Experience our immersive and lifelike virtual venue
View 12 presentations in the virtual auditorium
Explore sponsors' virtual booths in the exhibit hall
Learn from 24 Australian and international presenters
About the Symposium
Reframing Autism’s 2022 Symposium on Autistic Relationships will be held online on Autistic Pride Day, Saturday 18 June 2022.
In the field of Positive Psychology, PERMA represents a model of subjective wellbeing or “happiness” that is integral to living a “good life”. The acronym PERMA stands for positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievements.
In this Autistic-led, one-day, single-stream event, we will explore the R of PERMA in the context of Autistic lived experience. Join us as we learn and reflect on the unique gifts and strengths that Autistic people bring to their relationships with others, as well as the ways that non-autistic people can connect with us that acknowledge and are respectful of our Autistic neurology.
Who is it for?
Appropriate for the Autistic community, as well as for their families, allies and professionals, the structure of the program has been designed to ensure accessibility, and to encourage engagement and interaction.
12 expert sessions on various aspects of Autistic relationships
Virtual swag bag filled with resources and recommended reading
Live chat opportunities with presenters and other delegates
Access to online video content, virtual swag bag and exhibit hall for 30 days post-event
Purchase your ticket
Accessible pricing and 30-day access
$49 | General Admission
$199 | Professional Development
(Professional Development ticket includes a Certificate of Completion)
Did you know? If your child has an NDIS plan that includes a budget line for parent education, and you are plan- or self-managed, you can claim your registration costs for Reframing Autism events from your child’s NDIS funding.
Meet our presenters
Dr Melanie Heyworth
Lauren Melissa Ellzey
Dr Dawn-joy Leong
Dr Amy Laurent
Dr Jacquelyn Fede
Dr Erin Bulluss
A comprehensive agenda
9:00 - 9:05 AM AEST
Welcome to Country
9:05 - 9:45 AM AEST
Autistic Relationships: What do we know?
Dr Melanie Heyworth
9:45 - 10:15 AM AEST
Relationships with identity: Self-acceptance
Lauren Melissa Ellzey
10:15 - 10:30 AM AEST
10:30 - 11:00 AM AEST
Relationships with mind: Self-compassion
11:00 - 11:30 AM AEST
Relationships with animals & nature
Dr Dawn-joy Leong
11:30 - 11:45 AM AEST
11:45 - 12:15 PM AEST
Relationships with family: Child & parent
12:15 - 12:45 PM AEST
Relationships between children & professionals
Dr Amy Laurent
Dr Jacquelyn Fede
12:45 - 1:15 PM AEST
1:15 - 2:15 PM AEST
Relationships at work
Yenn Purkis (Facilitator)
2:15 - 2:45 PM AEST
Relationships with community: Social identity
2:45 - 3:00 PM AEST
3:00 - 3:30 PM AEST
Relationships with friends who communicate differently
3:30 - 4:00 PM AEST
Relationships between friends
Dr Erin Bulluss
4:00 - 4:15 PM AEST
4:15 - 4:45 PM AEST
Relationships between intimate partners
4:45 - 5:00 PM AEST
Closing: Fostering positive connections
Dr Melanie Heyworth
Thank you to our generous sponsors
The Symposium on Autistic Relationships is proudly supported by the sponsors featured below, and we extend our deep thanks and appreciation to them for helping us bring this event to life.
Click on their logos to learn more about the valuable services each of them provides.
Go in the draw to win
Would you like to be the lucky recipient of a year's worth of online learning with Reframing Autism? It's easy! Simply:
Attend on the live event date
Visit our sponsors' virtual booths
Complete our feedback survey
Terms and conditions: To be eligible, winner must view a minimum of six sessions on Saturday 18 June, 2022 between 9:00am and 5:00pm AEST, visit all virtual booths and submit a completed survey feedback form by 5:00pm AEST on Monday 21 June, 2022. Winner will be drawn at random on Friday 24 June, 2022. "Online learning" includes both live and on-demand workshops, masterclasses and professional development hosted by Reframing Autism (excludes retreats, symposia and courses). This prize is valid for live events specified above that are scheduled to take place between Friday 24 June, 2022, and Saturday 24 June, 2023. On-demand learning redemption can be accessed from Friday 24 June, 2022 until Saturday 24 June, 2023.
