Janine and I then put together the Labour Party Autism/Neurodiversity (LPA/ND) Manifesto Steering Group, made up of ND activists, advocates, academics, and campaigners. Our remit was to go to all the ND communities and with the communities’ help, design a truly inclusive manifesto to present back to McDonnell.
Over the next few months we worked together to design a manifesto which was felt could bring about the kind of structural changes needed to create a more ND inclusive society. The Steering Group launched the LPA/ND draft manifesto in September 2016, at a fringe event of the Labour Party Annual Conference. McDonnell attended this event and spoke about how he was supporting the creation of the LPA/ND manifesto. He also spoke about how he had first been introduced to the world of autism through his constituency work, and about how he had been challenged by Janine Booth to do something about autism in regards to the workplace at a trade union event he had attended some years ago. My impression was that McDonnell had been thrust into the autism world through his political work long before my open letter arrived in his inbox. You can view John McDonnell’s speech online .
Austin Harney (LPA/ND steering group secretary), spoke about his own lived experience of autism and why he was fully supportive of the manifesto. He stated:
When I received the diagnosis, the authorities recommended that I was taken away from mainstream education against my wishes. The top professional medical experts stated that I had sub – normal intelligence that was unfit for mainstream society, education and employment. I was sent to an Autistic compound. 
Austin, like so many of us, was able to prove these doctors wrong and is now a civil servant as well as being a member of the national executive committee for its trade union, PCS (Public and Commercial Services) Union.
Janine Booth spoke of the impact Neurodiversity training was having in the workplace, how it was showing real benefits, not just to the ND staff but to other staff and clients too. She then outlined the core principles: the social model of disability, the neurodiversity approach, opposition to austerity, socialism, democracy, solidarity, and the Nothing About Us Without Us principles which had helped us construct the document we were setting out before the delegates. She then outlined the document in full .
After the launch, we created a Facebook Page (https://m.facebook.com/LPANDmanifesto/) so that the segregated online communities could add their input easily through their Facebook accounts. Janine ran Neurodiversity training events and we attended meetings and ND events, so that we could between us all obtain more feedback from the many varied, segregated ND communities.
Joseph Redford had been involved in setting up or running many autistic community-building events prior to joining the LPA/ND Manifesto group. He had worked with Autscape, an event run for and by autistic people. Joseph had also worked on Autistic Pride in Hyde Park, an event which started in London and which in 2018 saw autistic people and their families attend Autistic Pride events in cities all over the country. Joseph was able to take the Manifesto and gather valuable feedback from many within the autistic community through these activities and events.
Annie Morris facilitated all our meetings and also set up and monitored the Neurodiversity Manifesto Website for the group (https://neurodiversitymanifesto.com). We also were lucky to have noted academics available to the steering group. Dr. Damian Milton and Dr. Dinah Murray were able to help us research any controversial issues in more depth.
In 2017 the steering group was in the process of gathering feedback to ensure all issues had been considered in the draft document. We wanted to ensure we had not left any groups unrepresented and we wanted to do a good job. We were not due for a General Election in the UK until 2020 and we wanted to produce a document that was well-thought-out so the Labour Party would have no problems adopting it before the next General Election. But this all coincided with massive political change taking place in the UK as the vote to leave Europe had taken place in 2016 and the political landscape was changing. The Conservative Government changed its leadership and Theresa May was appointed the new Prime Minister. In June 2017 a snap General Election was called and we again found ourselves at the ballot boxes.
When the election was called the steering group collated all the information we had gathered. The draft manifesto was then adapted and submitted to McDonnell just before the official Labour Manifesto was itself published. All of us on the LPA/ND Manifesto steering group knew there was no time to have the full manifesto included in time for that election, but as McDonnell had seemed to understand our issues and had attended steering group meetings when he could, we hoped that some of our more general aims would have been brought up.
The official Labour Party Manifesto 2017, “For The Many Not The Few” , included some of the core principles requested in the draft A/ND manifesto. The Labour Party Manifesto made it clear that the Labour Party desired an autism-friendly UK, that they wanted to implement the social model of disability, and look to resolve disability issues created by lack of accommodations rather than expecting the change to come from the disabled person. It even mentioned neurodiversity.
In September 2017 we were ready to host the Autism/Neurodiversity event at the Labour Party Conference. A copy of the drafted manifesto was left on all the delegates chairs so they could refer to it throughout. A copy of this can be found online .
I Chaired this event, and had the pleasure of introducing McDonnell, who this time spoke of how proud he was of the work Janine and the whole of the steering group had put into creating the Manifesto and again stated his full support for it.
Emma Lewell-Buck MP, the only openly dyspraxic Member of Parliament then spoke about what it is like being a dyspraxic politician. Other politicians and members of the steering committee also spoke about how the Autism/Neurodiversity Manifesto would impact the different ND groups and how that could benefit society.
We had talks by dyslexics, autistics, dyspraxics, and a very vivid and powerful talk by Terry Laverty, a core member of the Steering Group, who spoke on the topic of ADHD. Terry spoke about what it is like having a mind that works so differently to most and the discrimination faced by ADHD adults.
The event was very well attended and support for the manifesto was unanimous. One of the comments from the delegates which stuck with me was that they had never been in a room with so many neurodivergent people in one place. It really was an amazing feeling to be in a room full of our actual peers.
Where We Are Now—The Present
In 2018 we ran another successful conference where we introduced our critical appendix on Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) which was also incredibly well received . Shortly later Janine and myself reported back to John McDonnell MP, to present the final manifesto to him in detail . John McDonnell fully supports the manifesto and is keen to see the whole document officially adopted by the Labour Party and has explained how we can now go through the right channels to get it approved by the National Executive.