Supporting neurodiverse families
We are an award winning Hertfordshire based charity supporting families of children and young people who are on the Autistic Spectrum (ASD), have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or other neurodiverse conditions.
Whether families think their child or young person may be autistic or have ADHD, are going through the diagnostic process, or have already received a diagnosis they are all welcome at SPACE.
A Brief History of SPACE
We have been running since 2007 and we became a registered charity in 2017. We are staffed by an incredibly hard-working and enthusiastic team of parents and carers and are passionate about supporting our Hertfordshire families. Everything we do is designed to help families navigate local services, build confidence, share knowledge and enjoy social opportunities and activities.
As a local charity our ability to support all of our amazing local families is dependent on the generosity of our supporters. Every donation – no matter how small – makes a real difference. You can find out more about donating or fundraising for us here.
SPACE started as a single monthly support group held in Cheshunt and run by an Autism Advisory Teacher and a parent/carer
More parent/carers came on board to expand this to other areas in East Herts
We launched the closed Facebook Group, establishing an online community of support for families with children and young people who are on the autistic spectrum or have ADHD across Hertfordshire
We expanded support groups and activities beyond East Hertfordshire to cover all of Hertfordshire
We became a registered charity
We began delivering workshops, courses and training to parent/carers and professionals
We became the only organisation in Hertfordshire to train the ADHD Foundation’s parent/carer skills building course, as well as being approved to deliver the Sleep Tight course developed by The Sleep Charity. We were also awarded Charity of the Year by the ADHD Foundation.
We became a Short Break Local Offer (SBLO) provider and were commissioned by Herts Country Council (HCC) to run workshops
We launched Lending SPACE, an equipment lending library funded by HCC, offering specialist sensory, practical and educational equipment and resources for families to borrow
How we help Families
Our key belief is that we build bridges between families, professionals and the local community to help families feel confident, empowered and less isolated. This in turn improves outcomes.
Building Confidence and Empowerment
- Support Groups
- Virtual Support
- Facebook Group
- Lending SPACE
- Inclusive activities
- Training for Professionals
- Teen Events
- Sibling Events
- Early and Primary Years Events
- Bespoke Social Groups
- Inclusive Activities
- Parent/Carer Events
- Family Events
- Building Communities
- Promoting Inclusion
- Facebook Group
SPACE and the Community
We build relationships with local statutory services, local and national charities and private businesses to help further support our families and the community around us. Here are some of our wonderful partners and supporters all of whom help make SPACE what it is today. You can find out more about working with SPACE here.
We couldn’t do what we do for our families without the dedication and time of all our wonderful volunteers. You can find out more about volunteering for SPACE here.
Our patrons are incredible ambassadors for SPACE. They help to raise our profile and increase awareness of the work we do to support families of children and young people across Hertfordshire who are on the autistic spectrum, with ADHD or other neurodiverse conditions.
Dean has toured the UK for over fourteen years sharing his experiences of being autistic. He has also delivered keynotes in Ireland, Denmark, Belgium and Germany as well as undertaking four seminar tours of Australia and New Zealand. In recent years he has also become an in demand inset trainer and delivers training to staff across the UK. To date Dean has delivered over 800 keynotes, lectures and training sessions. He is also an experienced journalist and in 2012, this part of Dean’s career culminated in him being appointed editor of the National Autistic Society’s ‘Autism in Practice’ newsletter which had subscribers in 90 countries.
Dean is Patron of SPACE and is also a patron for ONE to ONE Enfield, a charity providing meaningful activities for LD/autistic adults. He is honorary president of APCymru- an autistic led parent charity in Cardiff.
Emma is Director of Early Years Service at the ADHD Foundation.
As the Director of the Neurodiversity Early Years Service at the ADHD Foundation Emma has a real passion for early identification and intervention for neurodevelopmental conditions. Her role at the ADHD Foundation is to work alongside early years settings, parents and carers of children in the early years and young children presenting with traits of neurodiversity.
Karen Spencer, General Manager
Karen entered the SEND world via her son’s diagnosis of Autism in 2011, stumbled across SPACE a few years later and hasn’t looked back. Leaving her previous life of working in London and local Law Firms, Karen is now General Manger of the Charity overseeing the day to day running of the organisation as part of the Senior Leadership Team. Karen still works directly with families and professionals as she loves seeing first-hand the positive impact that SPACE has with their “whole family approach”.
Clare Brillus, Operations and Finance Manager
Clare entered the SEND world via her son’s diagnosis of Autism and ADHD in 2012, her daughter is also neurodiverse. After running her own support group for SPACE she grew the Charity as part of the Senior Leadership team alongside Karen and Nicky to where it is today. Clare had a particularly difficult journey to diagnosis and has always wanted parent/carers to have a clear view of the services needed and the support available.