We believe Autism is a neurotype and a vital part of an individual’s identity, and therefore we use identity-first language (e.g., “I am Autistic”) rather than person-first language (e.g., “I have Autism”). Identity-first language is the preference of the majority of Autistic community.
About Reframing Autism
Reframing Autism is a company run by and for Autistic people, and for their families and allies. It is dedicated to creating a world in which the Autistic community is supported to achieve acceptance, inclusion, and active citizenship.
Reframing Autism combines capacity-building and leadership development with education, research, resource development, mentoring, and support to strengthen the Autistic community.
Through Reframing Autism, Autistic people, and non-autistic families and allies of the Autistic community, come together to understand Autism.
For more information, visit Reframing Autism’s website.
Join our online community
Use #AutieRel22 as we count down to this exciting event!
This event is proudly brought to you by Reframing Autism and funded by an ILC grant administered by the DSS.
MyCareSpace is a national online platform that connects people living with a disability with verified service providers that have the skills, capacity and experience to meet their needs and that are in their local area.
After five years of working alongside the disability community, over two thirds of MyCareSpace’s clients are Autistic. Because of this we understand the need for tailored, Autistic-centred support and experienced providers.
We also offer informative, easy-to-understand NDIS and Autism-focused resources, making MyCareSpace your one-stop shop for NDIS services and support.
You can contact our Connections Team here: https://mycarespace.com.au/mycarespace-autism.html
The A List is a newly launched “first of its kind” platform that will enable young Autistic people and their families to search for and in some cases, book social activities in their local area.
The platform has been built with young Autistic people for young Autistic people and its vision is “to give every young Autistic person the opportunity to meet like-minded people”.
The Autistic voice has guided us, with all activities, social options and resource topics based on what young Autistic people and their parents told us they want to find on the A List.
You will find fun and exciting options and will be able to connect with mentors and peer support groups that will get you participating and contributing to the community around you. The platform also offers a range of videos and resources on social skills.
Register today and start searching for social options in your area: www.alisthub.com.au
Autism Connect is a national Autism helpline. It provides free, expert information and advice to help Autistic people, their supporters and professionals. The helpline is confidential, evidence based and independent.
Autism Connect advisors have Autism-specific expertise across the whole of life, from early intervention and assessment to education, diagnosis support, employment and the NDIS.
To speak with an Autism Connect advisor, call 1300 308 699. You can also email, chat with an advisor online or search our free information directory at www.amaze.org.au/autismconnect
Abby Sesterka is a late-diagnosed Autistic woman based in Sydney, though feels just as at home in Central Java. She was awarded the Research Excellence Scholarship by Macquarie University in Sydney to undertake postgraduate research as a member of Autism MQ, led by Professor Liz Pellicano. She also lectures for the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching at Flinders University and remains active in her background discipline of Indonesian languages as a translator and curriculum specialist. Along with Erin Bulluss, Abby is co-author of Insights About Autism for Psychology Today.
Andrew is ANZ’s Program Manager for their Autism employment program (ANZ Spectrum Program) which commenced in 2018. In Andrew’s senior role in the bank, he is involved in many of the Talent programs, such as Spectrum Program, Graduates & Interns, Return to Work, Traineeships, and a new Work Experience Program for Autistic secondary students. He is passionate about bringing diverse talent into the bank’s Early Talent Programs, of which Spectrum Program is a key part.
Andrew is also a people leader with eight direct reports, whom he helps develop and build their careers.
Andrew Fox is a member of the Spectrum Program at ANZ, having been a part of the program from 2019. With a background in software development, Andrew found a suitable match with the Data group in the program and has since developed his skills as a data analyst. He has worked on several projects including applications in cybersecurity and people resources. He hopes to further develop his skills and become a data scientist in the future.
