The Team

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The Team

Lesley Henderson

Lesley founded The Toby Henderson Trust 15 years ago after her son, Toby (now 24 years) was diagnosed with autism. As the Project Director of the organization, she has played a pivotal role in offering support to thousands of families over the years. Originally qualified with a Modern Languages degree from the University of Lancaster, her specialist in-depth knowledge of autism and the difficulties faced by our families is invaluable to the Trust.

Victoria Broady

Victoria began her journey with The Toby Henderson Trust back in the summer of 2005 when she volunteered on the play scheme during her holidays from university. She quickly realised that she had a great passion for learning about and working with children and young people with ASD. After graduating with a degree in Childhood and Youth Studies and Social Psychology, she became a full-time member of staff in September 2006. Victoria has an incredible depth of knowledge and experience gained from the unique and diverse children and young people she has worked with during her time with the trust. She is now Director of Care Services and uses her extensive knowledge and expertise to support the staff, the children and their families at the trust.

Sue Cadwallader

Sue originally joined The Toby Henderson Trust in 2006 as a playworker. Her youngest son was diagnosed with ASD at the age of two and he attended weekly playroom sessions at the trust. He was only the second child ever to attend Intensive Interaction play sessions at our old center at White House Farm.  After seeing the positive effect these sessions were having on her son, especially in his interaction and communication, Sue was keen to help other children who shared the same issues. She is now our Early Intervention Centre Consultant and works part-time to support the parents and children who attend the Trust, especially in areas such as challenging behavior and communication.

Emma Anderson

Emma has been with us since 2013 and is an Intensive Interaction Play worker at the Trust. She grew up in North Northumberland and successfully gained a BA(Hons) degree in Childhood Studies at The University of Sunderland.  Emma works one to one with children in the playroom supporting children and their families, as well as running a social group called MATES once a month for children 8+. In her spare time, she helps to run a Girl Guide unit as well as local youth groups.

Lynda Richardson

When Lynda’s daughter Jasmine was diagnosed with autism, she came to us for Intensive Interaction playroom sessions, where she began to communicate for the first time. As Jasmine grew older, the Trust offered her family support and advice. Lynda returned the favour by volunteering and fundraising for us. After gaining a first class honours degree in Working with Children and Families in 2015, Lynda was delighted to be able to come to work for us as our Early Intervention Coordinator. Lynda has a dual role with us, working in the playrooms with children and young people as well as coordinating a range of different services within The Toby Henderson Trust. Lynda has a special interest in supporting siblings of children with autism and set up the “Sibling Superstars” group at Toby House where they can meet other children with similar experiences.

Fiona Richards

Originally from London, Fiona moved to the North East in 2003. When her son, Jason was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome he began attending a social communication group at The Toby Henderson Trust. In 2009 Fiona returned to studying and started working as a practitioner at a Pre-school nursery. In 2011 she successfully gained her diploma for the Children and Young Person Workforce and became a deputy manager of the nursery. However, “In 2016, after 7 fab years, I had to leave to become our son’s full-time carer to support, nurture and guide him during a very difficult period of his life”. We were thrilled when Fiona joined the team officially in 2018 after volunteering with us. Fiona now works with us as an Intensive Interaction playworker.

Sophie Thompson

After graduating from University as an Occupational Therapist, Sophie has mainly worked in schools with children and young people. She specialises in working with children who have Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. Sophie joined the team as an Occupational Therapist for The Toby Henderson Trust in 2016 and has been instrumental in launching our Integrate service at Toby House. Sophie carries out assessments of children who possibly have sensory processing difficulties. When required, she provides supporting strategies and recommendations for parents and carers.

Hannah Ashman

Hannah is a music therapist who moved to Newcastle from London after qualifying in 2016. She’s based at The Toby Henderson Trust every Friday as one of four projects with Nordoff Robbins, a national music therapy charity who have recently expanded into the North East. She currently works as a music therapist elsewhere in special education settings and on a hospital ward for teenagers with cancer. In her spare time, she is passionate about running community choirs for women and collaborating with other musicians and artists. She is incredibly excited to extend her experience within The Toby Henderson Trust!

Fiona Johnstone

Fiona has worked for over 20 years as a Speech & Language Therapist and has worked with children with special needs since qualifying. Her autism experience has developed during this time and became Fiona’s specialist area over the past 14 years, within her role in the NHS. She has further experience in this area working as a qualified teacher in a special school in the past.

