Collette Elliott: Transforming Lives and Changing the System

Global leaders and changemakers

In a world where the voices of the vulnerable often go unheard, Collette Elliott emerges as a beacon of hope and change. Her journey, marred by a traumatic past, has shaped her into a relentless advocate for the rights and protection of children who find themselves entangled in a system that failed her over four decades ago.

Over 40 years ago, Collette was placed under the care of social services, only to face a series of heart-wrenching abuses in foster homes and within her own family. The very system that should have shielded her turned a blind eye, leaving her to endure unimaginable suffering. Despite the odds stacked against her, Collette refused to be silenced.

Ten years ago, she took on Birmingham Social Services and won a case for neglect, not just for herself but for every child who suffered a similar fate. Although the battle was settled out of court, Collette boldly shared her story with the media, igniting a powerful wave of awareness that rippled through society. Her book, “Unforgivable,” became a testament to her resilience and determination to break the cycle of silence.

Collette’s journey took a pivotal turn as she aligned forces with Action for Children to overhaul outdated child abuse laws. Her tireless efforts culminated in the passage of the Cinderella Law in parliament, marking a significant step towards holding perpetrators accountable and protecting innocent lives.

But Collette’s commitment did not end there. Today, she stands as a guardian angel for the voiceless, dedicating her time and energy to give children the protection and advocacy they deserve. She refuses to stand idle as history repeats itself, with countless children falling through the cracks, neglected, traumatized, and lost within a broken system.

Recognizing the need for systemic change, Collette’s innovative spirit has driven her to collaborate with a company in the creation of a revolutionary app. This app aims to connect all professionals involved in a child’s welfare, providing them with a comprehensive platform to track and address the mistakes and shortcomings that can lead to tragedy. Through this groundbreaking initiative, the mistakes of the past can pave the way for a brighter, safer future.

To fund this life-saving app, Collette has embarked on a crowdfunding journey through a GoFundMe campaign. Her vision to empower vulnerable children with the protection they deserve is a testament to her unyielding dedication. With every donation, supporters become part of a movement that seeks to reshape a system plagued by neglect and bring accountability to the forefront.

Collette Elliott’s story is one of transformation, from a survivor of unspeakable horrors to a beacon of hope for countless children. Her journey reminds us that change is possible, that one person’s determination can bridge the gap between tragedy and triumph. As she forges ahead, Collette invites us all to join her in creating a world where every child’s voice is heard, every life is cherished, and every mistake becomes a lesson that safeguards the future.

Here’s an exclusive interview with Collette Elliott..

Author Shilpi Mayank Awasthi

Founder SpecialSaathi


Dr. Stephen Mark Shore: Transforming Lives and Perspectives through Autism Advocacy

In a world that often struggles to understand and accommodate neurodiversity, Dr. Stephen Mark Shore stands as a beacon of hope and transformation. Diagnosed with “Atypical Development and strong autistic tendencies,” his journey from being nonverbal until the age of four to becoming a respected professor, author, and advocate has been nothing short of remarkable. Dr. Shore’s story not only inspires but also educates, highlighting the immense potential within individuals on the autism spectrum.

Dr. Shore’s early life was characterized by the struggle to communicate and interact with the world around him. At a time when the understanding of autism was limited, he faced the grim prospect of institutionalization. At a young age, Dr. Shore faced daunting challenges that would have deterred many. Labeled as “too sick” for outpatient treatment, he was recommended for institutionalization. However, the unwavering dedication of his parents, teachers, and support network proved to be a lifeline that helped him defy these expectations. Their belief in his potential laid the foundation for his journey of self-discovery and success, upon which he built a remarkable life and career.

Today, Dr. Shore is a distinguished professor at the reputed Adelphi University, where his research centers around aligning best practices with the specific needs of people with autism. His research focuses on bridging the gap between best practices and the unique needs of individuals with autism, fostering a more inclusive educational environment. His work goes beyond academia, as he is a prominent member of the US Autism Association Advisory Board. This role allows him to influence policy, create awareness, and advocate for the rights of individuals on the autism spectrum.

Dr. Shore’s impact is felt globally, thanks to his captivating presentations, consultations, and writings on various aspects of life that intersect with autism. He delves into crucial lifespan issues including education, relationships, employment, advocacy, and disclosure. His most recent book, “College for Students with Disabilities,” merges personal anecdotes with empirical research, serving as a guide for promoting success in higher education for those with neurodiverse experiences.

