There are an estimated 700,000 people in the UK who have autism, and this affects about 2.8 million people every day including families and carers of people with autism. Autism is formally referred to as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). It is a condition where individuals struggle with social relationships and communication. According to statistics, 70% of autistic adults don’t receive the support they need, which can lead to mental health difficulties. Working with autism early in a child’s development and securing the right kind of support and schooling is essential. Statistics show that men and boys are more likely to be diagnosed with autism.
Currently, 1 in 88 children are estimated to have autism, and the rate is five times greater in boys than in girls. Autism affects how a person communicates and relates to others around them and is diagnosed by how a child behaves and interacts. Despite ongoing research, there is no single medical test to diagnose autism. Autism remains a clinical diagnosis made by experienced professionals who spend time with both the child and their caregivers. It’s a disabling and lifelong condition and has a huge impact on individuals and families. It’s a hidden disability and often diagnosed in childhood and has a lasting impact on an individual well into adulthood.
Children with autism can also have a high rate of intellectual disability, attention deficient hyperactivity disorder, seizures, and problems with the gastrointestinal system. Children with autism may also be at risk of being bullied or experiencing depression or anxiety. It is significant because a child with autism may not be able to describe how he or she feels, or what is happening to them in the same way other children do.
Anna and Sean Kennedy are parents to two boys who are affected by Autism. Anna embarked on looking for appropriate schools for her sons, Patrick and Angelo but 26 schools turned them away. Anna decided not to give up in providing the best provision for her boys, so she remortgaged her home and transformed a derelict council building into the Hillingdon Manor School now a centre of excellence for children and young adults with autism. Esther Rantzen is Hillingdon Manor’s patron. Anna went on to co-author a best-selling biography “Not Stupid” which is an expressive portrayal of her struggle to find suitable education provision for her boys Patrick and Angelo. Hillingdon Manor School is now the largest school in Europe for children and young people with autism. Anna also set up a school in Bromley that caters for children with ASD, a college and a respite home prior to setting up the Anna Kennedy Online Charity.
Having gone from strength to strength over the years, Anna continues to raise awareness and has visited the House of Commons to highlight key facts on all aspects of Autism from diagnosis waiting times to employment.
Anna was awarded a well-deserved OBE in 2012 and went on to win Tesco Mum of the Year 2013 for her wonderful work supporting children and young people with autism. Anna was also one of the winners of ‘The BBC’s Peoples Strictly,’ in February 2015. With 11 million UK viewers watching, Anna was able to share her personal journey and used this opportunity to raise awareness of Autism.
Through being an avid social advocate for autism, Anna has built a social media community with over 50,000 followers on Twitter alone. Through the power of social media and the charity website “Anna Kennedy Online,” has created an autism community of over 70,000 followers where she shares information on autism and inspirational stories through the charity and shares her day to day highs and lows of living with her sons. Anna’s inspirational work and events have given so much positivity to the Autism community.
Anna Kennedy Online promotes the inclusion and equality of children and adults with an autism spectrum condition nationwide and has also raised awareness and shared knowledge and life experience of autism via plugin talks to schools, colleges, establishments and workplaces across the UK.
In 2012, Anna Kennedy Online pioneered a smash hit show called ‘Autism’s Got Talent,’ the participants who are all on the spectrum, showcase their amazing talents including comedy sketches, singing and dancing. Autism’s Got Talent alone has given opportunity and a platform for individuals with autism. This has proved to be a massive springboard to have the confidence to pursue their future careers in their talent. It has opened up opportunities and has changed the lives of many, from the participants, their families and most of all has given the audience a rare emotion – hope, a sense of belonging and networking with others.
In 2013, a brand new event called ‘Wear It For Autism’ was born, the purpose of WIFA was to pamper and spoil Mums, Dads, Grandparents, and Carers – who either have autism themselves or care for those living with the condition. The winners enjoy a full makeover and take centre-stage in a fashion event.
World Autism Awareness Week runs from Saturday 2 April to Friday 8 April 2016. Throughout the month of April, Asian Mums Network will be bringing you the stories of five mums and how autism has impacted on their lives.
Author: Asian Mums Network
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