Founding CANadda

Debbie Marshall is autistic and has two autistic children.

In 2009 Debbie founded CANadda, a neuro diversity adult support group in Lincolnshire. CANadda stands for Community Adult Network, ASD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD.

The group provides advice, support, information and social opportunities to encourage and develop mutual help, friendship and co-operation between adults who have these conditions; as well as carers, helpers and those entrusted with their care.

Debbie said: “I set up CANadda as a support group for autistic young adults and adults because I didn’t want my son to grow up feeling isolated, lonely and excluded from the community. We know so many autistic individuals have experienced this and still are, which can then impact on their Mental Health.

Debbie Changing communities LDA Leaders' List 2018

“I wanted to help others to have a better, enriched life and to be confident, happy, included, wanted and have opportunities to shine and achieve.”

Through CANadda Debbie provides social events to give opportunities for members to socialise, make new friends and take part in leisure and recreational activities. Debbie is often out fundraising and has put on a range of events over the last nine years to raise awareness.

The most recent event was in October 2017, which included three National Autistic Society ambassadors; Jon Adams, the Autistic Gardener and Chris Packham.

Debbie also gives her own talk about her experience of Asperger’s, titled ‘Don’t Judge, You Don’t Know Me’, to help educate people about Autism. She has also delivered talks to Lincoln College and to first and third year students at Lincoln University.

Marshalling support

As well as this, Debbie has delivered Autism training to Lincolnshire Police recruits and helped to provide autism awareness and intermediate training for the local authority and NHS.

Debbie has worked with a variety of professionals in her efforts including; MP’s, Lincolnshire NHS, University of Lincoln Autism Research Centre, JobCentre Plus, Specsavers, the Lincoln County Council and the Autism Partnership Board.

All of these engagements have been to make appropriate representations over the years to relevant statutory bodies and other organisations on behalf of adults who have these conditions, as well as their families and carers.

In 2016 Debbie submitted some work to The Westminster Commission on health for autism and was invited to the Houses of Parliament for the launch, which took place on 4th July 2016.


Debbie also helps to fight the need to change the law when it comes to harmful and dangerous autism ‘cures and treatments’.

Changing communities LDA Leaders' List 2018
Debbie has helped influence the law.

In 2017, she put together a report for the Westminster Commission on ‘treatments and cures’. Debbie was a finalist at the National Autistic Society Professional Awards in 2016 and 2017 for being the Most Inspirational Volunteer.

“Me being nominated and being a winner has come as a big shock. I didn’t know I had been nominated. I then felt over the moon, excited and thrilled.

“It is an honour to be recognised and to have that credit for all the hard work I have put in over the last nine years. Of course I am extremely proud as I work very hard at what I do.”