His commitment to making the world a more inclusive place extends even further. Dr. Shore’s involvement with esteemed organizations such as Autism Speaks, the Asperger’s Association of New England, the Autism Society, and Board of Directors for American Occupational Therapy Foundation reflects his dedication to fostering positive change. Serving on advisory boards and councils, he contributes his expertise to inform policy decisions and shape the direction of autism-related initiatives.

Dr. Stephen Mark Shore’s journey embodies the essence of a changemaker. From his early struggles to his current stature as an internationally recognized advocate, his story is a testament to the power of determination, support, and education. Through his work, countless lives have been touched, perceptions have shifted, and the path toward a more inclusive and understanding society has been illuminated. As we celebrate his accomplishments, let us also embrace his message: that every individual, regardless of their neurological makeup, has the potential to make a lasting impact on the world. Through his inspirational story, we are reminded of the importance of fostering inclusivity, understanding, and empathy in our communities, as we collectively strive to create a more accepting and accommodating world for everyone.

Dr. Stephen Mark Shore’s remarkable journey from a diagnosis of “Atypical Development and strong autistic tendencies” to becoming a celebrated professor, author, and advocate is an inspiring testament to the potential within individuals on the autism spectrum. His Changemaker story serves as a reminder that with the right support and determination, seemingly insurmountable challenges can be transformed into opportunities for growth and empowerment.

Here’s an exclusive interview with Dr.Stephen Mark Shore

Author Shilpi Mayank Awasthi
Founder SpecialSaathi


Ashley Blaker: Redefining Normalcy through Laughter and Love

Changemakersaathi: Global leaders and Changemakers

In a world where comedy often serves as a mirror to the human experience, Ashley Blaker has emerged as a shining example of how humor can transcend boundaries, heal wounds, and provoke profound insights. As an internationally acclaimed comedian and television producer, Ashley has taken center stage on platforms spanning continents, using his unique perspective to navigate the complex terrain of parenting and life itself.

Hailing from the world of stand-up comedy, Ashley Blaker has seamlessly blended his gift for storytelling with his role as a loving father to six children, three of whom have been diagnosed with Special Educational Needs (SEN). His life’s journey has led him to embrace the uncharted path of raising children with unique challenges, and through humor, he’s found a way to share his experiences with the world.

With appearances across five continents, Ashley has transcended cultural barriers, touching hearts and tickling funny bones with his uproarious tales of family life. His tours have not only entertained audiences, but also acted as a conduit for fostering understanding and empathy for families facing similar circumstances.

Ashley’s artistry extends beyond the stage, as he’s also a seasoned writer for both television and radio. His creativity knows no bounds, and his insights have graced the airwaves of renowned platforms worldwide. Notably, his brainchild – the second season of a hit show on BBC Radio 4 – delves into the challenges and joys of raising children with special needs. Through candid conversations, he lays bare the realities of a household that defies convention, sharing moments of endless meetings, therapies, and the often surreal situations that come with parenting.

The title of Ashley’s book, “Normal Schmormal,” encapsulates his outlook perfectly. Ashley doesn’t merely accept the trials that life has presented him; he embraces them with laughter and love, reshaping the concept of normalcy in the process. His anecdotes of failed playdates and unexpected monologues resonate with audiences because they provide a candid glimpse into a life that is anything but ordinary.

Navigating the rollercoaster of parenting – one that involves unexpected twists, and occasional chaos – Ashley finds solace in his role, demonstrating that love has the power to overcome challenges. The heartwarming tales of his journey are a testament to the unwavering bond he shares with his children, portraying a household where laughter truly is the best medicine.

In an industry teeming with talent, Ashley Blaker’s ability to wield humor as a tool for change sets him apart. He showcases the power of comedy to heal, unite, and uplift, encouraging audiences to embrace life’s imperfections with open arms and genuine smiles. As a skilled joke-teller, he not only leaves us in stitches but also leaves us with a newfound appreciation for the beauty of diversity and the strength that comes from embracing the unconventional.

In a world that often demands conformity, Ashley’s unique perspective stands as a beacon of hope, proving that life’s most challenging moments can be transformed into sources of laughter, love, and inspiration. Through his work, he empowers others to view their own journeys through a different lens, one that finds beauty in the quirks and celebrates the extraordinary within the seemingly ordinary.

Ashley Blaker in conversation with Shilpi Mayank Awasthi

Images and press release: Kind Courtesy Ashley Blaker

Changemaker article written by

Shilpi Mayank Awasthi
Founder SpecialSaathi


Lara Stanton Schaeffer: Empowering Autistic Adults and Bridging Cultural Divides

Changemakersaathi: Global leaders and Changemakers

Lara Stanton Schaeffer: Empowering Autistic Adults and Bridging Cultural Divides

In the realm of global leaders and changemakers, one name that shines brightly is Lara Stanton Schaeffer. With a background in education and a personal journey intertwined with autism, Lara has emerged as a transformative force. Through her organization Autism Discovery and her second venture, finetunENG, she is revolutionizing the way we understand autism and language barriers, providing support and empowerment to individuals worldwide.

