We are a neurodiverse team of 17 people with a variety of skills and qualities. As a small team, everyone plays a part in shaping our work.
Jon Spiers, Current Chief Executive
Jon joined Autistica in 2015. He leads the charity and is a trustee of the Autism Alliance and the Association of Medical Research Charities. He was Rising CEO at the Third Sector Awards 2017, INSAR Autism Advocate 2018 and IoD Charity Director (London and South) 2019. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two daughters. A consultant specialising in innovative policy, public affairs and media campaigns, he previously advised senior leaders in charities, pharmaceutical firms and biotech in areas including lung cancer, leukaemia, genomics, HIV, meningitis, infectious diseases and ADHD. As Head of Public Affairs and Campaigning at Cancer Research UK he led the campaign for smoke-free legislation in England and Wales, a policy hailed as “the biggest step forward in public health for fifty years". With over 400,000 campaigners recruited, he successfully lobbied for national cancer plans, investment in cancer screening and putting tobacco out of sight in shops. He graduated in Linguistics from Cambridge University.
Jennie Chambers, Director of Fundraising
Jennie joined Autistica in October 2018 and brings 11 years of experience working in the charity sector. From a young age she has had a great love for making a difference and has undertaken numerous volunteer and challenge events from living in India to provide palliative care to HIV/AIDS patients, teaching English language in Uganda through to running the Virgin Money London Marathon and Royal Parks Half Marathon to raise vital funds. Jennie has led fundraising teams at some of the UK’s leading charities including Mencap, RNIB and Unicef UK with notable successes including securing RNIB’s first strategic and largest partnership to date with Specsavers. Jennie started her career at the National Autistic Society therefore is incredibly proud and excited to be supporting the autistic community again and furthering the success of Autistica’s fundraising team.
Dr James Cusack, Director of Science
James Cusack joined Autistica in September 2015 following a career in autism research at the University of Aberdeen. From a young age James has also worked directly with families affected by autism, as well as having experience in clinical, educational and social care settings. James has sat on a number of advisory panels discussing the role of research in autism, and was vocal in the production of the report, 'A Future Made Together'. He was part of a core stakeholder group which successfully campaigned for Scotland’s first ever autism strategy. James has also been a member of Autistica’s Science Review Panel since January 2014. He is proud to lead on Autistica's strong, community-driven research strategy.
Yasmine Davies, Head of Major Giving Events
Yasmine’s career has always focused on the Charity Sector. Prior to Autistica she worked at the Woodland Trust, an Environmental Charity, where she took on a variety of different roles spanning Individual Donor Management and more widely, Corporate Partnerships where she covered both Account Management and Business Development roles.
Yasmine joined Autistica to use her skills with an organisation that focuses more on people. She brings to Autistica a great deal of experience in Relationship Management and Development and will use these skills to develop the Corporate Fundraising Strategy and manage Autistica’s events programme. Yasmine joined Autistica in January 2013.
Rebecca Sterry, Head of Communications
Rebecca joined Autistica in 2014 to lead a project to find the autism community's top ten research priorities. Following a degree in English Language and Literature, Rebecca's career started in direct marketing before she joined the charity sector for four years with the National Migraine Centre. With parents who worked in special education and autistic family members, Rebecca has always had an interest in neurodiversity. She loves learning more by meeting our supporters. She is passionate about involving autistic communities in our work and helping people to value and understand evidence. Rebecca is on the Charity Comms Steering Group, is co-founder of the Charity Book Club and volunteers with Age UK Waltham Forest. Talking of forests, she loves spending time in nature and escapes London most weekends for long walks - and country pubs!
Ed Smith, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager
Ed joined Autistica in 2017 from the consultancy sector, where he provided public affairs and public relations insight to leading global pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Ed began his career in the third sector, working as an intern at the Neurological Alliance. He later joined the National Osteoporosis Society, where he grew to lead the charity’s political engagement activities and successfully secured a position for fracture prevention services within prominent NHS policy initiatives. Ed graduated with first class honours in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Manchester in 2013.
