Anna Kennedy Online – Autism Awareness Charity

Anna’s guest this week on ‘All things Autism’ at Women’s Radio was Nicola Carey-Shine

Anna Kennedy’s guest this week on Women’s Radio Station was Nicola Carey-Shine.
‘All things Autism” will be aired at 1pm and 1am every day this week.  Please see

Nicola shared:

After a decade as a mainstream teacher (and middle manager) in an extremely large comprehensive school, with highly challenging pupils (many of whom had undiagnosed SEN), people used to say to me: ‘Why would you want to put yourself through that?’ Or ‘I don’t envy you!’ The truth was, I loved it.

The bonds I made resonated at a deep-down level, knowing the child who had arrived so angry, anxious and misunderstood now had their own toolkit to achieve better life chances.

So, why did I leave my safe job of over a decade?…..Because of how I saw the Government rip apart the safety net for those with Special Educational needs. Schools became populated with ‘Business managers’ who wanted to tick boxes, but didn’t have the time to sit down, look their pupils in the eye, and really hear what they needed to thrive.

Whilst on maternity leave of my first child, I decided to be the change I was so desperate for. With my new born son in his sling, we walked the streets of our local towns together, knocking on doors and explaining my new venture: a specialist provision for those who needed it most.

After teaching myself how to build a website in between nursing my son, managing my first budget, and creating my own workshops, praise spread, and my pupil cohort grew from 1 to 30 in 3 months.

Within its first year, and every year since, the Learn to Shine school has won regional and National awards, a testament to the hard work, love and dedication that goes into education accessible to all.

Since inception, I have endeavoured to create pathways that most benefit pupils who have been forgotten about or let down by, mainstream education. Families continue to have their access to the correct support obstructed.

As an adult my own ADHD was confirmed, but as a surprise to me, it was one of the most chronic scores. By undertaking a Masters in Psychology, specialist training in Child Speech and language therapy, and Occupational therapy I have been reminded just how difficult and frustrating being in a classroom can be….but it’s been worth it.

I have been able to give parents access to Educational Healthcare plans, and act as their advocate with local authorities to protect their child’s rights. Workshops are designed to help young people obtain skills missing from their development, but always following the principle that learning is best absorbed when it is multi-sensory and fun.

Adult carers and parents can also attend Art therapy groups to create respite and joy in challenging times. All of this has been adapted around Covid in weird and wonderful ways!

At the moment, I manage all of this (along with my own two very small children) by myself. Since creation, I have had a waiting list and have had to turn children away. This truly breaks my heart…but at the beginning of the year we found the perfect land to expand our acorn into a much bigger source of support, allowing for more bespoke learning, SEN screeners, therapies, and life skills such as cooking, bush craft and animal welfare.

The life changing opportunities are breath taking, and would mean that I wouldn’t have to turn any child away.

I have realised that with relentless passion and the desire to make fair chances for all children, we have the ability to make huge changes, or the ‘butterfly effect’. Please be part of it.

The Learn to Shine school offers:

  • Pre-screening support for diagnosis and next steps (Autism, ASD and range of SEN)
  • Behavioural and emotional coaching for families
  • 1:1 and group Literacy and Numeracy boosters
  • Therapeutic Art sessions for both children and adults/carers
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NewsAnna’s guest this week at Women’s Radio – Nicola Carey-Shine