The ESRC Festival of Social Science: Salford’s Focus on Autism and Society

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Within academia and society at large there is a growing understanding of neurodiversity and its impact on learning and behaviour. Despite this, those on the autistic spectrum remain misunderstood and marginalised by society as whole. As part of the Festival of Social Science Salford academics will deliver a series of talks and panel discussions on their research into Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), examining the ways those with ASD learn, and analysing the way Autistic Defendants are treated by the criminal justice system.

Details of the sessions can be found below and are open to the general public and wider academic audiences. Register here for all events:

The Autistic Defendant in the Courtroom, 11th November 2021, 13.00 – 16.30

What’s on offer?

The event will include a welcome and introduction, a presentation by Dr Clare Allely on Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Courtroom: Why it is Important to Recognise this Disorder in Defendants, a presentation by Felicity Gerry QC on Complicity and Injustices – Lessons from Cases on Joint Enterprise and Autism and a presentation by Professor Eddie Chaplin on Learning from a Specialist Liaison and Diversion (L&D) Service for Defendants with Neurodevelopment Conditions. This will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A.

What’s it about?

There is increased recognition that the ability to negotiate the criminal justice process may be particularly complex and difficult for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is crucial to inform the jury of the autistic defendant’s ASD diagnosis as it may help the jury understand their presentation during the court proceedings. Expert testimony provided to the jury regarding the defendants ASD diagnosis and how it presents in that particular defendant is vital in order to mitigate any negative perception the jury has of the apparent negative demeanour and lack of remorse exhibited by the defendant. If this is not provided it can have obvious detrimental and have negative consequences to them such as longer sentences, etc. A long sentence may be particularly damaging for someone with a diagnosis of ASD. This event will explore these issues from a psychological and legal perspective.

Who’s leading the event?

Dr Clare Allely, Reader in Forensic Psychology at the University of Salford. Clare is one of the co-founders of the Autism and the Criminal Justice System hub at the University.

Professor Felicity Gerry QC, admitted at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, to the Bar of England & Wales and in Australia. She is Professor of Legal Practice at Deakin University and an Honorary Professor at the University of Salford.

Exercise, Sleep and Word-Learning in Autistic Children, 14th November 2021, 15.00 – 16.30

What’s on offer?

A series of short, online talks from experts highlighting the links between exercise, sleep, and language in autistic children, followed by discussion with attendees. We will also present some findings from the Salford Autism Exercise Project, investigating whether swimming can help autistic children with their sleep, and whether this, in turn, can help them learn new words. Attendees will be encouraged to ask questions throughout, and ‘break-out rooms’ will be used after the presentations for attendees to share their experiences and discuss the topics further, in small groups.

What’s it about?

Autistic children often have problems with their sleep (getting to sleep, staying asleep, getting up too early, etc.), and this can have a big impact on them and their families. We know that exercise can help improve sleep in some children, and we also know that sleep is important for making memories, including learning new words. In the Salford Autism Exercise Project, we tested whether swimming lessons can help autistic children to sleep better, and whether improving sleep can also help the children learn words more easily. We will give an overview of existing research on sleep in autistic children, before telling you about the results of the project so far.

Who’s leading the event?

Eve Bent, Amy Bidgood and David Tate, who are all members of psychology staff at the University of Salford. Together, they run the Salford Autism Exercise Project (

Other Events

In addition to this focus on Autism, Salford’s contribution to the Festival of Social Science will also focus on Climate Change (See here for details) with the following events:

  • COP26 Universities LIVE, 8th November 2021, 17.00 – 18.00 and 15th November 2021, 17.00-18.00
  • Motherload: E-cargo Bikes for Low-Carbon Family Transport, 10th November 2021, 18.00 – 19.00
  • Climate Change Conspiracies and Covid, 13th November 11am-1pm
  • Cognitive Restoration: The Effects of the Environment on Thinking, 27th November 2021, 10.00 – 17.00

The festival will also host the following events (See here for details):

  • We Love Peel Park: Graphic Novel Launch, 18th November 2021, 18.00 – 19.30
  • Pirates and Exploding Man! A Hazard Signs Interactive Intervention, 23rd November 2021, 10.00 – 12.00
  • Social Capital: Understanding its Value in Strengthening Resilience, 29th November 2021, 10.00 – 12.00