Emma Chappel, Senior Corporate Partnerships Executive
Emma is our Corporate Partnerships Executive. She previously worked in corporate sales at Centaur Media in the new business team and before that in recruitment. Emma’s interest in autism began working as a personal care assistant for children with physical and learning disabilities whilst at school. She went on to study Psychology at Coventry University where she started working as a fundraiser for the University’s charitable foundation. Emma continues to volunteer with children with autism. Her experience in care and education motivates her to build excellent corporate partnerships to support Autistica’s life changing research.
Simon Maltz, Digital Fundraising Manager
Simon joined Autistica in April 2018 as Digital Fundraising Manager, following three years working on digital communications at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. His previous work as Digital Fundraising Executive at Premier Media Group gave him a passion for online fundraising and developing supporter journeys, which he's been able to carry into his role at Autistica. Simon hopes that he can play his part in building strong and lasting relationships between Autistica and our amazing supporters.
Georgia Harper, Embracing Complexity Lead
Georgia leads the day-to-day running of Embracing Complexity, a coalition of neurodevelopmental charities working together to think differently about people with neurodevelopmental conditions. She joined our Policy and Public Affairs team in 2018 after working in a senior MP's Parliamentary office. Georgia is autistic and has been involved in campaigning for some time, particularly as Youth Patron for the charity Ambitious about Autism; in March 2018 she co-presented the Channel 4 documentary "Are You Autistic?". When she isn't thinking about autism and neurodiversity, she's probably thinking about London Underground stations and Doctor Who. Georgia is excited to build on Autistica's bold policy strategy to create evidence-led and community-driven change.
Siobhan Shaw, Senior Trusts and Foundations Fundraising Manager
Siobhan joined Autistica as Trusts and Foundations Manager in 2018, having previously been responsible for managing trust and foundation relationships at an international eye charity and a national museum. As her cousin Natalie is autistic, Siobhan understands the challenges autistic people face every day in a world which often does not understand or accommodate them. She is really excited to be working with a cause which is so close to her heart, and to have the opportunity to help raise the vital funds Autistica needs to launch research projects which matter to the autism community.
Bethan Davies, Discover Coordinator
Bethan co-ordinates our research network Discover. She joined the charity in 2018. She completed her Masters degree in English Literature, Victorian Studies at Exeter, before going on to work in marketing and comms. Most recently she worked in the Business to Business marketing team at the National Autistic Society, specialising in professional development and events, and she will be bringing that experience into her role at Autistica. Bethan volunteers for a mental health support helpline and has volunteered extensively for Nightline Association.
Lorcan Kenny, Discover Lead
Lorcan joined Autistica in October 2018 from the Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE) at University College London. At UCL Lorcan conducted research on the life experiences of autistic people, their parents and their teachers, before completing a PhD. Lorcan's research focused on the everyday planning and organisational difficulties autistic people often describe, how young people felt when they were excluded from school, what young people liked and what they found challenging about living in a residential special school and how autistic people want to be described. Lorcan is passionate about making research findings accessible and ensuring that autism research matters to autistic people and their supporters. Lorcan is excited to have the opportunity, through Discover, to drive autism research towards answering questions that matter and bringing all those involved in UK autism research closer together.
Jake Mackey, Games Partnerships Manager
Jake joins us from the video games industry with a personal and professional passion for all things games related. His professional passion for games evolved into a passion for the people, players and real connections, how games are often far more than just a hobby for those who play them. Jake also has experience in education, early development and wildlife conservation, and is the founder of a games community of two thousand members. His mission at Autistica is to help the games industry become more inclusive to neurodivergent people and to change the narrative around autism and games.
Cat Hughes, Research and Grants Officer
Cat moved from Ireland to work for Autistica in 2018. She has a background in autism and mental health research, with a PhD focusing on the language heard by autistic infants. She was Research Manager for suicide and self-harm prevention charity, Pieta House, and she previously worked at Dublin City University supporting autistic students. Cat is a long-time advocate within the community having received an autism diagnosis herself when she was a student. She was on the board of autism charity, Aspire Ireland, and ran a support group for autistic women and non-binary people. In her spare time, she volunteers in sighthound rescue.