Ashton Bartz is an Autistic person who has been a Project Officer for Autism CRC since 2019. With a background in the youth work industry, Ashton has worked for several non-profit and local government organisations with a focus on program development and delivery. Ashton lives in Brisbane with their partner Chris and three cats.
Cherie is an award-winning digital marketer, who is passionate about the difference best practice social media marketing can do for businesses and organisations – big and small. What’s more? Her proven track record of bringing significantly increased social engagement, community growth and transforming social accounts, now sees her directing the most talented team of social media marketing professionals via her Melbourne-based digital marketing agency, The Digital Picnic.
Chris Rohweder is a disabled person living with psoriatic arthritis and vasculitis. He's a stay-at-home partner and lives in Brisbane with his partner Ashton and three cats. Chris has a background in the insurance and telecommunications industry.
David Gray-Hammond is an Autistic mental health and addiction advocate. He is in recovery from addiction (six years sober) and psychosis, and uses his experiences in his professional life to support Autistic people experiencing mental health and substance use concerns.
He writes regularly at emergentdivergence.com, and can be found on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter either under his own name or the Emergent Divergence pseudonym. He is currently working on an anthology of Autistic people’s substance use experiences, which he hopes to have published in print.
Dr Amy Laurent
Amy Laurent, PhD, OTR/L is a developmental psychologist and a registered paediatric occupational therapist. She is a co-author of the SCERTS model, a comprehensive, evidence-based model for supporting Autistic individuals across the lifespan. She frequently lectures and provides training throughout the United States and internationally on topics related to neurodiversity and helping others to understand and honour the implications of "different ways of being" in relation to navigating the physical and social world. Her research interests include emotional/energy regulation and active engagement in natural contexts. Dr Laurent strives to practise what she preaches and uses her love of play and movement to meet her own regulatory needs.
Cat is a natural leader, and one who very much so leads by example and commands respect through her lead-by-example approach to senior management. Apart from her ability to create spreadsheet magic to solve any problem, one of her best qualities as Managing Director is her empathy for her team. She's an integral member of The Digital Picnic and is the kind of Managing Director that every employee dreams of having in their corner.
Dr Erin Bulluss
Dr Erin Bulluss is a clinical psychologist with a particular passion for working therapeutically with Autistic people through online telehealth platforms. She feels strongly about honouring neurodiversity in the pursuit of wellbeing and was diagnosed with Autism herself in her mid-thirties. She brings together her personal and professional understandings of Autism in her therapeutic approach, aiming to build a strong, collaborative therapeutic relationship based upon understanding and acceptance. Erin places the needs of the individual at the centre of her therapeutic approach, so the experience of therapy is different for each and every individual.
In her clinical practice, Erin both treats co-occurring mental health conditions and offers “psychologically informed mentoring” to assist neurodivergent individuals who are not experiencing co-occurring mental health conditions to accept their lovely uniqueness, navigate the neurotypical aspects of the world, and develop a lifestyle that promotes wellbeing and mental health.
Erin has published articles and presented workshops about her approach to therapy with Autistic individuals and hopes to promote acceptance of Autism through contributing to the development of therapeutic approaches that genuinely embrace neurodiversity and do not place neurotypical expectations on neurodivergent individuals. Erin also co-authors a Psychology Today blog which seeks to provide information about Autism from the perspective of late-diagnosed Autistic professionals.
Erin also has two Autistic children, and aims to create an authentically Autistic family life.
Dr Jacquelyn Fede
Jacquelyn Fede, PhD, is a super fun, Autistic self-advocate, developmental psychologist and program evaluator. Jacquelyn's research interests include immigration policy, Autism, and community engagement. Dr Fede uses this experience to help educate others about Autism through lecturing, blogging and consulting on evaluation projects. A full scholarship Division 1 athlete in college, Dr Fede continues to meet intense sensory needs by seeking extreme physical activity. Jacquelyn also enjoys the use of creativity and art for expression.
