My son, Patrick, was diagnosed with Asperger’s and we were told when he was 7 years old. I later discovered my youngest son Angelo, had autism and Epilepsy.
Patrick actually had been diagnosed three years earlier but the consultant paediatrician hadn’t told us. We didn’t find out until we went to a meeting at school about his behaviour, when he was seven. They said: ‘Why didn’t you tell us Patrick has autism?’ I said: ‘Because I’ve only just found out.’ I felt a rush of blood to my head. I thought: ‘I’ve got two kids on the autism spectrum.’ Patrick had been having difficulties at school; he wouldn’t go into the classroom and he would get very anxious and angry. He’d ask: ‘What does bird brain mean?’, which is what the other children would call him.
At the time, in the 1990s, I was told my sons were unique and there was no one else in the area in the same situation.
It made me feel isolated. You look for someone to blame but there isn’t anyone. You still have the same kids but no one sits down and tells you what ‘autism’ means. The only thing I thought about was the film Rain Man.
You discover they have problems with social interaction and imagination.When we’d buy things for Patrick, he’d inspect them closely to make sure they were perfect. He’d be very unhappy if even a dot of paint was out of place. He’d be hungry for information and read dictionaries. He’d memorised the alphabet by two and knew 50 Thomas The Tank Engine stories off-by-heart. He found it difficult to play with children – he’d stroke their faces or ask them lots of questions. As they rejected him, he started saying: ‘Human beings are horrible,’ that he preferred animals and he became really angry.
They were out of mainstream education for three years and getting five hours of home tuition a day. It was very frustrating.
One lady had never worked with children with autism and by the third day she was crying, saying she didn’t know what to do with them.
I’d read lots of books saying early intervention is crucial,yet people are left to deal with it themselves until it reaches crisis point. As much as you love your children, it can be physically and mentally demanding.
We found an empty school in our area that was going to be turned into flats. We decided to set up our own school for children with autism.
We had to refurbish the school in 18 months. I asked for help in the local paper and got it – there were so many families who’d been affected by autism who wanted to help. We opened in 1999 with 19 children. My two children were the last two to be funded – we thought they might not get in. We’ve now got 150 children who travel in from 17 local authorities and we have opened another school in Kent. (www.bastonhouseschool.org.uk)
Patrick’s now 23 and works as a gardener and maintenance man at our new school. He’s learning about the world of work. Angelo’s 20 and started at West London Community College.
West London Community College is the Vocational College we have set up. When they get to their late teens or early twenties, you have to be careful – their behaviour is often misinterpreted and they can get into difficulties and even arrested.
Of course, I’m worried about the future for my sons –that’s why I’ve done everything I can to try and give them the best education and help them become as independent as possible.
There’s more awareness now than when my children were diagnosed but it’s still not well understood among wider society.
Some children can cope in mainstream school, others just can’t. Some children need day-to-day support and will need it for the rest of their lives. They don’t have a sense of danger. Angelo ended up sitting on next door’s chimney because he likes heights – he sees no danger in that.
I’m never going to retire. I’ve achieved things I never thought I’d achieve and I’m driven by the love I have for my sons. I’ll never give in.My motto is ‘Give up, Givein or Give it all you’ve got! ‘
I’ll help as many children and adults with autism as I can because I remember how isolated I felt when my children were first diagnosed.
Anna recently appeared on Sky 203 The Chrissy B Show please see link:
ABA and Anna Kennedy OBE www.annakennedyonline.com launched their Give us a break campaign during Autism Awareness Month in April 2013 and will continue throughout the year, to raise awareness of bullying of children with autism in schools and colleges. We surveyed over 200 parents and carers of children with autism and found that:
70% of parents report that other children react negatively to their child
42% of parents report that their child often tells them they are bullied at school
74% say their child finds break or lunch times particularly difficult or frightening
88.9% said structured break and lunchtime activities help children with autism feel safer
Through the campaign we aim to:
Raise awareness of bullying of children with autism – particularly during break times in school and college.
Highlight the need to make sure children with autism feel safe during break times by providing opportunities to take part in positive activities
Encourage schools and colleges to share examples of their break time activities and the ways in which they keep all children safe and improve social skills.
