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Paula McGowan OBE

Paula McGowan OBE is a Multi Award-winning Activist who has dedicated her life to campaigning for the equality of Health and Social Care for Intellectually Disabled and/or Autistic people. In 1985 she qualified as an early year’s practitioner. She specialised in children who have additional needs, particularly those who are neurodivergent. She is passionate that all children, regardless of ability, are given the correct support to enable them to develop to their full potential.

She is an ambassador for several charities and organisations. Health Education England, South London, and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Anna Kennedy Online and Dance Syndrome.


Following the preventable death of her teenage son Oliver, she successfully launched a parliamentary petition asking for Health and Social Care Staff in England to receive mandatory training in Learning disability and Autism awareness. This petition was successfully debated across all parties and in 2019, the Government published 'Right to be heard' its response to the consultation on proposals for introducing mandatory learning disability and autism training for health and social care staff.


On 28 April 2022, Learning Disability and Autism Training, became law and reached Royal Assent as part of an amendment to the Government's Health and Social Care Act 2022. The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training (OMMT) has been designed alongside Learning disabled and/or autistic people to meet this law.

Her current focus is the design and delivery of the Code of Practise to meet the law, and the roll out of the OMMT in Learning Disability and/or Autism for all health and social care staff. She regularly meets with the Minister of State for Care and Mental Health to provide regular updates and progress of the OMMT.


Notable achievements include being invited in September 2020, to speak as a witness for The Australian Royal Commission hearing focused on psychotropic medication to control behaviours of concern. In June 2021, she was conferred into the Membership of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of her outstanding service to People with Autism and Intellectual Disabilities.





She has been a keynote speaker highlighting the importance of co-production for people with learning disabilities and/or autism with experts by experience conferences hosted by medical schools, hospital trusts, and universities in the UK and Australia. Notably, major appearances include keynote talks at The Chief Nursing Officer of England's summit, the launch of NHSE conference on psychotropic medication optimisation and the Health Service Journal Mental Health Conference. Working with Professor Rohit Shankar has co-authored two major publications wherein she gave insights as an expert by experience and has set a trend to co-produced research with experts by experience.

  1. Shankar R, Wilcock M, Oak K, McGowan P, Sheehan R. Stopping, rationalising, or optimising antipsychotic drug treatment in people with intellectual disability and/or autism. Drug Ther Bull. 2019;57(1):10-13. Is an expert opinion on the challenges and facilitators for withdrawing psychotropic medication for people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism.

  2. Watkins, L.V., Linehan, C., Brandt, C., Snoeijen-Schouwenaars, F., McGowan, P. and Shankar, R. (2022), Epilepsy in adults with neurodevelopmental disability - what every neurologist should know. Epileptic Disorders, 24: 9-25. This was part of the international seminar series to address Learning Objective 6.1.4 of the International League against Epilepsy Curriculum.


Ambassador Health Education England

Ambassador Anna Kennedy online

Ambassador Dance Syndrome

Ambassador South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Patron Crossroads caring for carers.

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