Dear friends and supporters
Thank you – you’ve helped us go from strength to strength – and given strength to thousands of people who suffer from or are affected by autism.
The Anna Kennedy Online portal seems to have really come of age, and in this Olympic year it seems appropriate to say it has been something of a marathon but the prize of seeing someone with autism or Asperger Syndrome helped or their family supported is so rewarding and for me beats any gold medal.
Ever since I started my own journey to help those with autism I have been struck by the woeful lack of facilities there are for people with this sometimes challenging condition. Of course autism and Aspergers don’t just affect children and teenagers they are a lifelong condition for many people who can often face perplexing problems and behavioural difficulties. The facilities available have never been great and now, with local authorities and charities suffering from severe cuts, the situation is getting much worse. While there is naturally a focus on children with autism and Aspergers I am saddened that older people often get ignored, as well as their families and friends. Families and carers need respite breaks, access to better educational facilities and help with finding employment for their children – its difficult enough for all young people looking for work these days so having to deal with autism or Aspergers makes it even harder, and sadly for many they simply give up trying because of a lack of response and understanding from employers. I have seen, directly through my own two sons who suffer from autism, and through countless encounters and discussions with many young and older people just how much they have to offer. As I said in my book these people are Not Stupid just different, and often with enormous skills, intelligence and the ability to master many complex tasks and projects.
This is why it is so important that all of us who are involved with and affected by autism should continue to fight hard to improve educational and other resources for individuals, their families and carers. I also know that there is a huge demand for help, support and discussions among the growing community of people whose children or loved ones are touched by autism. Since we launched ANNA KENNEDY ONLINE we have seen visits to the site grow enormously as more and more people discover us and also contribute their own experiences, tips and advice that can help others who are looking for help. I have been truly humbled by the number of emails and letters I receive from people telling me that they have at last found somewhere they can turn to for help and support.
I’m so fortunate to have a fantastic team of dedicated supporters who run the portal and keep all of the information up to date. It may surprise some people to know that we don’t just answer queries and help enquirers from the UK but from across the globe.
As many of you will know I have also set up two specialist schools for those with autism, and I’m delighted to say that they have been an unqualified success. We now have the largest specialist educational facility for those with autism in Europe and have helped thousands of youngsters to get a safe, structured and highly effective education, meaning that they can go on to lead productive and rewarding lives. I would like to see many more of these specialist schools around the UK, and we are regularly campaigning and lobbying Government to look at this area of special needs education.
Given the Government’s move towards more self governed schools I think there may be an opportunity for parents of children with autism to start pressing for better facilities within mainstream schools to ensure that all children are given an equal opportunity to realise their full potential. Of course the main focus in these newly governed schools will be on the majority of pupils who are not affected by autism, but if we were able to get funding for a special class or teaching set within a school, with a dedicated teacher or staff, this could well start a groundswell of new thinking about how to provide better resources for those with autism. If any of our readers have any thoughts on this and believe they could get this moving in their locality please let us know and we’ll try to help in any way we can.
Our campaigning work also targets issues such as bullying of autistic children in mainstream education and we are regularly monitoring the media and Parliament to find ways of getting our views heard and hopefully putting pressure on those in power to make changes.
We’ve also tried to raise awareness of autism through events such as the Step In The Right Direction dance day, which took place in April this year and was endorsed by UNESCO, followed by the Autism’s Got Talent show in May. This was a fabulous event and surpassed our wildest expectations. Those who took part certainly lived up to the title and the show was a huge hit with the audience and performers alike. We are planning to run this again next year and if you know anyone who would like to enter please contact: Lisa Robins at:firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re expanding our services all the time and we now offer specialist training sessions for parents, carers and professionals across the country with our dedicated training officer Austin Hughes, plus legal advice and support on care and education issues for those with autism from our qualified solicitor advocate Sean Kennedy.
Our portal service is FREE to users but of course we do have many expenses and running costs so we are always seeking help through advertising, sponsorship or donations. If you are able to help in any way please go to our donations page at http://annakennedyonline.com/make-a-donation/. Also if you know any organisations that would like to advertise on the Anna Kennedy Online portal please contact Lisa Robins at :email@example.com Tel: 01895 619736.
Just in signing off I wanted to mention that I was hugely honoured to have been awarded an OBE for services to special needs and autism in the Queen’s Summer Honours List. When I accepted the award I made it abundantly clear that I was doing so on behalf of all of those people who have helped me to campaign for autism, both here and abroad. Anna Kennedy Online would not exist or be such a success without the enormous generosity and dedication of many volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure the information on the site is relevant, up to date and easy to access.
Warm personal regards,
Anna Kennedy OBE
16 February 2012
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Anna Kennedy spoke on Jeni Barnett’s radio show on LBC.
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