Anna Kennedy OBE, Autism Campaigner awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Professional Studies from Teesside University
Anna Kennedy OBE is a prominent autism campaigner, Tesco Mum of the Year, founder of two ASD specialist schools in the UK, author and mother of two young men on the autistic spectrum. Anna provides help, support and information through her various social media sites, website (Anna Kennedy Online), of which Kathy Lette, James Hobley and Jo Redman are Patrons) and hosts various events all across the country.
Anna also announced yesterday, October 9th, that she has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Professional Studies from Teesside University, her home town. Anna told Autism Daily Newscast
“I received a letter in July and nearly dropped the floor in shock. This special event will take place at the end of November at the University. I will speak to students followed by a celebratory dinner at the Riverside Club, home of Middlesbrough football club.”
On Saturday 9th November, Hillingdon Manor School in Middlesex will be holding an autism conference.
‘A conference designed for parents, professionals, carers and families who want to in-crease their knowledge and skills on behalf of children and young people affected by an autism spectrum condition.’
One of the topics which will be discussed during the conference is that of behavioural issues and challenging behaviour. Autism Daily Newscast asked Anna the question, does there need to be more education and input for both professionals and parents regarding this issue?
“Yes definitely Autism awareness and behaviour management is an on-going learning process. You can never know enough. I have been living with autism for 20 years and I am learning every day. Each person affected by autism is so different from another. I hear many times from a Professional whether it is in education or care, ‘I have worked with 2 people with a diagnosis of autism so I know all about it’. No, my answer is you know about two individuals with autism.”
Anna firmly believes that professionals should listen to parents more as they live with their children and their condition 24 hours a day, every day. Anna further explains,
“For example I recognise certain things with Angelo who has Autism, Epilepsy and significant sensory issues. I am aware of the signs when he is stressed, feeling not well or the triggers when a meltdown is about to occur.”
Anna explains that the key to working with children on the autistic spectrum is consistency. Everyone should be working together and ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’.
Anna, together with the Anti-Bullying Alliance launched their ‘Give us a Break’ campaign in April this year. This is campaign to raise awareness of bullying of children with autism in schools and colleges. Autism Daily Newscast asked Anna how she became involved with the campaign.
“I initiated Give us a Break and contacted the Anti-Bullying Alliance and asked if they wanted to work together. I looked at our own school and thought that the lunch time clubs really work for our children and that this is something that Mainstream Schools can tap into. It will add more structure to students affected by autism at break times. This is working already in many schools across the UK and I have received messages from parents who follow me on social media sites and directly from Headteachers of Schools.”
Recently Anna and Austin Hughes gave a talk about Autism Awareness at Havering Sixth Form College. Following the visit the college has taken action to make the students feel more included and safe. Paul Wakeling, Principal of Havering 6th Form College, voiced on Anna Kennedy Online,
“Following Anna’s talk, a number of autistic students requested more clubs and societies for them to feel more included in college life. In particular, two students came to see the college community team to express how they had struggled to adapt to college life. As a result, the community team set up a War Hammer Club, which has 15 members, predominantly students on the Autistic Spectrum. Moreover, as a further request from students we are setting up an after college Dungeons and Dragons and Anime and Manga Club, which has had over 40 membership requests. As a club this has had more membership requests than any other club we have tried to set up here at Havering Sixth Form. Again, most of this club’s membership is from students with Autism.”
Earlier this year Anna together with Pineapple Performing Arts School presented an autism talent show, ‘Autism’s Got Talent ‘at the Mermaid Theatre in London. This was not a competition but a celebration of children and young people on the autistic spectrum.
‘We brought together a diverse group of people from across the UK who are all on the Autistic Spectrum to show everyone just how talented they really are. This year we even have a performer coming from Canada Colin Brennan to be with us which shows just how far we are reaching out! Too often some people in society make the mistake of thinking that anyone with a disability isn’t capable of much……HOLD THE PRESS…….we showed everyone just what all these great people really are capable of and just how good they are at it!!’ (Anna Kennedy Online)
The ‘Autism’s Got Talent Show’ will be back next year and we asked Anna to tell us more about it.
“Autism’s got Talent is growing and we have now taken the show to Mermaid Theatre, Excel, Manchester and now Kent. This I believe is a great platform for children and adults with WOW factor talent to share their skills in Performing Arts. I love working on this show with my A team Austin, Lisa and Tally. We get such a buzz as do the families. We hope to take the show to more towns across the UK and hoping to take some of our acts to Leicester next year. Watch this space!”
More can be read about the Autism Conference here
Information about Anna and what she does can be found on her website
October 10, 2013 by Jo Worgan
Anyone involved with supporting a child or young adult needs to be aware of the potential for Children’s Schools and Families Bill to impact on their lives. In this short article we will explore through a series of questions and answers how the Bill could effect the system for supporting children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and also those who are disabled.
Q. When is the Bill likely to become an Act?
Very possibly September, 2014
Q. Will statements of special educational needs be replaced by the new Act?
Yes, statements of special educational needs and also Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDA) will be replaced with a new birth-to-25 Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan).