Lara is the Founder – Autism Discovery, offering both Guided Self-Assessment for autism and mentoring for autistic adults.
She is a Certified PEERS Social Skills Practitioner for adolescents and young adults
Autism Advocate, actively publishing and public speaking to raise education and awareness surrounding autism
She is a Co-facilitator of Bridges International Support Group for Autistic Adults, a free weekly group open to all autistic adults
Founder, English Language Specialty Services (finetunENG), helping international students and professionals fine-tune their spoken and written English
Developer, finetunENG On Your Own, a subscription service for guided English pronunciation improvement
Master’s in Education from Harvard University with 28 years high school English teaching experience.

Lara’s journey in her own words in an exclusive interview with Shilpi Mayank Awasthi

Unveiling the Autism Discovery:

Lara’s remarkable journey began when her own daughter received a late diagnosis of autism. Seeking clarity about her own experiences, Lara sought an evaluation and received her own autism diagnosis in her forties. This life-altering revelation prompted her to take action, leading her to establish Autism Discovery just two years later.

At Autism Discovery, Lara has pioneered a unique process of guided self-assessment for adults. Recognizing the long waiting lists and high costs associated with formal evaluations, she aimed to provide an affordable and accessible alternative. By leveraging her own experiences and expertise, Lara assists adults in understanding and embracing their autism, fostering self-awareness, and unlocking their full potential.

Mentoring Autistic Adults:

As a mentor, Lara supports autistic adults on their journey to live their best lives within a predominantly non-autistic society. She comprehends the unique challenges and hurdles faced by individuals on the autism spectrum and offers invaluable guidance, ensuring they are equipped to handle these challenges with resilience and confidence. Through her mentoring programs, Lara empowers autistic adults, encouraging self-advocacy and fostering a sense of belonging in a world that often fails to understand their unique perspectives.

Driving Social and Interpersonal Growth:

Lara’s commitment to making a difference extends beyond autism discovery and mentoring. As a Certified PEERS program provider, she helps autistic teenagers and young adults enhance their social and interpersonal skills. Recognizing the importance of connections and relationships in one’s personal and professional life, Lara facilitates a supportive environment where individuals on the autism spectrum can thrive and develop meaningful connections.

Bridging Linguistic Divides with finetunENG:

Lara’s passion for teaching and empowering others led her to create finetunENG, a groundbreaking initiative focused on helping international students and professionals improve their English proficiency. She understands the barriers that language can create, hindering personal growth and professional success. By equipping individuals with enhanced language skills, Lara opens doors to new opportunities and enables them to reach new heights in their careers.

Overcoming Personal Challenges:

Lara’s personal journey has not been without its obstacles. Despite a successful 28-year career as a high school teacher in prestigious American private schools, Lara faced adversity when the administrators at her school did not want the students to be aware of her autism diagnosis. After three years of trying and waiting, Lara took a brave step and left her teaching position, refusing to accept the lack of understanding and the need to compromise her identity.

Global Changemaker

Lara Stanton Schaeffer stands as a beacon of hope and change in the global community. Through her organizations, Autism Discovery and finetunENG, she champions the rights and potential of autistic adults while also bridging cultural divides through language empowerment. Lara’s commitment to transforming lives, fostering acceptance, and driving social change serves as an inspiration to all. As a visionary leader and compassionate advocate, Lara Stanton Schaeffer’s contributions resonate far and wide, leaving an indelible mark on our society and paving the way for a brighter and more inclusive future.

Author Shilpi Mayank Awasthi
Founder SpecialSaathi


Duncan Casburn: Aka PDA Dad: A Changemaker in Advocating for the SEND Community worldwide

In the realm of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) advocacy, Duncan Casburn, better known as “PDA Dad,” has emerged as a dedicated and influential changemaker. His tireless efforts to raise awareness, promote understanding, and drive change for the SEND community worldwide have garnered him recognition and respect from parents, educators, and policymakers alike. Through his online presence, engagement, and advocacy work, Duncan Casburn has demonstrated a commitment to making a lasting impact on the lives of those with SEND.

Understanding SEND and PDA

SEND encompasses a diverse range of conditions that affect an individual’s learning, behavior, or ability to communicate. Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is a subtype of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) characterized by an extreme anxiety and resistance to everyday demands and expectations. Individuals with PDA may exhibit strategies to avoid these demands, such as distraction, negotiation, or even aggression.

