Anna Kennedy Online – Autism Awareness Charity

Today’s guests on ‘All things Autism” was Brian Bird

Annas guest  on‘All things Autism’ Women’s Radio was Brian Bird .

‘All things Autism” will be aired at 1pm and 1am every day, please click here to listen to these amazing shows!

Meeting Anna

I first met Anna in 2012 at the London Autism show. I listened to a very empowering talk by her and was impressed how she challenged professionals and stood up for herself. I wrote to Anna afterwards to thank her, and Anna was one of the first people to inspire me to become an advocate and fight for my son’s rights at school.

Since then, I have been a big fan and follow Anna’s pages on Instagram and Facebook.

Anna and I share the same ethos of always being kind and promoting anti bullying within the community.

About Brian

I am Brian a late diagnosed autistic at the age of fifty.

I currently run a page on Instagram called: Autism Support Community (@autism_support_community)

I am a writer and blogger, autistic self-advocate, and anti-bullying campaigner. I do talks at The London Autism Show on bullying, mental health, and diagnosis.

I did a talk for the NAS at their Leeds Autism and mental health conference.

Twice yearly talks at The Michael Rutter Centre, Maudsley for parents of newly diagnosed autistic children.

Took part in the filming, experiments, and research side of the BBC Horizon television documentary ‘Living with autism’ featuring Uta Frith.

My son and I are second degree black belts in Taekwondo, a martial art similar to Karate.

I wrote my autobiography over 7 years at the City Lit, hope to publish it in the near future.

I am an avid naturalist, photographer, and love to travel.

Shows also at Birmingham and Manchester.

Childhood

I was diagnosed very late in life at the age of fifty and had no idea I was autistic.

As a child I was often bullied by peers and teachers for being different. Much of my time was spent on my own and being engrossed in my special interests.

I escaped bullying by truanting and became a bit of a vandal, street kid, and missed out on my education due to my difficulties.

My father heavily rejected me and after my mother’s death when I was eleven, I became mute and unreachable.

I struggled to fit in and even though my father was a psychiatrist he did not have a clue how to help me.

There was talk of sending me away to an institution, in those days little was known about autism.

My grandfather was my hero, and he was always kind and supportive towards me. We would walk for miles together in the countryside, play chess, and he taught me how to stand up and defend myself against bullying.

Mental Health and Trauma

Due to my traumatic childhood and relentless bullying, I soon developed severe bouts of depression and crippling anxiety. Also eating disorders and suffered terribly with insomnia.

Later I found out I was dyslexic, suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome and probably dyspraxia.

When I was nineteen my father died, and I experienced a period of being homeless in London. It was a downward spiral as I entered into deep depression and became isolated from society.

I was then admitted into a psychiatric hospital as a voluntary patient and spent 9 months or more trying to recover. It was a frightening place to be but also the best place as I met many kind and creative people from all walks of life.

On leaving hospital I experienced being homeless again and would sleep under the staircase of my local Samaritans office.

I later got married and lived in Brazil for a few years where my first son was born.

I started my own business as a landscape gardener and was quite successful, employing staff and covering the whole of London.

I had to stop due to an accident at work, deteriorating mental health and then became a carer to my youngest lad who was shortly diagnosed with autism.

Diagnosis

It was through my son’s diagnosis that I started to see my traits. I attended a training course for parents of newly diagnosed children run by the NAS and during that course I stood up one day and announced; ‘I am autistic’! It was a very surreal experience meeting myself for the very first time.

I am pro diagnosis as it can be a great tool to help us gain what little support and help is out there. A diagnosis can give us closure on traumatic lives and empower great self-awareness and self-acceptance.

To start the diagnosis process, it is a good idea to complete one of those online evaluation tests

I completed the AQ test: “Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ)” https://psychology-tools.com/test/autism-spectrum-quotient

Then book a double slot with a good and open-minded GP, choose wisely as GPs are not that well trained. Go well prepared, write down questions and take medical and professional reports. Be aware that for females it can be very difficult and there is a danger of being misdiagnosed. Attend with a trusted friend or family member as the whole process can be stressful.

The National Autistic Society has pages of information you can print, even notes for the GP to help them manage your diagnosis request.

Hopefully then you will be referred to a psychiatrist who may then refer you to a diagnosis centre. Waiting lists can be long and in my case my diagnosis took three long hard years of battling. I was blocked at the second stage, but finally got a second opinion and was diagnosed at 50 in 2011 with Aspergers Syndrome.

Remember a diagnosis is not just a piece of paper, it is a life and can help others to grow and transform. I did more in ten years than I did in fifty as my diagnosis empowered me to research and understand myself better. I was able to break that cycle of trauma and stop blaming myself. I finally lay to rest my past and moved on with my life with greater confidence and peace of mind. I became the person I always wanted to be, and my diagnosis helped me gain access to housing, education, and other support.

Writer, blogger, speaker, and autistic self-advocate

I cannot change the past or catch up on lost years due to being invisible. However, it is important to note that the cycles of trauma can be broken and used to help others, to support and educate others.

