Our Volunteer Team

Core Team

Guy Shahar

Founder, CEO

Guy grew up in Wolverhampton in the 1980s. As a child and young adult, he had many undiagnosed autistic traits, especially affecting his social awareness and understanding. This continued into his 20s, but after he began practising Heartfulness meditation aged 27, many of the adverse effects of these traits began to recede and he slowly gained more command of his life and direction.  His own autism was confirmed in 2018 at the age of 46.

Now married with his own son of 8 years, who is himself autistic, he has worked as a radio broadcaster, a TEFL teacher and teacher trainer, an IT Project Manage, but is now an energy healer at his company, Heartful Healing.

Early in 2016, he unexpectedly found himself writing a book, (Transforming Autism), which describes his family’s remarkable quest to support his son, Daniel, and their life-changing visit to the Mifne Centre in Israel. This turned Daniel's life around and opened Guy's eyes to the true nature of autism and to the most helpful and effective ways to bring out the best in young autistic children.

The book, which was written in little more than 6 weeks, led to Guy's aclaimed TED talk, The Beautiful Reality of Autism, later that year, and to the launch of Transforming Autism Project as a means of raising awareness of the true potential inherent in autism and equipping parents and carers with the tools to bring out the best in their autistic children.

As well as meditation, Guy loves to write, and as well as his 2 books (the other - a collection of short stories - is called Leaving Town), he has also written a large selection of articles for Transforming Autism, a 6-part TV comedy series and 2 films. He also enjoys music, playing the piano (and formerly the guitar), though not to any level of technical mastery, and only his own compositions.

 

Dhakshini Patel

Lead Therapist

Dhakshini is a Child Psychotherapist and has been working with children, adolescents and parents for over seven years. Working both in her own private practice and in schools she is a member of the BACP & BAATN. She is also a mindfulness practitioner and is currently training in EFT (Tapping).

As a skilled empathetic therapist, she works sensitively and collaboratively with her clients using an integrated approach where she is able to provide each child a unique treatment that fits them and their families. Relationships are at the heart of Dhakshini’s therapeutic practice as she places strong emphasis in working both in a therapist-child alliance and a therapist-parent alliance, and is especially passionate about in developing the connection, healing and growth within the parent-child relationship.

A mother of three, she lives in West London with her family where she spends her spare time gardening, painting and finding alternative ways of self-healing.

 

Amy Evans

Recruitment Lead

Amy is a Board Partner in a leading recruitment company, where she has worked for over 10 years based first in Leeds, then London and now works nationally throughout the UK.

Her family instantly grew when she met and married her husband and she is now a very happy StepMum to his daughter Clara and StepMum to Alfie who was diagnosed in his early years with Asperger’s Syndrome. Amy felt drawn to get involved and to support this worthwhile charity after she experienced at first hand the challenges the world throws at him.

When she’s not eating Haribo on the sofa with the family, Amy loves swimming, laughing with friends and still finds time in her busy working day to juggle a million other things. She loves to be active and is always looking for new avenues of learning.

 

Heather Rendell

Individual Giving Fundraiser

Heather has over thirteen years fundraising experience. Passionate about making meaningful change for future generations, she is keen to be part of the team working toward Transforming Autism's key values.

After graduating from the University of Adelaide (Australia) with a degree in Education, Heather worked as a music teacher. While teaching, Heather volunteered at children's charities and discovered an interest in Fundraising, eventually shifting focus into working as a career fundraiser.

Heather moved to the UK in 2019 with her partner (and their dog) and likes to travel, cook, paint, and is currently trying her hand at growing vegetables in the greenhouse.

 

Ben Elstub

IT

A Microsoft Certified Professional who is passionate about delivering IT in a way that enables people to work more collaboratively. I have worked in the industry for around 3 years now consulting businesses of all sizes with vastly different approaches to IT.

As a newcomer to the team, I look forward to helping shape the Transforming Autism Project’s IT strategy. Ensuring we are utilising the technology available to its maximum potential, which will ultimately assist in reaching the charities goals.

In my free time I enjoy socialising with friends, going to the gym/running and playing video games online

 

Gilles Pelenc

Trustee, Co-Founder

In 2007-8, both Gilles’ sons were diagnosed with Autism (at 2 years and 18 months respectively). As a family, they decided to do everything they could to provide the boys early professional and specialist intervention at all costs. Alongside having to deal with a double dose of the usual every day Autism challenges - on virtually zero sleep for the first 5 years - Gilles' and his wife went on to become a school governor in an ASD school and to take on the local authorities in a successful attempt to a change of setting. They also embarked on a never-ending research for positive therapies that could help the boys with their development.

Having built a great network of resources and an even greater circle of influence within the world of Autism, it has now become a mission, to bring this experience to bear to help and support as many families as possible so their battles become easier, their limited resources can be optimised and their children's lives are improved beyond what would otherwise be possible.

Therapists

Jane Yates

Therapist

I am a creative and dedicated Integrative Child and Adolescent Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, part of the wonderful therapist team at Transforming Autism.

