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Our Advisors

Our courses benefit from a range of in-house and external diverse and expert voices in autism and ADHD in the UK and internationally, including lived experiences from undergraduate and postgraduate autistic and ADHD students

Dr Luke Beardon

Dr Luke Beardon has been working in the field of autism for decades, in capacities ranging from practitioner to researcher to trainer to lecturer. His work has involved helping local authorities to develop services and good practice, coordinating and developing services and training for the National Autistic Society (NAS) and being part of a research team at Nottingham
University. Presently, he is senior lecturer on autism at Sheffield Hallam University. He is the recipient of several teaching and achievement awards, has made media appearances on television, radio and in national print media, and has co-edited or authored several books on autism.


Dr Nicholas (Nick) Chown

Dr Nicholas (Nick) Chown is an independent autism advocate, mentor, researcher, and trainer (as well as a book indexer specialising in indexes for academic titles). He has undertaken research on barriers to learning for autistic students, autism awareness in the UK police service, viva protocols for autistic doctoral students, and diagnostic pathways for autistic adults.
Nick’s two books are Understanding and Evaluating Autism Theory (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) and Neurodiversity Studies: A New Critical Paradigm (Routledge) which he co-edited.


Dr Elsa Suckle

Dr Elsa Suckle is Training and Development Manager at Optimum. Elsa holds postgraduate qualifications in autism and dyslexia and specialist training in ADHD. She works with students as a mentor and study skills and strategy support worker as well as an SpLD diagnostic assessor.

Elsa has a long-standing interest in the politics of minorities, marginalisation, minority stress and social ‘othering’ dating back to her PhD research which examined Muslim religious value claims in the context of public institutions within the value framework of liberal political neutrality. Her recent research focus includes autism and gender, student perceptions of DSA support, and autism research priorities.


Carly Jones

Carly Jones is a British Autism Advocate who has worked for the inclusion of Autistic women and girls since 2008. She regularly speaks on news channels, at universities and in government departments and she was the first British Autistic woman to address the United Nations on Autistic females’ rights. Carly also holds a public appointment as a member of the U.K. community and volunteer services Honours committee, an independent panel member for the Ministry of Justice and acts as an advisor for national media outlets, health departments and Autism charities.


Suzie Murray

Suzie joins Optimum from a background of freelance content work for companies including Unifrog, following her own experience of specialist mentor support as an English literature student at Oxford University. Her other recent work includes experience as a journalist, most recently reporting for Tortoise as part of their campus safety file. In previous lives Suzie has also worked at a squash club, run a primary school Code Club –– and for 4 weeks of 2018, she was gainfully employed by an opera company. In her free time, Suzie can be found trying to improve her French skills before she makes the move to Paris later this year!


Carys Kennedy

Carys Kennedy is a disability professional, educator, coach and mentor, with over fifteen years’ experience working with disabled students in a variety of educational settings. With a background in teaching and the charity sector, Carys currently works as a disability practitioner in a Higher Education, providing direct support to individual students as well as coaching, training and consultancy to colleagues.

Sanja Quayle

Clinical Director at Optimum.

UKCP integrative psychotherapist and clinical supervisor with over 20 years of experience working across a variety of settings including Health and Social Care, Mental Health teams, schools, colleges and HEI.

In addition to work with students and adults, the clinical and personal experiences have forged a particular interest in cross-cultural therapy with culturally diverse groups and communities that fall outside of the majority.

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