an independent museum committed to the preservation and interpretation of the Glenlee (a 19th-century Clyde-built sailing ship). He is also a director of Actual Reality Ltd, a not-for profit organisation that provides outdoor education in Argyll.

John and Marianne Swannell

World-renowned fashion, beauty and royal photographer John Swannell and his wife Marianne, a former fashion model, are parents of an adult son with autism.

John started his career in photography as an assistant at Vogue Studios and then assisted David Bailey for four years before setting up his own studio.

He spent the next ten years travelling and working for magazines such as Vogue, Harpers & Queen, the Sunday Times and Tatler. During this time he developed his very distinctive, individual style in both fashion and beauty photography.

In 1989 John Swannell had a one-man show at The Royal Academy in Edinburgh, followed in 1990 by an exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. In July of the same year The Royal Photographic Society held a retrospective of his fashion work.

In 1993 John Swannell was awarded a Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society; he was one of the youngest members to have achieved this status at the time. In November 1994, Diana, Princess of Wales personally commissioned John to photograph her together with her sons.

From November 1996 to March 1997 John had a one-man show of his portraits at The National Portrait Gallery in London to celebrate the publication of his book Twenty years on; the portraits are now held in the gallery's archives.

John was commissioned to take the official photographs for HRH The Princess Royal’s 40th, 50th and 60th birthdays. The Royal Mail commissioned John to photograph the Earl and Countess of Wessex for a stamp celebrating their wedding and for the celebration stamp marking the occasion of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's 100th birthday in 2001.

In 2002 John was one of the photographers asked to photograph HM the Queen to celebrate her Golden Jubliee and the only photographer to be asked to take the official portrait of the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The images were used in the press and exhibited at Windsor Castle.

The National Portrait Gallery in London has over fifty of his photographs, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, The National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Royal Photographic Society now have many of John's works in their permanent collections. He also had an exhibition of Royal photographs at the Clarendon Gallery in Mayfair in 2012. 

John has published six books. All the profits for his fifth, I'm still standing, a book of celebrity portraits, went towards helping children with autism.

His latest book John Swannell nudes, 1978-2006 was published in 2007, and was launched at Hoopers Gallery in London alongside an exhibition of limited edition platinum prints. In March 2008 John had an exhibition at the Chris Beetles Gallery in St James's, London.

Marianne was discovered by Andy Warhol at the age of 19 and spent the next ten years working as a fashion model for top magazines including the English and French editions of Vogue. During her career she also posed for famous photographers including Helmut Newton and David Bailey.

Marianne quit modelling after her son was diagnosed with autism in the early 90s in order to fully support him. She was one of the founding members of the NAS Haringey branch and has been an avid fundraiser for autism ever since.

In 2010, John and Marianne became ambassadors for The Bridge School in Islington, North London, which is a school for children with autism and other special educational needs.

The husband and wife team are also collaborating with the NAS on the Transforming Lives project which aims to improve the transition process between childhood and adulthood for young people with autism. As part of this project they hope to raise £100,000 for the NAS. 

Lord Touhig

Lord Touhig is a former MP for the Welsh constituency of Islwyn and an ardent autism campaigner.

From 1995-2010, Lord Touhig was the Labour and Co-operative MP for the Welsh constituency of Islwyn. During this time he served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to then Chancellor Gordon Brown as well as Government Whip, Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Under-Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans. He sat on the Public Accounts Committee when it published its 2009 report, Supporting people with autism through adulthood.

Before entering Parliament, Lord Touhig spent 27 years in newspapers and publishing. He is a Privy Councillor and a Papal Knight. Since entering the House of Lords, Lord Touhig has been a tireless campaigner on behalf of people with autism, speaking regularly in debates, tabling amendments to legislation and reminding Ministers of their responsibilities to individuals and their families with the condition.

 

Lord Touhig has also taken a keen interest in championing The National Autistic Society. He has visited services and spoken at the charity’s AGM.

Our branches

We have around 110 volunteer-led branches around the UK.

They offer vital information, advice and support locally for anyone affected by autism, including providing services like play schemes and social groups.

Our branches are part of the charity and use our charity number.

Find your local branch.