“Most school kids strive to learn math and grammar. Aspergic children strive to make themselves invisible….Venturing into the school playground can feel as hazardous as Scott leaving his Antarctic base camp. 67% of children with aspergers report that they are taunted and bullied at school lunch time. There is no such thing as normal and abnormal. Just ordinary and extraordinary.
It’s time we recognized kids with Aspergers for the exceptional people they are. Bullying makes them runners up in the human race.” Kathy Lette, Author
Media coverage of the campaign
We have been delighted by the level of media coverage for the Give us a Break campaign. Highlights include…
“I agree being autistic doesn’t mean helpless or incapable. Acceptance is also a key to opening up the brilliance people are capable of. Please follow Autism Warrior Anna Kennedy and support her campaign”Lennox Lewis
“Good Luck with the campaign Anna you do the work of 20 women. If there is anything I can do to help”Arlene Phillips
“Every child deserves a safe and caring environment. That’s why CRAE is delighted to support Anna Kennedy’s fantastic campaign to prevent the bullying that many young people with autism still face.”Dr Liz Pellicano, Centre for Research in Autism and Education
How can you get involved?
If you would like to spread the word of our campaign in your school and community you can download our promotional flyer HERE [pdf, 566KB], print it off and spread the word!
How can schools and colleges get involved?
We know that for children and young people with autism, break and lunch times in schools and colleges can be particularly daunting, and can put them at risk of bullying. With the ‘Give us a break’ campaign we are calling on all schools and colleges to provide positive activities during break times that support children and young people with autism to feel safe, have fun and build relationships with their peers.
Share your best practice examples…
if your school provides activities during break times that are fun and interactive – and support children with autism and all children in the school to feel safe and build relationships with peers then please send any photos and videos that you have, and a short description of the activities that you run to email@example.com. With your permission we will share these on the ABA website to give inspiration and ideas to other schools.
A bit more about Anna Kennedy….
Anna Kennedy OBE is winner of Tesco Mum of the Year 2013 for her amazing work supporting children and young people with autism. She set up Hillingdon Manor School – the largest school in Europe for children and young people with autism, and supports over 50,000 parents of children with autism through her website.
Drake and J. Cole‘s collaboration, “Jodeci Freestyle”, has sparked a controversy as it contains an offensive line that says, “I’m artistic, you n***as is autistic, retarded.” The line, sung by Cole, angered Anna Kennedy autism campaigner, Anti-Bullying Alliance and Autism Speaks.
The organization teamed up with autism activist Anna Kennedy to start an online petition against the rappers and demanded them to officially apologize and remove the offensive lyric from the song. They set a goal of 5,000 signatures. So far, they have garnered more than 4,000.
Responding to the organization’s outrage, Cole has issued an apology letter and will amend offending lyrics. In the letter, the 28-year-old artist admits that his line is “highly offensive” and he is “embarrassed” about it. “I was instantly embarrassed that I would be ignorant enough say something so hurtful,” he adds. “What makes the crime worse is that I should have known better.”
Cole goes on to gush about the Autism community and parents withAutistic children, saying, “I’m moved and inspired by your passion, and I’m amazed at how strong you are as a unit. I have now read storiesonline from parents about their struggles and triumphs with raising an Autistic child and I admire how incredibly strong you have to be to do so. It’s touching.”
“To anyone suffering from Autism, either mildly or severely, I am sorry. I’m bound to make mistakes in my life, but in my heart I just want to spread Love,” he continues. “I want to educate myself more on Autism, and I’ll gladly own my mistake and serve as an example to today’s generation that there’s nothing cool about mean-spirited comments about someone with Autism.”
“To the parents who are fighting through the frustrations that must come with raising a child with severe autism, finding strength and patience that they never knew they had; to the college student with Asperger’s Syndrome; to all those overcoming Autism. You deserve medals, not disrespect. I hope you accept my sincere apology,” Cole says.
I am pleased to say I am now Patron for Yoga4Autism. This organisation aims to help people with Autism and Cognitive Disabilities like Down’s Syndrome and Dyspraxia, using healthy natural methods such as yoga, mindfulness, meditation, exercise, nutrition & healthy living.