PDA Dad’s Journey

Duncan Casburn’s journey into the world of SEND advocacy began when he discovered that his own child had PDA. This personal connection gave him a unique insight into the challenges faced by families dealing with SEND, which he channeled into his advocacy work. Frustrated by the lack of awareness and understanding around PDA, he decided to channel his passion into advocating for his child and others like them. Utilizing social media platforms, Duncan Casburn began sharing insights into his personal experiences, challenges, and triumphs as a parent of a child with PDA. His authenticity and relatability resonated with many families facing similar situations, creating a sense of community and support.

Online Presence and Advocacy

Duncan Casburn’s online presence quickly grew as he became known as “PDA Dad.” He leveraged platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to share educational content, personal anecdotes, and informative resources about PDA and SEND. His candid approach and humor in discussing the daily struggles and triumphs of parenting a child with PDA garnered attention from a wide audience, including parents, educators, healthcare professionals, and researchers.

Authenticity and Relatability

Duncan Casburn’s authenticity has been a cornerstone of his advocacy efforts. He doesn’t shy away from discussing the challenges and frustrations he faces as a parent of a child with PDA. This raw and genuine approach resonates with individuals who might be going through similar experiences, as it offers a relatable perspective and reassures them that they are not alone in their struggles.

Changing Perceptions and Stereotypes

The advocacy work of PDA Dad has played a crucial role in challenging and changing public perceptions about SEND, particularly PDA. By shedding light on the nuanced behaviors and difficulties faced by individuals with PDA, he dispels stereotypes and misconceptions that often surround these conditions. This, in turn, fosters greater understanding and empathy within society.

Educational Impact

PDA Dad’s advocacy extends beyond raising awareness. He actively educates his audience about PDA and SEND, offering insights into effective strategies, resources, and approaches for supporting individuals with these conditions. His willingness to share both successes and setbacks creates a realistic portrayal of the journey, providing valuable guidance for parents, educators, and caregivers.

Influencing Policy and Systems Change

PDA Dad’s advocacy has transcended the digital realm and entered the realm of policy and systems change. He actively engages with local and national authorities, advocating for reforms that benefit individuals with SEND. His efforts include calls for increased training for educators to better accommodate the needs of SEND students, as well as raising awareness about the importance of early intervention and individualized support.

Impact and Achievements

One of the most significant contributions of PDA Dad’s advocacy has been in fostering greater awareness and understanding of PDA within the broader autism and SEND communities. His efforts have helped individuals recognize the unique challenges faced by those with PDA and the importance of adopting supportive and individualized strategies to assist them.

Additionally, Duncan Casburn has worked tirelessly to advocate for changes in education systems, policies, and attitudes towards SEND. Through his engagement with local and national authorities, he has called for increased training for educators and professionals working with SEND individuals, as well as the implementation of accommodations and strategies that are conducive to their learning and well-being.

Global Reach and Collaboration

PDA Dad’s influence has transcended borders, as his online presence and advocacy efforts have connected him with families, advocates, and organizations around the world. Collaborating with like-minded individuals and groups, he has contributed to the global movement to improve the lives of those with SEND. Through his online presence, personal stories, collaborative efforts, PDA Dad has sparked a global movement that extends far beyond his immediate reach. Families, educators, professionals, and policymakers from different corners of the world are learning from his experiences, sharing their own, and collectively working towards a more inclusive and supportive society for individuals with SEND.

Challenges and Future Outlook

Despite his accomplishments, Duncan Casburn continues to face challenges in his advocacy journey. Raising awareness and driving systemic change requires ongoing effort and collaboration. Moreover, there remains much work to be done to ensure that individuals with PDA and other SEND conditions receive the necessary support, accommodations, and understanding they deserve.

Duncan Casburn, has truly emerged as a changemaker in advocating for the SEND community, particularly those with PDA. raised awareness about PDA and SEND but He has also initiated a transformation in how society understands, supports, and advocates for individuals with these conditions. Through his online presence, authentic engagement, and collaborations, he has touched countless lives and played a pivotal role in driving systemic change for the better. His journey serves as a testament to the immense impact that a dedicated individual can have on a global scale. His dedication, transparency, and passion have ignited conversations, challenged stereotypes, and spurred positive change for individuals with SEND worldwide. As he continues to inspire and educate, his impact on the SEND advocacy landscape is bound to endure, leaving an indelible mark on the lives of countless individuals and families.

Let’s hear Duncan (PDA Dad) in an exclusive interview with Shilpi Mayank Awasthi.

Author Shilpi Mayank Awasthi