From the Mouths' of Babes

Ealing host first ever Conference for Children

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Ealing Council will host the country's first conference for children on Friday 25th June, with the aim of helping young people to find a voice and become more active citizens.

Supporting the general theme of improving communication, the children will be unlocking Shakespeare through Hip Hop and Rap, investigating attitudes to mixed gender football and discussing many other wide-ranging topics that will engage pupils from every school in the borough in lively debate.  

There will be an emphasis during the conference in increasing the participants   knowledge of diversity and especially disability.   One of the highlights of the day is sure to be a presentation by Luke Jackson, the 14-year old author of 'Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome - a user guide to adolescence' who was the focus of a BBC2 documentary last year.  

In the book Luke describes his own experiences of Asperger Syndrome - a   form of autism which can cause problems with social interaction and communication.   As the keynote speaker Luke will share his experience of Asperger Syndrome with children at the conference.   James Haftel, a pupil from a mainstream school in Hertfordshire, will also talk about his experiences of being a wheelchair user in school.  

Leo Thomson, Deputy Leader of Ealing Council said,  "I'm excited that Ealing has organised such a ground-breaking conference specifically for young people - a group whose voice is often not heard.   All the young people I've met as a councillor have had plenty of interesting things to say about a whole range of issues, and this conference should help them to find their voice.  

�It's also a great opportunity for young people to hear about the experiences of others who may face even greater challenges in making themselves heard, such as those with disabilities.   I am sure that this conference will have a really positive impact on the way Ealing's young people see themselves and the way that adults see them, and I'd like to thank Dr Ruth MacConville and the Education department for all their hard work in making today a reality."

The day will be jam-packed with other activities including a series of workshops in which young people can participate.   On the theme of communication, British Sign Language will be available throughout the conference and Guyanese jazz musician Keith Waithe will use his 'vocal gymnastics' techniques to interact with the audience and encourage the pupils to use their voices.   A diary room and graffiti boards will also enable pupils to �have their say'.

In addition, apprentices from Jamie Oliver's restaurant '15' will be describing their experiences of falling out of school and re�engaging in the community through cooking and an independent consultant will provide pupils with ideas for helping adults understand what they are saying.

June 24, 2004