Nicky Chaperlin, Volunteer and Community Engagement Officer
Nicky really began her journey into the SEND world with the Autism and ADHD diagnosis of her son in 2007. She stumbled across SPACE in its very early days and immediately felt the importance of that sense of community and inclusion. Nicky brought her experience of working as a teacher and acting head in a therapeutic setting to SPACE. With fellow likeminded team members, fuelled with passion and a determination to make the SEND world a better one they shaped SPACE to the organisation you see today. Nicky is one of the Senior Leadership team and is hands on with all training, support, activities , events and of course tea making. Nicky is still very much walking the walk on her own journey with the recent Autism diagnosis for her daughter and her son entering the world of Post- 16.
Debbie Gilbert, Charity Administrator
Debbie’s experience of the SEND world began with the autism diagnosis of the eldest of her two sons when he joined his pre-school. Now they are both teenagers, Debbie brings her organisation and computer skills from her previous IT Support career to our office as SPACE’s Charity Administrator.
Debbie has a passion for hiking and the outdoors and loves volunteering as a Scout and Cub Leader with the local Scout Group.
Chris Russell, Training Lead and Family Support Manager
Chris brings with him almost 20 years of experience working in the world of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), most recently as Hertfordshire County Council’s DSPL4 Area Manager and SEND Lead.
Chris’s career has been dedicated to working with disabled children and young people and he is passionate about implementing change and delivering support and services that makes a real and direct difference. He has previously run an autism provision in a mainstream school, taught braille, white cane skills and Makaton and accredited the UK’s second mainstream school with the National Autistic Society.
Sarah Jones, Alternative Provision Manager
Sarah has 14 years experience as a primary school teacher, Deputy Headteacher & Headteacher. She has worked with many children and families in supporting children to access education and wider support. This includes children with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Visual Impairment, Downs Syndrome and those awaiting diagnosis. She spent much of her teaching career working in a mainstream school accredited by the National Autistic Society.
She has three children, two with additional needs who have diagnosis’s of ADHD and ASD. She firmly believes that families and children need the right support at the right time.
Hayley Clyne, Lead SEND Family Support Worker
Before joining SPACE Hayley had worked for 6 years as an Autism/ADHD Family Support Worker.
She has two children (now young adults), one with additional and complex needs. Over the years she has had to learn many ways to manage and support her son’s differences and support him into early adulthood. Prior to becoming a family support worker, Hayley worked as a 1:1 inclusion practitioner and was part of a team that set up a base that supported children with additional needs.
She is trained in Therapeutic Life Coaching, Grief Recovery, Mediation, Mental Health First Aid, Protective Behaviours, Managing Challenging Behaviour, Hertfordshire Steps Tutor, Autism Education Trust Trainer and in many aspects of Autism and ADHD.
Lisa Flanagan, SEND Family Support Worker
Lisa has over 25 years of experience working with in the Early year’s education environment. The last ten years of this Lisa has specialised in working with children with disabilities from being a SENCO in a preschool, working in a specialist ASD provision school and working for Hertfordshire county council’s Speech Language and Communication advisor team where she planned and ran the Early year’s autism support group. She was also part of a team who deliver the National Autistic Society EarlyBird parent programme, supporting parents and give them the strategies to support at home.
Lisa has two adult children, who both have needed extra support during their early teenage years with different medical needs.
Lisa is trained in PECs – Picture exchange communication systems, TEACCH , Makaton, EKLAN – speech and language course , 10 week Autism course with Pinewood school and is Earlybird trained by the NAS, Attention Autism.
Suzie Daniels, Marketing Communications and Events Manager
Suzie is mum to two primary aged girls, the eldest of whom is autistic. She discovered SPACE in 2017 whilst on the pathway to diagnosis and attended a number of training courses and workshops. In 2019 she ran her first (and probably only!) half marathon to raise funds for them. Previously Suzie has has leadership positions in both the private and not-for-profit sectors specialising in general management, marketing, communications and digital, most recently at Amnesty International UK. She took a career break to look after her children when they were younger and answered a call out from SPACE in early 2021 for volunteers, working for them in a voluntary capacity on a number of projects before becoming a part time member of staff.
Patty Quiroz, Community Engagement Officer
Patty’s journey started with having a family member being diagnosed with ADHD. Growing up with that knowledge was where the learning began but only until her own son began to struggle at school and was showing signs of ADHD, ASD and SPD did she begin to investigate further. In 2015 (after reading everything she could) she decided to reach out for further family support, in the way of activities and meeting other parents. She went to one support group and decided she wanted to be part of THIS charity and offered to create flyers that she felt would promote SPACE in a way that matched the knowledge and support that was being offered already. Working with families and watching how those families/children ‘find their tribe’ is the most rewarding part of her role.
