The Autistic Young Experts Panel

The AET has been sharing the voice of young autistic people since it started in 2007.

Since 2016, The AET has been supported by a panel of Autistic Young Experts. The experts, aged 16 to 25, add their voice and life experience to AET projects and input on strategy.

As well as providing specific feedback on projects such as exclusions and exam accommodations by sharing their experience, they co-chaired the 2018 AET National Conference, in London, have spoken at other AET events, and shared their experiences with professionals in film. 

You can read more about the Autistic Young Experts in their own words, and revise the Terms of reference, here. 

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Autistic Young Experts Panel Avatars

Who are we?

We are a panel made up of nine autistic young people from across England. We have different experiences of education and of being autistic.

We bring experience of different types of education from home education, mainstream schools, special schools and university.

While we are all autistic that doesn’t make our experiences the same. Many of us struggled with education and we don’t want that to be the experience for other autistic young people.

What have we been doing?

In May 2020, the AYE Panel started working with Dr Karen Guldberg at the University of Birmingham. Their input throughout this research shed light on exclusion from an autistic perspective. Some of the panel have experience of exclusion, offering authenticity in the research. 

The AYE Panel reviewed the research summary and looked at usual ways of presenting the research for those who prefer usual formats.

Photo of Autistic Young Experts Panel

In January 2021 we continued working on PSHE and utilising the feedback from the Department for Education and schools which have piloted the resources. The resources and assemblies have been co-produced with the AET Panel and were then tested in the education environment to see what needed tweaking.

These tweaks and changes were evaluated and reviewed by the panel before the resources were finalised.

In February and March 2021 the AYE panel started working on a toolkit for the AET materials on how trainers can co-train and co-deliver training with an autistic young person.

This will build upon the work we’ve done to understand how training works as part of what the AET delivers and how autism should be spoken about.

The panel have also been working on the Good Practice Promises for schools and we have had one person from our youth network (not actually in the panel) Aiden, who filmed for the AET about his exclusion experience.

Terms of reference

1. About the AET

The Autism Education Trust (AET) is a partnership set up by two national charities - the National Autistic Society and Ambitious about Autism.

The AET’s aim is to improve the education of autistic children and young people.

The AET works across all ages and stages (nurseries, schools and colleges).

The AET is led by a Board of 12 people with relevant skills, knowledge and experience including 3 people with lived experience of autism.

The Board is responsible for making decisions about the AET:

  • Aims - what the AET wants to achieve
  • Values - the principles that support the AET's work
  • Activities – the AET's training programmes and other projects
  • Plans - how the AET organises its activities
  • Finances – how the AET raises and spends its money 
  • Director - who does the job of AET Director
  • Partnerships - how the AET works with autistic young people and other organisations  
  • Impact - whether the AET is achieving its aims 
  • Governance – who is a member of the Board and how the Board carries out its responsibilities.

The Director runs the AET on a day to day basis, supports the Board and reports to it.

The AET seeks to work in partnership with autistic young people in developing its plans and delivering its training.

The AET Board wants to hear the views of a wide range of autistic young people and to take their experiences, opinions and ideas into account in its decision making.

The AET has therefore commissioned an organisation to develop, support and facilitate a Young People’s Panel that is diverse and inclusive and a skilled facilitator has been appointed to carry out this role and ensure equality of access.

2. The Role of the Young People’s Panel

The role of the Young People’s Panel is to enable autistic young people to:

  • share their experience and views 
  • contribute their ideas to the AET’s thinking, plans and projects
  • take part in developing AET training
  • contribute to evaluating the AET’s impact
  • empower other autistic young people to input to the AET.

3. Contribution

The Young People’s Panel may be asked to contribute in the following ways:

Sharing their experiences, views and ideas

Sharing their experiences of the challenges they face(d) in education.

Sharing their views on what would make/have made a difference.

Contributing their own insights and ideas about the AET's activities and plans.

Developing training

Working with the AET Director to:

  • evaluate existing AET training products
  • develop new AET products
  • encourage co-delivery of training with autistic young people.

Evaluating impact

Working with the AET Director in evaluating the difference the AET’s training has made to autistic young people in education.

Empowering other Autistic Young People

Advising the Board and Director on how to engage with other autistic young people.

Working with the Director to gather information about:

  • their experience of education
  • their priorities for improvement. 

4. Membership

The Young People’s Panel will comprise up to 12 members.

Panel members must be aged 16-25.

Members of the Young People’s Panel will be drawn from a variety of backgrounds and across a range of needs and educational settings.

Panel members will be appointed by the Director and Young People’s Panel Facilitator for a three year term.

Panel members may be reappointed for a further year provided that they remain under twenty five.

All members of the Young People’s Panel will be required to sign a volunteer agreement and support form and agree to be subject to our safeguarding policy.

5. Meetings

The Young People’s Panel will meet at least every three months and may hold additional meetings if needed.

The agenda and papers will be co-produced by the Director and YPP and circulated a week in advance of meetings.

Meetings will take place face to face or on-line as appropriate.

Brief notes of the meeting will be circulated a week after each meeting.

6. Information and Support

The AET Director will attend the meetings of the Young People’s Panel to ensure that the Panel is kept informed about the AET’s activities and seek their input as set out above.

The Young People’s Panel Facilitator will facilitate meetings and provide support to Panel members between meetings to enable them to contribute in the way that best meets their needs. 

7. Attendance

It is important that Panel members attend regularly and send their apologies if they are unable to attend.

If a Panel member regularly misses meetings the YPP Facilitator will have a conversation about their role and how to support attendance going forward.

8. Links to Board and Reporting Arrangements

An annual report on the Young People’s Panel will be produced by the Director and YPP Facilitator with the Panel’s input.

A nominated member of the Board will provide a link to the AET Board and may attend YPP meetings. There will also be an opportunity for YPP members to meet informally with AET Board members at least once a year to discuss the work of the Young People’s Panel.