Autism Champions in Cumbria

Autism Champions are County Councillors who have chosen to promote local awareness of autism in their area, and champion the needs of autistic children, young people and their families. 

Our Autism Champions have been involved in helping many of our libraries achieve Autism Friendly status, regularly give awareness talks in their communities, and are helping to make Cumbria County Council a good place to work for current and future neurodiverse employees. They have also been a local point of contact for people who may need help or advice and are unsure where to go. 

Here is a little more about each of our current Champions:


Christine Bowditch

I am delighted to be the elected Champion for Autism on behalf of Cumbria County Council following Task and Finish group which clearly identified the need for this role in Cumbria.

I am a sitting Councillor.

I have been the Chair of Carlisle Mencap for 25 years of its 50 year existence in Carlisle, moving from a small group of parents to being the third largest in the country serving a range of disabilities, including more frequently than ever autism.

I am a former teacher in charge of a unit for disabilities attached to a mainstream school where I introduced inclusion into the school. My husband is Chair of another disability charity in the area and was formally Head of James Rennie Special school in Carlisle.

Most importantly I am the mother of a son on the autism spectrum which gives me the passion to develop the role of Champion in the Carlisle district, seeking to enhance autism awareness across the area and work on behalf of individuals or groups who seek my support.

Christine Bowditch contact details.

Mike Hawkins

Following concerns raised to Councillors about the difficulties people living with autism were experiencing in Cumbria, it was decided after a successful task group that each district of Cumbria appoint a member as a champion.

With the aim of the role to promote an awareness of the condition to the wider public and to champion the rights of Autistic people and improve the facilities we offer as a Council.

I was pleased to be made the champion for Copeland as I have a 24 year old son who is autistic, so I have lived through many of the problems that people and in particular young parents are experiencing, this role will help me to support people, raise awareness and improve the lives for the people of Copeland and Cumbria living with autism and I look forward to working with the other champions across Cumbria.

Mike Hawkins contact details.

Andy Connell

I am honoured to have been elected as Eden Local Committee's Autism Champion on behalf of Cumbria County Council.

In 1997 one of my triplet children was diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome at the age of eight. My daughter's diagnosis was good for her as it enabled her school's excellent SENCO to meet her needs more effectively and helped her to understand herself and others.  It was good for me too, not only within the family but also in my own job as a secondary school teacher; all sorts of issues became more comprehensible. I took time to read up on autism, attended courses and developed an understanding of the condition, which benefited me in my role as a parent and teacher and also enabled me to support colleagues. As conditions on the autistic spectrum gained greater recognition and acceptance both in education and in the world of work, my knowledge and understanding has been invaluable.

I very much look forward to fulfilling my role as Autism Champion for Eden Local Committee and working with the countywide team to share work and ideas that benefit children and adults living with Autism.

Andy Connell contact details.