Dr. Francesca degli Espinosa started working as a tutor for a little girl with autism in 1996. She was a first-year psychology student and knew virtually nothing about Applied Behaviour Analysis, teaching or disability, but fell in love with all three: ABA, teaching and children with autism. Over the past 20 years she has taught hundreds of children, and in the past ten years, hundreds of master students seeking certification as behaviour analysts around the world: UK, US, France and Italy, her home country.
One of the greatest challenges that families faced over twenty years ago was securing funding to ensure their children received what was considered, even back then, the most effective educational intervention for autism, as indicated by published scientific research.
Evidence in support of Early Intensive ABA intervention has continued to grow since then, to the point that today most US states mandate that insurance companies provide it to all young children with autism through certified behaviour analysts. Unfortunately, despite the increasing evidence, UK families today face the same challenge they did back in the 90s, they often have to fight to secure evidence-based ABA education for their children through lengthy negotiations with the local authorities and when unsuccessful, are forced to finance themselves what should be a fundamental right of every child with a disability: the right to effective treatment.
Francesca believes that The Playhouse Foundation represents a beacon of hope for those families who do not have the means to offer their children the only chance they may have to learn vital skills to function as effective members of their social community: to be able to communicate their choices, to look after their own personal needs, to understand language and to learn to manage their own behaviour. Through its tireless efforts and successful results, The Playhouse Foundation has shown that collaboration with local authorities and families is possible, when all involved share one common goal: the improvement of human life.
It is with great enthusiasm and humility that Francesca accepts the role of Ambassador of The Playhouse Foundation as she believes it to be both an honour and a privilege to be part of such an incredible initiative.
The Playhouse Foundation is incredibly proud to welcome the multi-talented singer/songwriter Shaun Escoffery as an Ambassador.
Shaun is a phenomenal West End star and recording R&B artist signed to Decca Records.
His roles in musical theatre have been diverse with starring roles in the West End productions of ‘Les Misérables’ and ‘Parade’ – a hard-hitting American musical, at the Donmar Warehouse, where he was nominated for an Olivier Award as Best Supporting Actor. Then came what is now a nine-year run as King Mufasa in the London production of the Tim Rice-Elton John hit show ‘The Lion King.’
Shaun’s solo recording career began in 2001 when, championed by the likes of Elton John, he was hailed as one of Britain’s brightest talents. Since 2015, he has enjoyed 8 consecutive ‘A’ listed records on BBC Radio 2. With his band he played the Radio 2 Festival in front of a capacity crowd in London’s Hyde Park, played a sold out tour and appeared on legions of radio and television programmes including an appearance on the prestigious ‘Later with Jools Holland’.
Away from music, Shaun enjoys mixed martial arts – wrestling, kickboxing, karate and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, which he has been practising for the past 15 years and in 2017 acquired his black belt.
As a motivational speaker, his positivity, work ethic and discipline has inspired various youth organisations both musically and within the field of martial arts.
Shaun became aware of ABA through his relationship with the Stanley family and his interest in following the progress of their son Milo. He has seen at first hand the challenges that children with autism and sensory processing difficulties face when trying to manage their condition in public spaces. He has, over a number of years, observed the link between positive reinforcement and changing behaviours at the pioneering Lion King Autism friendly shows, which has resulted in his passion for helping young and vulnerable children.
We are thrilled with Shaun’s endorsement for what the charity stands for and for his acknowledgement of the opportunities it brings to enabling young children with autism to access the right provision to meet their educational needs and to gain acceptance within society.