About Us

Learn More About the Acorns Network


About the ACoRNS Network

The Autism Community Research Network @ Southampton [ACoRNS] is an initiative which seeks to improve the lives of children and young people on the autism spectrum. The network began in November 2016 with initial funding from the University of Southampton’s Public Engagement with Research Unit and is led by Professor Sarah Parsons, from the University’s Education School.

ACoRNS is a unique collaboration between Education and Psychology at the University and local schools who are interested in developing, researching, understanding, and sharing good practice in educational provision for children on the autism spectrum and their families. More information about the partners of ACoRNS can be found below.

We believe that the best way for autism research and practice to genuinely meet the needs of children and young people in the local community is to involve the local community from the start. In ACoRNS we are striving to meet our aims through:

  • involving children and young people with autism at the centre of research and practice;
  • establishing a co-constructed research agenda for identifying, investigating and implementing evidence-based practices in autism education;
  • building a collaborative partnership between the University of Southampton, professionals, schools, early years providers, and children and young people.

Our focus is on understanding more about the trajectories and transitions of children and young people with autism. We want to know more about how to most effectively support children’s progress through school and enable them to have positive experiences. We also want to establish best practice for supporting children and families in making transitions, whether that be from home to school, from the classroom to the playground, or between and beyond stages of schooling.

We’d love to hear from you if you are interested in joining our network or just finding out more. Please do not hesitate to get in touch via the Contacts page.


ACoRNS members

Sarah Parsons

Professor of Autism and Inclusion, Director of Research, Southampton Education School, University of Southampton

Gareth Shaw

Inclusion Teacher: The Aviary Nursery

Kate Buckingham

Assistant Head at Springwell School and Lead Specialist for SEND, Autism, Shared Attention – Southampton Inclusion Partnership (SIP) and Southampton Advisory Outreach Service (SAOS)

Hanna Kovshoff

Associate Professor in Developmental Psychology, University of Southampton

Leisa Quigley

Commissioning Manager, New Forest Care – Education

Sam McBeth

Learning Support Co-ordinator at Totton College

Mark Fry

Director Of Education
New Forest School

Tariq Sasso

Blackfield Primary School
The Inspire Learning Federation

Hilra Gondim Vinha

Learning Support Co-ordinator at Richard Taunton Sixth Form College

Kathryn Ivil

Nursery Manager: The Aviary Nursery

Richard Cosford

Head of School – Inclusive Learning, Bitterne Park School

ACoRNS Network Administration Assistants

Sophie Hall

ACoRNS Research and Admin Assistant

PhD Education student, University of Southampton

ACoRNS Alumni

Derek Headrige

Campus Principal
Totton College

Caitlin Murray

ACoRNS Research and Admin Assistant

MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology, University of Southampton

Jenny Harper

ACoRNS Research and Admin Assistant

MA English Literary Studies, University of Southampton