Q. What exactly is a EHC Plan?
This is a document that lists all educational, health and social care needs. It is envisaged that there will be safeguards in relation to educational provision, but there are no new duties in relation to safeguarding health and social care provision in relation to delivering what is contained in a EHC plan, though there is a duty on providers of this provision to co-operate with the local authority.
Q. What might a EHC Plan look like?
Statements of special educational needs have a prescribed form. The EHC Plan is different document and will look different, though it is fair to say that, at the moment, there is not a settled format. Anyone interested in finding out more about how the document could look, may wish to read the following from a company called Mott MacDonald who have been commissioned by the Department of Education to work in developing the process by which EHC Plans will be issued:
Q. If a child currently has a statement of special educational needs, will this be replaced by a EHC Plan?
Eventually yes. It is envisaged that from 1 September 2014, no new assessments for statements of special educational needs or LDAs will be offered by local authorities. All new requests for an assessment of special educational needs will be considered under the new legislation and those requiring support will receive it through an EHC plan. The Government claim that “The reformed mediation and appeals process, and the option of a personal budget for those with an EHC Plan will also be available from this date [likely 1st September, 2014]”
When the new process is introduced, the Government state that the “pace of transition needs to allow sufficient time for local authorities to manage the transfer to EHC Plans in an appropriate way, but should not deny children and young people the benefits of the new system for longer than is necessary”. Importantly the Government wants to minimise the period during which both the new and the old systems are operated in tandem. Having said all of that, it is clear that that there are no defined timelines for the transition.
Q. What is a Pathfinder Authority?
A. These are Local Authorities who have been chosen along with their Primary Care Trust (PCT) partners to test out the new process.
Q. If I am in a Pathfinder pilot authority, do I have to accept a EHC Plan rather than a statement of special educational needs?
A. No, parents should be aware that they can choose between the new EHC assessment processes or the existing system. Parents should be aware that, until the new system come in, EHC Plans have no statutory basis and cannot be appealed to the SEND Tribunal should parents disagree with the contents of the document in relation to their child’s education. That said, the Department of Education have advised that, should such conflicts exist, the educational component of a EHC plan should be converted to a statement of special educational needs thus giving the parent appeal right to the Tribunal.
Q. In relation to the new system, what are personal budgets?
A. With the new system Local authorities must prepare a personal budget in relation to an EHC Plan where a request has been made by the parent and the young person. Families can then choose how to use this money to meet their child or young person’s needs to meet the outcomes agreed in their EHC plan. This will mean that personal budgets will be offered to families whose children have an EHC Plan, though these do not have to be accepted by the family. The amount of money received will be dependent on the assessed needs of the child and this must be spent on support that has been personalised for the child. Such support could include: occupational therapy, physiotherapy or speech and language therapy.
Q. Will EHC plans be an improvement on statements of special educational needs?
The Government are clear that the new system is an improvement. The proposed benefits cited are that, because the age limit is 25, it will help stop children being cast adrift from the support system when their statement of special educational needs ceases at 19 years. Further, personal budgets are put forward as a solution to Local Authorities not providing what is on a child’s statement of special educational needs.
That said, the new system has its critics. For example, it is claimed that, rather than introduce personal budgets, the Government should fix the existing system that is perhaps broken. Furthermore, it is claimed that EHC Plans may be more difficult get than statement for special educational needs.
The Government, has been keen to stress that existing parental rights will not be diluted by the changes, though it would be fair to say that some people have their doubts about this.
Q. Where can I find out more about the changes?
Pathfinder authorities will typically provide information on the proposed changes, and the Department of Educational website is comprehensive on the subject. Parents are advised to review the relevant information contained on the IPSEA website: https://www.ipsea.org.uk if they want an independent evaluation.
The above has been provided for the purposes of background information relevant as of 11th October, 2013 and should not be construed as legal advice.
Usually in my articles I like to give advice, or make suggestions where I can, on things that might make life just a little bit easier for some. This one is going to be a little bit different as I am going to question something that has been popping up a fair bit lately in messages from upset and annoyed parents.
The problem that seems to have been occurring on a regular basis is one where parents have sent their child to use a service that advertises as being an ‘Autism’ service but then ends up sending their child home and turning them away from future visits.
Obviously if this is a respite service then that isn’t so great for the poor parents who have just settled in for those precious hours of their ‘own time’. Equally, and I feel more importantly, this isn’t great for the poor child who on the one hand was excited about taking part in an activity or away day but then is crushed when they are sent home and basically told to go away and don’t come back! I think we can all understand the negative impact that could have on a childs confidence and how they feel about taking part in anything else again in the future. If they keep getting sent away they will start to feel isolated and very unwanted!
