Ginny Bowbrick – Anna’s guest on Women’s Radio

Ginny Bowbrick – Anna’s guest on Women’s Radio

Ginny Bowbrick has been a doctor for thirty years and is a consultant vascular surgeon at Medway Maritime Hospital, Kent. She has three sons aged 15, 12 and 12 and the twins are autistic with severe learning disabilities.

Alongside her medical career, her other professional interests are in medical education of junior doctors and in promoting understanding of autism and learning disabilities amongst healthcare professionals. She is currently embedding a campaign called the “Not Less Campaign” in her own Trust with their support to promote understanding of autism and learning disabilities which she hopes will be taken up by other Trusts in due course.

There is a wide body of evidence that people with autism and learning disabilities are not currently treated equally in care settings including acute hospitals. This leads to poorer care and poorer outcomes.

The CIPOLD report (Confidential Inquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities) in 2013 found that men with learning disabilities died on average 13 years sooner than the general population and for women this was 20 years sooner. Subsequent reports have shown little improvement.

Following the Annual report for LeDeR (Learning Disabilities Mortality Review) 2016/2017, mandatory e-learning is to be introduced. However, there is no visible campaign in existence to reassure patients and their families that awareness has been raised.

The “Not Less Campaign” is an opportunity to change this by dispelling myths, removing stereotypes and developing understanding by asking NHS staff to pledge equality in care, to not make assumptions about learning disability and autistic patients and to listen to them and their families.

This campaign will enable the staff at Medway to feel better equipped and empowered to deliver the best of care for people with autism and learning disabilities. A badge is being developed for staff to wear which will be a visible symbol to patients and their families. She has already presented her proposal to her Chief Executive, Medical Director and consultant colleagues who offered unanimous support. She has been using feedback from

her colleagues following her presentation and from the Autistic community on Twitter on what they want healthcare professionals to know, to help create the information packs and logo to be used. The Campaign will be formally launched this Autumn at Medway Maritime Hospital. For more information or to message her please follow @CampaignPiece on Twitter.

Click here to listen to Ginnys radio interview every day until Monday at 1pm.

British Airways inspired by our Autism Hero Rebecca Taylor’s Airport Journey Cards!

British Airways inspired by our Autism Hero Rebecca Taylor’s Airport Journey Cards!

Anna Kennedy Online are so proud of Rebecca for sharing her journey with us and support this incredible lady all the way!

Rebecca Taylor won the Parent/Carer Award a the Autism Hero Awards in 2018. Rebecca was been nominated by Joan Whittle, Emma Taylor and Thomas Lopeman for this award, for her all round enthusiasm and passion to helping parents, carers and young people living in her area.

She was the founder of the junior autism group which she created to support individuals to have a safe contained area where children can play, parents can engage with each other and receive information services.

Rebecca has a son with autism called Joshua and everything she has achieved is because of him, she is frequently invited to clubs and groups to speak about Joshua and their journey. Rebecca was recently invited to speak in Poland at an international conference.

It’s quite clear Rebecca has a lot of people that are so thankful to her from her numerous nominations and she has inspired many and continues being a hero and here is what she did next…

British Airways launches a dedicated support team for customers with additional accessibility needs as part of its £6.5bn investment programme

  • Airline announces next phase of multi-million pounds investment for customers requiring additional assistance with introduction of 20-strong team of accessibility experts
  • Team will assist more than half a million customers with disabilities who fly each year – their enquiries were formerly handled by airline’s general customer service team
  • New direct phone line now connects customers straight to specialist team

Part of British Airways’ £6.5bn investment for customers and follows the launch earlier this year of airline’s new staff training programme to improve assistance for customers with hidden and visible disabilities. In the latest phase of its £6.5bn investment for customers, British Airways has launched a dedicated customer care team for travellers who require additional assistance to ensure every journey they take with the airline is as straightforward and stress-free as possible.

The hand-picked team of customer service professionals received specialist training* to enable them to answer any questions customers have when they get in touch via phone or email and will help them understand what to expect during their journey. They will also be able to help:

  • Make new flight, hotel and car hire bookings
  • Arrange bespoke assistance for customers
  • Pre-book seating
  • Inform airport staff and cabin crew about specific requirements
  • Provide information and support to empower more customers to have the confidence to fly

Carolina Martinoli, British Airways’ Director of Brand and Customer Experience said: “I am really excited about the possibilities the new team will open up for the 50,000 customers requiring additional assistance who travel with us each month. Every member of the team is incredibly passionate about helping our customers and enabling them to relax and enjoy British Airways’ unique service.”

In April, British Airways became the first and only airline to be awarded the renowned Autism Friendly Award by the National Autistic Society and has now become the first airline to produce a Visual Guide to Flying to help customers prepare for their flight. The guide, which can be found on the airline’s website, is endorsed by the National Autistic Society and explains the sights, sounds, smells and experiences customers may encounter during their journey.