Fiona has worked for TTHT since 2013 as a Speech & Language Therapist – providing assessment, advice, on-going intervention and support for children with communication difficulties as well as for parents, carers, and staff in the trust. Fiona also delivers a range of training sessions on aspects of communication and interventions for parents, carers, and organisations to develop knowledge and skills to enable children to fulfill their potential.

Rachel McManus

Rachel qualified as an Occupational Therapist over 18 years ago and has worked as a Specialist Paediatric Occupational Therapist since 2002. Rachel has worked with Children and Young Adults with a variety of diagnoses and has also worked as an integral part of a Tier 3 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.

Rachel has been part of the Toby Henderson Trust since 2015. In addition to her role within the Toby Henderson Trust Rachel also works for the NHS within a specialist school for children with autism. She has specialist training in Sensory Integration and has supported many children and their families living with sensory processing difficulties. Rachel also delivers training to staff and parents in relation to sensory processing and the implications this may have upon a child and their family life and is well versed on the use of specialist equipment used to help children manage their responses to sensory stimuli.

Julie Curtis

Julie Curtis has been a Registered Nurse for the Mentally Handicapped (RNMH) since 1983. She has specialised in working with children and young people with learning disability, autism and those who display challenging behavior.

Julie is ADOS trained (by Professor Ann Le Couteur) and she trained with the Institute of Applied Behavioural Analysis in the USA and is a Positive Behaviour Approach practitioner. She is the co-author of a group training programme for parents to support the management of challenging behavior at home. This programme has been independently evaluated by the Social Policy and Research Unit of York University.

She has trained in a number of intervention strategies through Division TEACCH as well as the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and Social Stories.She has worked as a teacher in a Special School with a small group of young people with learning disability and challenging behavior. She has also worked at a regional and national level supporting commissioners and providers in developing their services.

She has worked for the last 5 years as the Senior Clinical Nurse and Professional Nurse Lead for the Children and Young People Services in Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust across both inpatient and community learning disability and mental health services, including low and medium secure services, eating disorders and comprehensive ADHD services.

Her national profile includes being the current chair of the National Advisory Group for the Quality Network for Community CAMHS standards and member of the accreditation panel for both inpatient and community CAMHS standards.

Toni Brown

I have dual registration as both a Forensic Psychologist with the HCPC and Registered Nurse RNA (Adult) with the NMC.  I am about to take up a Research Psychological Therapist post in collaboration with NTW NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle University and The National Autistic Society exploring the health inequalities of older adults with autism.

Having worked in a forensic learning disability inpatient service within the NHS for the last 12 years I have extensive experience of adapting assessments and interventions to facilitate working with individuals with autism.  Alongside my current post I have experience of working with clients with autism spectrum disorders in a number of settings and across the lifespan; from volunteering with the Toby Henderson Trust in its early stages; to working with individuals with autism within the prison service; as an Assistant Psychologist within a community learning disability team; within an Applied Behavioural Analysis school for children with ASD and finally within general health settings, including a local hospice.


Alison Smith

“I am in my final year of a BA (Hons) in Children and Young People at Newcastle College. I have a passion for helping children who have additional needs, and I chose to do my placement at The Toby Henderson Trust because they provide invaluable support to children with ASD and their families in a lovely, family-friendly environment. What I find especially rewarding about working at the trust is being able to see how children’s frustrations are relieved as their ability to communicate improves. In my spare time, I enjoy fell walking in the Lake District and Scottish Highlands. I’m also an avid traveler and love experiencing different cultures and customs”.

Caitlin Belisle

Caitlin is currently in her second year studying a Foundation Degree in Children’s Workforce Practice at Northumberland College. Her career aim is to become a Primary School Teacher and she is currently working in a primary school in Newcastle supporting children in Reception with ASD. “I was extremely thankful for the placement opportunity at Toby Henderson prior to my move into the school as the placement developed my knowledge and skills of supporting children with ASD. I felt that this experience will help me in the future to support children with ASD in mainstream education to reach their full potential. I continue to volunteer at The Toby Henderson Trust where ever I can with their fundraising work and supporting the young people who attend Sibling Superstars and MATES. Other than the continuous study I work at a local supermarket to fund my desire to travel. I also go to the gym and enjoy swimming”.


Our current Psychotherapists are:

Sam Dinsley
Elsie Owen
Helen Wright
Josh darby
Annabelle Nicholson

Bowen Therapist

Pamela Dewener