My work and kind ethos allow me to reach out and support many vulnerable people in our community.

As a parent I know those feelings of being lost and overwhelmed. There is no manual when it comes to autism and besides, we are all unique.

I say this, be kind and maintain an open mind and heart. Autism can be disruptive and exhausting, but also rewarding, do not compare our children with non-autistics, we have our own way to be and to process information.

There is much support online, choose wisely. Be aware social media is a volatile place. Choose pages and groups that build you up and do not police you. Groups that are moderated well and are antibullying in nature.

My own page is inclusive, open minded and welcomes parents, professionals, and autistics alike.

I share information on education, housing, autistic rights, bullying, mental health, diagnosis and even my personal photos. Humour is a big part of my work and I share and support other advocates’ work.

I believe my page is unique and my ability to stand away from the crowd allows me to keep an open minded and warm-hearted ethos. It truly is a safer space, where people can visit, breath, laugh and be informed/listened to.

My page Instagram page is: Autism Support Community @autism_support_community

Being a father and carer

Nothing gives me greater happiness than being a father and carer to my lads, one on the spectrum. It is my calling and my past experiences no matter how painful have helped me to mature and be a wise loving father.

I have a very close bond with my sons and am so proud of how they have succeeded and grown.

One of my tips is Lego and board games that teach many skills and stimulate the parts of the brain that deal with motor coordination and speech.

I rescued my youngest lad from school and have been home educating for 6 years. I strongly recommend home education for the more vulnerable child lost in the system.

Since my son left school, his meltdowns stopped, and his anxiety disappeared. This has allowed him to flourish. Bullying destroys lives into adulthood so that stopped and now he has many friends while studying for his A levels.

Home education is a great option for some children, and it can literally save lives. It is a lifestyle change and can improve the health of all the family, who needs the stress of fighting schools?

For further expert information on home education please contact: “Ed Yourself – The Home Education Consultancy” https://edyourself.org

Martial Arts training

Black Belt signifies – ‘The wearers proficiency in Taekwondo and their imperviousness to darkness and fear’.Brian Bird

I enrolled my son at Taekwondo classes 8 years ago to help him cope with bullying.

It was the best thing I ever did, and now we both train every day.

Last July we graded to our second degree blackbelts together, a 5-hour marathon of twelve patterns, sparring, board breaking, and Korean theory. I am the oldest to grade to black belt in my club, so it is never too late to learn.

Martial arts are brilliant for autistic people, disabled and for learning self-defence, and greater self-awareness.

The choice of coach is essential, and I am lucky to have two coaches who are inclusive and anti-bullying in nature.

The classes are also about having fun and supporting each other. Students learn kindness, discipline, respect, and integrity all the way. Aggression is not part of training, and the best form of self-defence is to not get into dangerous situations in the beginning.

Students lose that fear, the fear that bullies look for in vulnerable people. Making friends and working as a team give a sense of belonging for autistic people.

Martial arts develop confidence, assertiveness, co-ordination, and physical/mental strength.

Choose which martial art suits you and choose a coach that is kind and inclusive.

Mental health tips

There is a mental health crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and lockdowns.

Managing mental health is essential for autistic people and parents.

Anxiety and depression can be managed and greatly improved with regular exercise. Walking is a great way to bond with our kids and also help parents to destress.

Insomnia can be crippling and lead to a breakdown in mental and physical health.

Changing habits, diet, screen time and improving exercise can improve our sense of wellbeing as well as improve insomnia.

For invaluable mental health please follow Dr Julie Smith on Instagram, Facebook or Tik Tok. She produces excellent videos and has just published a bestselling book called, ‘Why has nobody told me this before?’. I have read this book and it is excellent, as it breaks down mental health issues and explores ways we can improve and manage it.

For Autistic run pages I recommend the following friends & pages, who are exemplary in their conduct and ability to educate and inform on all aspects of autism.

  1. Charlotte ‘The Spectrum Girl‘ on Instagram.
  2. ‘Summer Farrely’ on Facebook and also on Instagram as ‘Autistic perspectives3
  3. .Callum on Instagram, @adulting_with_autism
  4. Dr Julie Smith psychologist and author on Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok.
  5. National Autistic Society better for parent resources.
  6. ‘Peaceful Life peaceful mind’ for mental health on Instagram and Facebook.
  7. ‘The Neurodiverse Woman’ on Facebook.
  8. ‘Michael McCreary – Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic.’
  9. ‘Spectrumy’
  10. Best of all….’Annakennedyonline’
  11. My page on Instagram: Autism Support Community: @autism_support_community
  12. AQ online test for autism: “Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ)” https://psychology-tools.com/test/autism-spectrum-quotient
  13. “Ed Yourself – The Home Education Consultancy” https://edyourself.org
  14. The London Autism show, visit hub one where all the autistic speakers are. I will be doing a talk there in June 22 on getting a late diagnosis. 

Shows also at Birmingham and Manchester.

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NewsToday’s guests on ‘All things Autism” Radio was Brian Bird