Earlier this year British Airways began its largest ever accessibility staff training programme for almost 30,000 customer-facing colleagues. Since the introduction of the Beyond Accessibility Programme in January, the carrier has seen a significant increase in customer satisfaction from travellers who require additional assistance.

Aiming to become the airline of choice for customers with both hidden and visible disabilities, British Airways has worked with disability specialists to produce materials for the new programme. They include a new library of short videos providing information about different types of hidden disabilities and practical advice on how to support customers at each stage of their journey, and a new training video to help staff support and confidently interact with customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Victoria Williams, Founder of terptree, which produced the video said: “We are delighted to have worked with British Airways to help its employees understand how to support their deaf customers. This has included collaborating with a team of professional deaf filmmakers who produced, directed and shot a training film to teach staff simple British Sign Language.”

Announcing the Autism Hero finalists 2019!!!

Announcing the Autism Hero finalists 2019!!!

Anna Kennedy Online Charity and Judging panel are proud to announce the finalists for the Autism Hero Awards 2019, congratulations!

Our judges had a really tough time selecting the finalists this year, as so many people give so much time to help the lives of others. It was hard to choose finalists because they are all so deserving.

The Autism Community therefore has so much to give to society of large and they are all winners!

Special message from Dr Anna Kennedy OBE:
“Together with my team we want to celebrate the unforgotten heroes that go the extra mile and make life changing steps that impact and improve the quality of life for autistic individuals and the lives of their families.There will also be a Special Recognition Award and Charity Volunteer of the Year which will be announced on the night. I look forward to meeting you and congratulations for being a finalist”

Outstanding community Award

Melanie Timberlake

Clair Prosser

Jane Lord

Online Social Award

Freddie Smith

Nikki Robertson

Laura Price

Young Person of the Year Award

Morgan Smith

Jermaine Cartwright 

Jayden Worthington

Parent / Carer Award

Kenny Elvin

Lisa Monaghan

Louise Quinn-Flipping

Sibling of the Year Award

Owen Elvin

Alice Partington

Seray Marius

Outstanding Education Award

Agata Benson

Joel Mellor

Donna Swan

Deborah Shepherd

Lifetime Award

Mark Morton

Tanya Phillips

Becky Farmer

Creative Arts and Media Award

Noah Loo

Siddharth Gadiyar

Leading Business Award

Tom Cliffe

Ali Knowles

Portland College

Richard Featherston

Personal Achievement Award

Kelly Waite

Charlotte Banfield

Martin Hunter

People’s Autism Hero Award

Richard Smith

Hazel Lim

Louise Kirby

Entrepreneurial Award

Rebecca Taylor

Richard Smith

The celebration will be taking place at the prestigious Chelsea Harbour Hotel, Chelsea Harbour, London SW10 0XG. Please click here for details.

The evening will commence at 6pm with a red-carpet welcome drink on arrival, a delicious three-course meal, DJ, entertainment. Carriages at 12.30. Click here to buy your tickets!

All proceeds for the evening will be donated to the Anna Kennedy Online charity to continue its dynamic work in raising Autism awareness within society.

Check out our September newsletter!

Check out our September newsletter!

As a small charity, we all work tirelessly and have had a great Summer, we are now organising and planning events , organising existing projects and already planning dates and projects for 2022!

This edition covers this Summer’s activities that took place with the Charity football match. We share details of the judging day that took place for the Autism Hero Awards. Keeping you up to date with details of the latest news and developments !!!

We are excited about the run up to the AGT Roadshow which is taking place on 12th October in Ruislip!  Auditions are open for Autism’s Got Talent for our main London show in 2020.

There are some awesome announcements to be shared in due course, so watch this space!

A date for your diaries— our annual AKO Autism Expo booked for 28th March 2020, more to follow.

Would you like to write an article for us?  Or considered to be a guest on Women’s Radio live show hosted by Anna?

Please email for details.

Meanwhile click here to download our latest Newsletter!

I chose mental health over a prestigious Sixth-Form, that refused to recognise my autism By Siena Castellon

I chose mental health over a prestigious Sixth-Form, that refused to recognise my autism By Siena Castellon

A lesson I recently learned is that sometimes admitting defeat is the best decision you can make.  This time last year, I was elated about starting at a state sixth-form specialist maths school. I was in disbelief that I had managed to earn a place through what had turned out to be a very selective and competitive admissions process. But more than anything, I was excited about going to a school with students who love maths and physics as much as I do; a school that prided itself in having lots of autistic students. I was hopeful that I had finally found a place where I would fit in and where I would be understood and supported.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

My school experience spectacularly derailed in the very first week. In hindsight, I should have immediately cut my losses and returned to my previous school, where I had been happy and valued. But I haven’t overcome all the challenges of being autistic, dyslexic and dyspraxic, and of having ADHD and hypermobility, by being defeatist; by throwing in the towel and walking away when life got tough. On the contrary, although I’m still a teenager, my many challenges have taught me the importance of never quitting in the face of adversity. Especially if quitting involves giving up on something that really matters to you. But as I recently learned, sometimes the cost and sacrifice isn’t worth the fight.