My role is to work therapeutically with the family and young person, this requires me to be respectful and work with a high degree of trust and integrity. The basis of my work is to contain the child’s anxiety through playful engagement. I use a developmentally informed technique (particularly in responding to any pre-verbal behaviours). I notice when I am working with a much younger internal state of the child, which helps me to think about particular developmental deficits they may have experienced through their development and I meet the child there (through play) to repair and build the child’s sense of self.

 

Zuzana Camm

Therapist

Zuzana Camm, MA, is a therapeutic play coach and child psychotherapist. Zuzana is passionate about sharing her knowledge about the therapeutic potential of child-led and developmentally sensitive play.

Zuzana sees play as a wonderful tool for cultivating personal and interpersonal wellbeing and more satisfying functioning in everyday life. Her work is anchored in over 20 years of experience of supporting children from 0 – 16 years old in a variety of care, educational and therapeutic settings and also in homes.

She has been mentored by senior psychotherapists and occupational therapists to deepen and widen her understanding of the fascinating connection between the emotions and sensory integration. Zuzana’s enthusiasm for her work is fuelled by witnessing the growing connection between the children and their parents as the therapeutic process unfolds.

 

Services

Ira Bhattacharya

Service Design & Safeguarding

I completed my PhD in Environmental Science from India and my post doc from in the USA. I lived and worked in Australia before moving to the UK. I decided on a career change and worked in Children Services in two Local Authorities - in Education Welfare Service, Fostering & Adoption and Children Service Commissioning for 18 years.

Alongside my job I served as a Grammar school Governor for 10 years, a Board member of Buckinghamshire Mind, a Trustee at Aylesbury Multicultural Centre, and held positions in community groups /social interest organisations. I recently moved to London and currently serve as a Trustee and life member in two organisations.

I like to travel, grow houseplants and meet new people.

Currently seeking

Project Managers and Delivery Leaders to oversee and drive our activities.

 

Fundraising

Sarah Swaysland

Fundraising Volunteer

Sarah built her career in the hospitality industry, working in many areas such as HR, training, operations and eventually marketing for bars and restaurants. When the pandemic hit, she decided to make a career change into the charity sector and started off by volunteering, writing a blog about it called www.thevolunteeridea.com. She volunteers with a number of organisations in marketing and fundraising and she is currently studying for and obtaining her Google marketing qualifications.

Sarah’s son has autism, and she feels passionately about the importance of early diagnosis and the benefits that additional support can have on the family and the child.

Currently seeking

Fundraisers in all areas, especially Trusts, Individual Giving and Corporates.

 

 

Marketing

Amy O'Regan

Social Media

Amy is a marketer with experience in content writing, photography, videography and account management.

She has a bachelors in Journalism and Masters in public relations with new media and is passionate about story-telling and helping spread awareness around mental health.

In her free time she likes to go for walks, play football and is an avid traveller.

I look forward to working at The Transforming Autism Project to spread awareness on Inclusion and Equality while helping to dispel harmful myths.

 

Giulia Maria Valli

Graphic Design

Giulia is an eclectic designer with years of experience in both the corporate and charity sectors as well as in the creative environment.

She began her career in Rome, as an art director for communication agencies, cultural events, and also briefly in fashion, until she took on the chance to work for the not-for-profit sector. Here, she finally found a way to spread strong and powerful messages without limits. In 2015 she thought it was the time to find a place where to be cheekily creative and that place was London, where she is a freelance designer with the aim of finding the best creative strategy in the shortest possible time.

giuliamariavalli.com

 

 

IT

Coming Soon

 

Currently seeking:

Office 365 Administrator, Website Management

 

Finance

Paddy Stafford

Finance Manager

Paddy is a recently qualified management accountant who is a founding employee of a Fintech lending start-up. He now heads up the whole technical operations side of the company, encompassing the Tech and Finance.

Paddy studied Maths and Middle Politics at university and in his free time likes to cook, play/watch any sport and read.

 

Human Resources

Michael Dellapina

Human Resources

Michael is a Human Resources professional with HR experience spanning two decades.

He is a native of New York City and has extensive international experience, having lived and worked in Germany, Greece, Poland and the United States. In 2009, Michael moved to live and work in London.

In addition to holding both Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees, Michael is fully certificated by the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI®) as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR®).

He has a keen passion for helping organisations harness the power of their people by establishing forward-thinking HR agendas to enable growth.

Michael delights in being physically active and has a passion for HIIT workouts, running as well as hiking to explore the beauty of the English countryside.

 

Recruitment

Alex Sullivan

Recruiter

I have a Retail management background and have worked in numerous businesses at Store and Area management level for over 12 years.

I look forward to working at The Transforming Autism Project supporting in the Team search, helping bring in great people that resonate with our values and work and contribute towards TAP’s purpose.

I am now studying my CIPD qualification in HR management, to further develop my skillset and move into the People profession, ultimately championing better working lives for everyone through a greater awareness of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Living in London for the past 6 months - in my free time you'll find me running along the river - or wondering through Brick Lane or Borough Market to find some gorgeous food!