Dr Melanie Heyworth
Melanie Heyworth is an Autistic mother of three Autistic children, whom she homeschools. She has postgraduate qualifications in Autism and is currently undertaking a second PhD in Autism under the supervision of Professor Liz Pellicano. Mel is passionate about creating a better world for herself, her children, and the Autistic community.
Mel founded Reframing Autism in 2017. She has been running it ever since. Through Reframing Autism, Mel wants to bring parents of Autistic children to a more accepting, optimistic and hopeful way of parenting.
She firmly believes that social change can only occur when Autistic individuals are supported to explore and celebrate their authentic Autistic identities.
Cassandra Lutzko (she/her) is a Product Management Specialist at Telstra. She was diagnosed with Autism in 2011. She has multiple qualifications in science, focusing on Chemistry, Mathematics and Data Science. After her Masters in Science (Chemistry) she ran her own science tutoring business for a number of years.
Cassandra was hired through Telstra’s pilot Neuro-Diversity Recruitment Program in conjunction with Specialisterne in early 2021. With the support of her colleagues, she is open about being neurodiverse. As a member of TelstrAbility, Telstra’s disability-centred Employee Representative Group, her passion is improving the visibility of neurodiversity, and associated issues.
Dr Dawn-joy Leong
Dr Dawn-joy Leong is an Autism researcher and multidisciplinary artist. Diagnosed as Autistic in her early forties, Dawn-joy has presented her research and signature multidisciplinary, immersive and performative work in Hong Kong, Australia, the UK, South Korea and Singapore. Lucy Like-a-Charm, a rescued former racing Greyhound from Australia, is Dawn’s retired assistance dog, creative muse and closest companion. Dawn-joy holds an MPhil in music composition and a PhD in Autism, neurodiversity and multi-art practice, and currently focuses her energies on mentoring and creating platforms for artists with disabilities in Singapore.
Jane is an experienced presenter and advocate at Autism Actually. In addition to being a trained secondary Mathematics/Science teacher, Jane also has a Master’s degree of Inclusive Education for Autistic students.
From 2008 to 2012, Jane was a member of the Victorian team for the Positive Partnerships project, a Federal-government initiative aimed at supporting school-aged Autistic students.
Jane is the Assistant Director of the Learning Diversity Department at Whitefriars College, and loves teaching Mathematics in creative and visual ways.
Jane is the parent of Shadia, and is passionate about sharing her professional and personal understanding of Autism in order to inform other teachers. Jane was also identified as Autistic in 2020.
Lauren Melissa Ellzey
Lauren Melissa Ellzey, or Autienelle, is an Autistic self-advocate and social justice influencer. She seeks to cultivate acceptance for the Autistic community. Even more, she engages across lines of difference, highlighting the inequitable systems that oppress queer, BIPOC, and disabled folks. Her work has crossed paths with NYU, Penn State, O4U Engineering, Pima County Health Department, NeuroClastic, Cripple Media, AbleZine, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and more. Professionally, she fosters Autistic inclusivity in K-12 schools as an instructional support specialist. In all, she hopes to co-create a society where Autistics nurture Autistics as we strive toward true inclusion.
Shadia is the proud owner and founder of Autism Actually, and enjoys presenting and consultancy. They are committed to empowering fellow Autistic and neurodivergent individuals and shifting perspectives of Autism.
Shadia is currently studying a Bachelor of Speech Pathology, with the hope of starting a practice helping neurodivergent individuals.
Shadia was diagnosed with Autism at the age of three, and Generalised Anxiety Disorder at the age of 14. Shadia came out as non-binary in early 2018 and loves talking about Autism and gender issues.
Terra Vance is a Melungeon of Romani, Native American, and Irish Pavee heritage who grew up in a coalmining camp. She is Autistic, dyslexic, ADHD, and apraxic. Vance was a secondary English teacher for 14 years and a DBT counsellor for two before founding NeuroClastic, an Autistic-led not for profit. Now, Vance spends her days working various roles as NeuroClastic’s CEO. Her passions include decolonising systemic structures, literature (especially Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man), building healthier communities, unpacking ancestry and reconnecting to her native cultures, all things plants, and parenting her wonderful Autistic child.