So, when is it acceptable to admit defeat and walk away?

National praise, but ‘torture’ in school

Last year, I lived a double life. Outside of school, I became a nationally-recognised, multi-award-winning neurodiversity advocate. I signed a publishing deal to write a survival guide for autistic girls. I launched a national neurodiversity school campaign and was featured in a Netflix documentary showcasing global changemakers. I was invited to Kensington Palace to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. I spoke in Parliament and at 10 Downing Street. It was a year in which I discovered that I had a voice.

Yet, at school, my voice was not heard. Every minor request for a reasonable adjustment became an insurmountable obstacle. It took over two months of repeated requests, emails and meetings to finally be moved to a seat where I could see the whiteboard. Although the school agreed to inform me in advance of any significant changes in the classroom teaching format, without any warning, I frequently found myself having to endure physical activities that turned the classroom into a noisy, chaotic and frenzied environment.

On one occasion, we were instructed to grab our chair and run out of the classroom with it. I found the pushing, shoving and shouting that ensued very distressing, as a classroom of mostly 17-year-old boys tried to be the first to force their way through the narrow doorway.

On another occasion, the same teacher brought a penguin-shaped beanbag to class and informed us that whoever caught the penguin had to provide a definition for a term we learned in class. I was immediately filled with dread, because I’m dyspraxic, have poor reflexes and am hopeless at catching airborne objects. So instead of learning, I spent the lesson worrying I would get hit by the beanbag and trigger autism-related sensory processing issues that make me very sensitive to touch.

My worry became even more plausible when a classmate was hit in the face by the beanbag. I became increasingly distressed as, more than once, the beanbag hit the fluorescent light dangling from the classroom ceiling, making it swing back and forth. It’s common knowledge that florescent lighting is an autistic person’s equivalent of Kryptonite, so being trapped in a room with fluorescent lighting swaying back and forth, back and forth, was torture. The combination of chaos, noise and the swinging fluorescent lights left me nauseous with a throbbing headache. This led to an internal panic attack and anticipatory anxiety, since I never knew what to expect, or what sensory classroom nightmare I would find myself in next.

School’s lack of care caused mental health crises

It wasn’t long before my mental health and physical wellbeing began to suffer from the stress and anxiety of being at a school apparently unable, or unwilling, to understand my disability-related needs. Three weeks into the school year, I was admitted to A&E with a severe panic attack. They prescribed beta-blockers to lower my heart rate, as well as medication for excruciating, stress-related, acid reflux. Yet through it all, the school was more worried about my attendance than about my mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Over the next few months, it became clear that the school was not going to bend, or make reasonable adjustments for my disabilities. I found myself in a sink or swim situation. It was up to me to endure and survive my school environment. As I clung on by my fingertips, I dreamed of walking away; of going back to my old school, where I had been happy and had felt safe. But my fear of being a quitter, of giving up prematurely without having given it my all, prevented me.

Instead, I faced each obstacle as if it were the burden and punishment I had to carry for being autistic and having learning differences. A modern-day Sisyphus being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only for it to roll down when it nears the top, then having to repeat the action for eternity. By the end of the school year, I was physically, emotionally and mentally shattered. But resigned to enduring another year.

A transformative summer changed my mind

This summer, I spent five weeks at a math camp summer program in the US (where my parents are from). I was reunited with old friends and made new ones. It was there that my eyes were finally opened. As I shared my Year 12 school experience with my friends, they were incredulous as to what I had endured. But more importantly, they were at a loss as to why I hadn’t walked away from what was clearly a toxic situation.

I tried to explain that it was one of only two specialist maths schools in the UK and one of the top schools in the country; that I was privileged to be there. I also tried to explain that I had already invested and sacrificed so much in trying to make it work, that I couldn’t simply give up and have all my effort go to waste.

But as I tried to justify why I had stayed, I realised that sometimes the fight isn’t worth the toll it takes; that sometimes calling it quits and walking away is the best thing you can do for yourself. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort I invested in trying to make the situation work, it didn’t make sense to continue to try to survive in a school that was not prepared to support me. So I decided to stop focusing on what I would lose if I moved on and instead, decided to focus on what I would gain from a new start

My future is bright – and happy

If you’re ever in a situation where you are waging a losing battle and you regularly find yourself questioning whether you should call it quits, listen to yourself. You don’t always have to make the best of a bad situation. Sometimes, cutting your losses and walking away is not a sign of failure. Sometimes, the price of sticking around costs too much emotionally and prevents you from moving on to new and exciting opportunities where you could flourish and grow. 

I am proud to say that I have cut my losses. I’m about to start Year 13 at a new school. I am looking forward to a new start and am relishing the promise that comes with new beginnings. 


Month: September 2019