Giuseppina Weeks, Events and SBLO Coordinator
Giuseppina studied French and Spanish at university and worked in the travel industry and then into the recruitment advertising sector. She left there to pursue a career in local government, whilst also starting a family and having her daughter and son. After 13 years Giuseppina decided to leave local government where she learnt many invaluable skills that she has brought to the SPACE family. In her spare time, Giuseppina enjoys going for walks with her dog Alan and going on days out with her husband and children.
Louise Murray, Lending SPACE Administrator
Louise’s experience of the SEND world began with the autism diagnosis of the youngest of her three children at pre-school age. Louise attended many courses which were ‘invaluable’ in both normalising and supporting her with the diagnosis, which left her with a strong desire to work for SPACE. Louise brings her organisation and computer skills from her previous career to our Lending SPACE community hub as Lending SPACE Administrator.
Louise enjoys walking her dog, exercising and looking after her family.
Daniella Hall, Lending SPACE
Daniella has worked in education for over 15 years and within this time has held many leadership positions. Daniella has navigated the world of SEND both as a parent and as an experienced SENCO. She has supported many children and families with a diverse range of needs and disabilities. She has a passion for SEND and drive to try and improve the experiences for children with additional needs.
Katy Rowland, Lending SPACE
Katy has three children diagnosed with autism , she first entered the SEND world in 2005 with her eldest. Katy discovered SPACE in 2015 when she had first hand experiences of the support groups and and how helpful it was for the whole family. She soon become a volunteer and is now working at Lending SPACE.
Tina Leeming, Lending SPACE
I was lucky enough to find SPACE when my Son was diagnosed with ADHD and Autism in 2017. It all began with support groups, I felt like I had found my tribe and quickly wanted to give back.
I started volunteering and subsequently joined the team working for them. I have always worked with families and children doing years of nannying and now love working with them in this lovely environment at Lending SPACE.
Rebecca Sears, Lending SPACE
Rebecca got into the SEND world when her eldest child received a diagnosis of ASD/ADHD at 6 years old. Her Son received the same diagnosis 4 years later. She attended multiple courses including several run by SPACE and having been a Veterinary Nurse for 20 years started working for Herts SENDIASS where she trained to support parents with EHCP applications. She now works at the SPACE lending library.
Lynn Heathcote Sharif, Chair
Lyn worked in advertising and marketing for over 20 years before becoming a mum to her 3 children she now helps run a successful architect and structural engineering consultancy.
She initially got involved with SPACE as one of her children was struggling with Dyspraxia and discovered how little help was available and found the information and support from SPACE invaluable.
She is feels truly honoured to be Chair of such a inspirational charity.
Polly is a Senior Associate Solicitor at Tees Law and Head of Education Law with an emphasis on SEND.
She has extensive experience representing parents of children with special needs in the tribunal. Polly delivers training to schools, local authorities and parents relating to Special Educational Needs and the law in practice and is a governor at a special needs school in Herts.
When she does get some ‘down time’ it largely centres around spending as much family time as possible with her husband and their sons, the youngest of whom has a diagnosis of ASD.
Mark has worked in the Banking industry since 1985. The majority of his career was spent at a large UK high street bank in various locations around central London and then latterly in Hertfordshire. In 2013 he joined Handelsbanken UK PLC, helping set up their branch in Hertford, where he remains today. Mark is an Account Manager, looking after personal customers for their banking, mortgages and wealth management requirements. He is married to Jo and they have two sons. They are a family of season ticket holding Tottenham Hotspur supporters. I also have a passion for playing golf.
Dr Sharmishtha Sarkar (Sharmi)
Sharmi is a Consultant Community Paediatrican. She has worked in Paediatrics for more than 20 years and is based both at Lister Hospital, Stevenage and the QE2 Hospital in WGC. She specialises in children’s developmental problems such as Developmental Delay, AS, ADHD, Dyspraxia and genetic conditions such as Down syndrome. She also has a keen interest and specialises in neurological conditions that are chronic and affect the child’s development such as Epilepsy. Her main work involves not only working with children and their carers/parents but also working with school/nursery and other professionals from health, education and social care in an effort to produce the best outcome for the child and family.
Donna is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist and Cognitive Behaviour Therapist. She works in private practice having previously worked in a number of NHS and educational settings. She has carried out and published research on a variety of areas including social skills training with children and self injurious behaviour in people with severe learning difficulties. Donna is particularly interested in children’s development during middle-childhood and the problems associated with this period. In her private practice she predominantly employs cognitive Behaviour Therapy to help children and adults who are experiencing anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and/or behavioural problems.
Victoria is a Vice President in Human Resources at IHS Markit and Global Head of Talent, including employee engagement, performance and Graduate development. She has been an HR professional for 20+ years, predominantly within the Financial Services Industry, and has extensive experience across all areas of HR – including employment law, employment policies, employee relations, recruiting, learning and development, performance and engagement. Outside of work she enjoys spending time with her husband and 2 daughters.