This situation also adds an air of ‘uncertainty’ to all activities that are then arranged by parents. If you think about the structure and certainty that something will happen, that many on the Spectrum need, it is easy to see how they could start to doubt things arranged and planned by parents……..’hmmmm last time you told me I was going to enjoy and like something I was sent home’ On the whole most of us take every seperate event and thing that happens on its own merit but someone on the spectrum is more likely to ‘grade’ things by what has happened or gone before. If a repeat theme of getting sent home builds up then in their mind that is ALWAYS going to happen and so they lose the ‘want’ or ‘desire’ to do anything that is then offered.
So, what is going wrong? The main issue seems to be when a child has gone into ‘Challenging Behaviour’ and I am talking about the real full on shouting and getting physical. Those that are running these services/activities are then struggling to cope with this and worry about keeping everyone safe and so the parents are called and that child is sent home.
Don’t get me wrong, I for one understand the pressures of having to keep the person in question safe but also those around them. Yes, challenging behaviour when at the extreme is rarely a pleasant experience. What I fail to understand is how a service or person presenting themselves as an ‘Autism Service’ can’t be prepared for challenging behaviour (CB) and what may come with it? If you are setting your self or your service up as being Autism Savvy then surely you MUST know that means you need to expect CB and how to deal with it. Sending a child home because you couldn’t cope with their CB or the amount of support they need is surely discrimination? ‘I will take you you and you….but not you’.
Excuse me for being ‘daft’ but to me that is like saying ‘I will look after the blind but not those who will walk into things or fall over as that is hard work’
As we all know Autism is a VERY complex thing. I don’t have a problem with people being honest and stating what they can and can’t handle or cope with but why don’t they do that? Too often the simple answer is they don’t because they would lose funding. It is more important for them ‘on the surface’ to look great and shiny but below the surface out of the public view the truth is very different. All funding should be accountable at many levels and not just ‘where’ it comes from and ‘how’ it is spent. Who is actually looking to see that all briefs are being met and do they understand them? Are they aware that people are being turned away from a service they fund?
Mechanic’s know their engines…..Chef’s know their kitchens…..pilot’s know their planes…..So doesn’t it stand to reason that people saying they work with and around Autism should understand everything that comes with it and how to cope?
It is also sad to say I have heard this from a couple of schools as well. These schools have DSP units and yet someone is being sent away for being ‘complex’ or too hard to work with. Again I can’t help but think to myself ‘so why did you take that person in the first place’ and ‘did you really think this would be easy??’
There seems to still be a situation where a tick in a box to say a service or school is doing something is more important than how to actually implement it!
The phrase ‘Person Centred Care/Planning’ seems to be thrown around everywhere now. If the reality of that phrase was being lived up to then surely many of these situations wouldn’t exist? To plan something around a person’s needs and demands means you put in place everything needed to best cope with and support them. Within care I didn’t take someone out and then witness something and think ‘wow wasn’t expecting that!’. I knew what was likely to happen and was ready for it the same as all other great care staff out there.
What upsets me more than anything is that in all these situations we are taking away ‘dreams’. When I was young and growing up I was allowed to pretty much have a go at what I wanted within reason…….If I wanted to play rugby, ‘Go for it’…….If I wanted to do ballet, ‘those tights won’t suit you but go for it’………no one held me back. Everyone sending a child home because THEY can’t cope with them or actually don’t even know how to are surely taking those ‘dreams’ and chances of doing things away from them. Who gives us the right to deny children the chances we all had?
As a service/charity/school if you can’t cope with something or don’t know how to then TELL PEOPLE UP FRONT. I don’t want services etc thinking they HAVE to present that they can do everything when they can’t. Yes it will not be popular and the authorities will frown upon it but at least it will start to highlight where certain services are MISSING and LACKING the real support that is needed. Also I think this will wake many up to the realities of the SPECTRUM and the fact that all is not as it seems and that too many services are too often taking the easy route.
Why moan about this? why write this article? Well I shall tell you because I don’t want one more child or young adult telling me in floods of tears that NO ONE LIKES THEM and EVERYONE HATES THEM because they always get sent away………..
Anna Kennedy OBE and Austin Hughes with students from Havering 6th Form College
Following Anna Kennedy and Austin Hughes outstanding and inspirational talk on Autism Awareness here at Havering Sixth Form College the college has taken action to make autistic students feel more inclusive and safe.
The presentation struck a chord with students and staff here at HSFC and the college is keen to promote Autism Awareness. In particular, Anna’s anti-bullying campaign ‘Give us a Break’ has made us think about how we ensure our autistic students feel safe and secure at the college. Indeed, lunchtime and evening enrichment classes have been set up as a result of the visit.
Following Anna’s talk, a number of autistic students requested more clubs and societies for them to feel more included in college life. In particular, two students came to see the college community team to express how they had struggled to adapt to college life. As a result, the community team set up a War Hammer Club, which has 15 members, predominantly students on the Autistic Spectrum. Moreover, as a further request from students we are setting up an after college Dungeons and Dragons and Anime and Manga Club, which has had over 40 membership requests. As a club this has had more membership requests than any other club we have tried to set up here at Havering Sixth Form. Again, most of this club’s membership is from students with Autism.
This is a real success story here at the college and without Anna’s input this may not have happened.
Principal, Havering 6th Form