We address the causes rather than covering up the symptoms, as has been the way in the past with sedative drugs and other medical techniques. Our methods are completely 100% natural and are in fact not only good for people, they are good for anyone who wishes to live a healthy and balanced life style.
Yoga4Autism connects Autism and Cognitive Disabilities with Global Spiritual Transformation, through the creation of spiritual workshops in the heart of cities across the world. We realise that being on the Autistic Spectrum can create great stress, anxiety and frustration in your everyday life, especially if you live in a busy city like New York or London.
Y4A was established in January 2012 by two good friends- David Ellams BSc(Hons) and Rupert Smith MSc. “Autism cannot fulfill its destiny until humanity begins to understand that Autism is truly a frequency gift for a waiting world”
A Message from the Y4A Founder. a message of SUCCESS, HOPE & PROSPERITY FOR ALL.
Hi, I am David Ellams, I have a condition known to most as both Aspergers, Dyspraxia & Dyslexia. I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia when I was 3 years old when my parents noticed I had problems with speech including stuttering due to a condition known as Pressured Speech. I have always had problems fitting in anywhere and being accepted, and has led to a very challenging childhood that has continued through to adulthood.I was bullied excessively in childhood due to not being able to defend myself or having no boundaries and being too trusting. I have also always struggled with expressing myself clearly and I am constantly mis-understood which leads to a lot of frustration.All of this has led to many issues I have to content with including Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Anger and Depression.All of which I am happy to say are a thing of the past due to my own special coping strategies I have developed over the years.
I am now highly successful and rated as one of top IT contractors and software developers in the country. Nokia themselves even stated I am the best contractor they have ever seen and hired me without even meeting me (I am the only one they have ever hired without a face to face interview). One of the gifts many possess on the Autistic Spectrum is excelling at technical, scientific and mathematical subjects, we find complex things easy and normal everyday things hard. I have learnt how to harness my gifts and at the same time find many successful coping strategies for the everyday living skills we normally find a challenge. I now wish to share these with others going through similar difficulties so they do not have to suffer and struggle like I once did, and in doing so hope to help them lead a successful, happy and fulfilling life as I now live.
To realise my Dream, I have teamed up with expert yoga teachers and Y4A Co-founder and good friend Rupert David Smith, who has experience working with people with Aspergers and others on the Autistic Spectrum, as well as studying brain function and psychology at University. Yoga4Autism or Y4A is the Future Portal for people on the Autistic Spectrum and for those with Cognitive Disabilities like Down’s Syndrome and Dyspraxia. We provide Yoga and Mindfulness Clinics in our North London Yoga Studio, for people with Autism and Cognitive Disabilities, and we also act as a Yoga4Autism Training Centre for Yoga Professionals and School Teachers, so they can take our unique Yoga4Autism techniques into schools and colleges.
We also function as a Research Centre for the progression of energy medicine and Mindfulness Meditation techniques. With our impressive array of research professionals and EEG technicians and yoga/meditation teachers, we offer organisations like Mindvalley & Apps for good support for their app and product development. David Ellams is now an affiliated expert for Apps for good
Scientific research coming out of non-for profit organisations in the USA, show that individuals on the Autistic Spectrum benefit greatly from yoga and meditation. Y4A uses a combination of science and eastern spiritual understanding, based on over one thousand years of practice.
Our Mission.. We hope to educate the world about the strong connection between Exercise, Spirituality and Health. We also hope to help people realise that although frequency can lead to what society classes as ‘disorder’, Autism and other cognitive disabilities can be seen as a frequency gift for the waiting world – something we can both learn from and work in harmony with.
Y4A will work closely with sister projects like NextGen Software which creates futuristic social apps and online gaming, with a benevolent, spiritual emphasis, and employs people from all walks of life including super creative and talented people with ASD (Autism, Aspergers, etc) who we have helped turn their lifes around with Y4A. We hope to encourage all employees of NextGen Software to practice yoga and meditation daily as part of their daily work schedule, thus reinforcing creativity and optimum performance.