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 ‘All things Autism’ Anna’s guest this week at Women’s Radio – Felicia from Jesse’s Place Foundation CIC

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Anna Kennedy’s guest this week on Women’s Radio Station was Felicia from Jesse’s Place Foundation CIC. ‘All things Autism” will be aired at 1pm and 1am every day this week.  Please see www.womensradiostation.com


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Felicia Olusola Folarin-Ogunde is the Founder/Director of Jesse’s Place Foundation CIC shared:

It was a great pleasure being on the ‘All things Autism’ show with Anna Kennedy. I must have told the whole world and its wife! I always feel ‘at home’ anytime I am in the company of women who I have things in common with – especially if it’s our autistic children. I have know about Anna for a number of years as I follow her on Twitter where I enjoy reading about her work and her family – especially her two sons.

I am glad I was able to share part of my life journey as a mum to an autistic teenage son, as well as sharing a bit about being a senior education practitioner and my work as the founder of Jesse’s Place Foundation.

Even though I have known about autism many years before the birth of my son, nothing can prepare you for the actual reality of a diagnosis and everything that comes with raising an autistic child – who is also diagnosed with global development delay.

Having said this, my journey as an autism mum has made me resilient, courageous and determined as I continue to be ‘intentional and deliberate’ in my parenting towards my son – Jesse.

Jesse, is beautiful inside and out, he is a loving and endearing son who has an ear for rhythm and music and is also a wonderful gymnast. He is my inspiration for setting up Jesse’s Place Foundation.

He continues to inspire me to dig deep and find that strength to do things for him and other families. Honestly speaking, helping other families has ‘an almost’ therapeutic feeling which just keeps encouraging me to continue to do more.

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Our aim at Jesse’s Place is to empower many families so they can be in the position to do their best for their autistic children. As Jesse’s parents, my husband and I have made sure that he is at the centre of everything we do.

As his parents, myself and his dad are his advocates. So also are his brothers who are quite protective of him. We want to ensure that Jesse is always meaningfully engaged and that he gets the best out of life.  

The fact that he has a disability should not limit him or lower our expectations of him. Though we know we must also to be realistic. The aforementioned is one of the ‘main drivers’ for Jesse’s Place Foundation.

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Many parents in the UK are not able to tackle issues concerning a suitable school setting for their autistic children, many also have difficulties with the autism assessment process; they experience problems with obtaining an EHCP and they face problems with contact and dialogue with social services.

Some parents also feel ‘intimidated’ by authorities and need an advocate to support them through the various formal and sometimes daunting processes they go through when seeking support for their special child. This is the case with many parents we support.

Although Jesse’s Place Foundation is not set up as an exclusive BAME organisation, I am in a ‘unique position’ to work with African families for a number of reasons.  This is because I was born in the UK by Nigerian parents; I am an experienced senior education practitioner, a practising Christian and also a mother to a child with a disability.  I also lived in Nigeria from age three to age eighteen.

All these experiences has equipped me to understand the cultural and religious barriers African families with autistic children face, both within their extended families and within their communities. I see the ability to support families from whatever background they come from as a honour and an opportunity to share my wide experience with them.

It was also good to talk about a new initiative for children with special needs and disabilities  which I recently became a part of as their newly appointed SEND Director.

This is a project known as The Anchor SENDfriendly Centre (TAS) which will be opening early next year. TAS is a classic story of parents of children with special needs who couldn’t find any extracurricular service suitable enough to meet the needs of their children so they decided to set up a fit for purpose and enriching provision themselves!  

After some thorough research, we have discovered that there really isn’t a centre like TAS and the vision is not to stop at just one centre but replicate it across London.

The TAS centre, which is for children and young adults between the ages of 0 – 25 years, is a multi-sensory provision which will also incorporate services such as breakfast and after school club, as well as Saturday and holiday clubs.

The facilities available include an interactive state of the art sensory and immersion room; specialist music provision, outdoor activities on and off site and much more. We will be also be collaborating with affiliates to deliver activities and bespoke experiences to our special children and young adults.

TAS aims to deliver services which will achieve the best outcomes for our children and young adults with special needs and disabilities.

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During the course of my interview with Anna, I was able to reiterate, what many organisations as well as Jesse’s Place have observed during lockdown which is the importance of authorities understanding the difficulties that families of children and young adults are going through during these unprecedented times.

Covid19  has exposed failings within services for many families of children with autism. Families with autistic children and young adults continue to feel isolated and their health and wellbeing impacted. Undiagnosed children now have longer waiting periods from assessment to final diagnosis.

These services definitely fell terribly short during lockdown and these failings need to be addressed. I was able to share with Anna how Jesse’s Place supported parents and professionals through a number of virtual workshops which included focuses on creating enabling learning environments for autistic children and the importance of therapy.  

My experience as a mother and an educational practitioner has taught me that every child matters, regardless of whether that child has a disability or not. Our children with special needs deserve the best we can offer. Every child or young adult with special needs deserves to be given what they need to be successful.

I want to thank Anna for working hard to raise the profile of autism within the United Kingdom and for reaching out to other organisations and individuals in a joint effort to keep the momentum going and also ensuring that autistic children and young adults as well as their families are heard. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking on this show and couldn’t believe how quickly the hour went!

Please visit our website on: www.jessesplacefoundation.org

Also TAS can be reached at: www.thetascentre.co.uk or info@thetascentre.co.uk



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