Tim Chan is a 26-year-old Chinese Australian. He was diagnosed with Autism at 3 years old and has been non-speaking after 14 months of age.
At 9 years old, after picking up supported typing, Tim became open to the possibility of connecting with people and with the life he wanted to live.
He has kept working on building his capacity and strengths. His journey has been supported and scaffolded by his social network. Some of the highlights of this journey include graduating from mainstream school to study at university. He has recently completed his BA and currently proceeding with BA (Honours). Tim also gave a TEDx talk when he was 18, presumably the first by a nonspeaking Autistic person.
Tim has the greatest respect and time for organisations that advocate for Autism. He is excited to be part of the self-advocacy movement. Tim wants to drive Autism to a new level of relevance and inclusion.
Yenn Purkis is an autistic and non-binary advocate and author. They have written nine books on various elements of autism, have spoken around the world including for TEDx Canberra and they facilitate a support group for autistic women and gender divergent folks in Canberra. They were named the 2016 ACT Volunteer of the Year and received a 2019 ACT Chief Minister's Inclusion Award.
Michael is proud to be part of the oldest living Civilisation, encompassing History, Knowledge, Ceremony, Traditions and Culture practised for more than 65,000 years. He is a member of the Stolen Generations, an Aboriginal man of the Gamilaroi Nation and was born, raised and has lived his whole life in Sydney. Michael is a member, cultural representative and Custodian with fellow Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) members, being responsible for the Land, Air, Water, History, Traditions and Culture within our boundaries.
In 2010, Michael participated as one of the members of MLALC in a Repatriation Ceremony of Ancestral remains “stolen” 130 and 150 years ago and taken to Europe and England. Helping their spirit achieve rest by returning them to their ancestral country in Sydney was an affirmation that all Australians need to acknowledge, understand and respect our shared history, if we are to grow as a nation and individuals. Michael sees himself as an educator sharing stories spanning from contemporary urban-based Artist (“Guwaali”) to cultural representative with MLALC. His role at MLALC is in the areas in Community Development, Projects, Strategic Engagement and Partnerships.
Michael has had a variety of roles including:
Director – NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce
Director – Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)
Co-Chair – National Sorry Day Committee
Delegate – National Congress of Australia's First Peoples
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee to the Board of Headspace
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group Australian Curriculum Assessment Reporting Authority
Cultural Advisor TEDx Sydney
Julie Matheson studied a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Psychology) and a Bachelor of Social Work, both at the University of Melbourne. She worked for a number of years in the Mental Health Sector as a social worker, and following that as a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist and Marital Therapist, both within an organisation specialising in these therapies and in private practice. She is the parent of two gifted children, one of whom was recognised as profoundly gifted and had special educational needs. She did her Master of Education (Gifted Education) by thesis, examining the experiences of parents of profoundly gifted children.
Jade has worked in disability services for over twenty years in practice and quality improvement positions. Her work is guided by a belief that all people have agency, have the right to realise their self-determination and live the life they choose.
During the last ten years, Jade has been completing a PhD with the La Trobe Living with Disability Research Centre where she has been exploring what good service quality in disability services looks like, and how it should be monitored to better identify poor-quality support, abuse and neglect.
Emmy’s passion is empowering parents, children and youth to have their voices listened to and acted on in all decisions that affect them, and a strong commitment to social justice.
As a special education consultant with the Ministry of Education to schools in the southern region, she was confronted by the enormous power inequity at meetings. Parents had no voice when enrolling their child, or in educational decisions. This experience fuelled her passion to become a trained parent advocate with the Victorian Parent Advocacy Collective. A condition of parent advocacy was that it was voluntary in partnership with families.
Later, as a principal of an independent primary school, she directly witnessed the effectiveness of ensuring a voice for parents and their child to enhance their learning experience, the importance of belonging and the value of fostering deep, meaningful relationships. The critical role of mutually satisfying communication, with particular attention to the needs of nonspeaking students with complex communication needs, which included the most traumatised and disadvantaged students has been the long-term focus of her advocacy.