Anna’s guest Alessandra Bester on Women’s Radio

Anna’s guest Alessandra Bester on Women’s Radio

It was wonderful to join Anna Kennedy at the Women’s Radio again. Once we start talking, it’s clear we have so much useful information to share Both being parents and professionals with connection to Autism, we are very passionate about supporting others.

My name is Alessandra Bester. I created a snack for my son Ethan, back in the days, when he didn’t eat enough. Soon after, an idea evolved to find some sort of sustainable work opportunity for the otherwise unemployable single mom with the severely autistic boy and so began the idea for the Functional Food Co from my home kitchen. The fast-growing population of people with allergies also demanded more choices of healthy, lunch box friendly snacks. 

I was surprised how much my son (10 back than) Ethan wanted to participate and I thought of making this a future opportunity for him and others.

We now provide work training, experience and employment to young adults with special needs and autism, #teamnono proving that, given the right environment and support everyone can participate in the world of work and shine.  

The generation of young people that I am working with, had very few expectations of independence, or working. I hope that we can learn something from them, for future generations to be better prepared.

 At #teamnono we say #nonoexclusion and #nonobullying

‘We want opportunity not charity. We want sales not donations’

During the radio interview I have share with Anna how we have included all the students from Leighton collage in our latest ‘Identity’ project. Not just the ones able to work in the kitchen, but absolutely everyone. A collaborative artwork was then used to create the box design. Students chose their own chocolates with each named after that individual.

The box was named ‘identity’ to break the stigma around disability, nationality, race and …and to demonstrate that true identity comes from uniqueness. The artwork will be included in upcoming exhibition by Ecclestone Art supported by Dame Emma Thompson and exhibited at the Burgh House in Hampstead. The box has became a hit and we’ve received wonderful feedback from chocolate critics, customers as well as a support from local businesses that have included our product in their shops.

The past few months, we have been ‘touring’ many north London stores promoting and getting a feedback on our work. The favourite flavour  so far has been fresh mint and lime mojito chocolate and roasted coconut, but nothing bits the zesty orange caramel. (you won’t notice its sugar free) Anna’s favourite.

Classroom arts and crafts became a reality for our young people who have been valued and respected for what they CAN do.

You can find more about what we do and the beautiful, handmade, Vegan, Gluten Free snacks and chocolates we produce at use a code AKO19 for 15% off

On social media @nonococoauk or email me

You can also see a FLIP magazine created, designed, investigated and written by the students from Leighton College, further educational provision for young adults with special needs. Both as a parent and professional, I have found reading this very insightful and useful.

AS a parent and public speaker on Autism, I also share information from my latest appearance in SEN Virtual Summit where I talk about supporting young people with Autism during puberty. You can see the full video subscribe using this link

We also talked with Anna about the elephant in the room – the summer holidays – which can be very hard for us as parents and our children. Drawing from my personal experience I have found some things useful, such as:

  • Personalised clothing stamps that I use to mark my son’s cloths with my name and phone number, including his PJ’s as he once left home in the middle of the night and no one knew who he was. This gives me some assurance. and
  • If your child is a ‘runner’ I also learned that your local police can have your child’s up to date picture on the system, so that If your child is found unattended anywhere, and unable to speak, the police can quickly find your details and reunite you with your child. We have had to learn this, the hard way.
  • Autism t-shirts, is something that has made a BIG difference to us when out and about. Not every disability is visible, and public reaction to your child’s corky behaviour can be easily diffused if people only knew that this is NOT a bad behaviour. I can’t tell you how many times we have had a member of public sending us a smile instead of ‘the look’. I have designed all my son’s t-shirts over the years and made it relevant to his age. I have a few t-shirts to give away for the little ones, age 2-5. Please send your enquiry to You can also buy more grown up t-shirts click here to shop

As a lone parent who completely relies on carers for support, the holidays are very difficult. I I find it hard to do shopping or go to places that aren’t familiar for my son. In the supermarket my son would walk, fast, run, and I was never able to get everything we need it in one visit. He would also wonder off so many times.

Now we use a wheelchair provided by most supermarkets, where he is calmer, cocooned and relaxed enough to tell me what I am adding to the trolley. That way shopping is a pleasure and a learning opportunity. You can rent a wheelchair from British Red Cross for the summer. Click here for details

If you would like to be updated on #teamnono work and also to access useful information and resources, please click here to subscribe

Follow us on social media FB @autismlifestyleuk Insta & Twitter @nonococoauk

You can hear Alessandra’s interview on at 1pm everyday this week

Autism’s Got Talent Highlights to be Shown on Katie Price’s Show

Autism’s Got Talent Highlights to be Shown on Katie Price’s Show

On Monday next week, 22nd July at 1 pm Katie Price will be sharing some highlights from Autism’s Got Talent on her Quest Red TV show ‘Katie Price: My Crazy Life‘.

At the London show Katie and her son Harvey presented one of the acts, and Harvey shouted out words of encouragement to the performers. Harvey was so taken with the show that Katie sent in his audition of Harvey playing the organ. Harvey then showcased his talent and performed ‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘ When the Saints Come Marching In’ for the recent Autism’s Got Talent St Ives Roadshow.

The audience gave Harvey a standing ovation, with Harvey’s sister Princess in attendance to support her brother. Harvey thanked the audience and was appreciative of the applause and his certificate of participation.

Autism’s Got Talent has a unique format: it does not hold auditions, instead it aims to boost participants’ confidence by shining a spotlight on their individual strengths. The show was founded in 2012 by Anna Kennedy OBE, ambassador for Options Autism, one of the key part sponsors of the event, who provides care and education to children, young people and adults with autism.

CEO of Options Autism, Graham Baker, was delighted to be supporting the show for the third year running. Graham shares: ‘AGT provides an amazing – and incredibly moving – opportunity for those with autism to shine and celebrate success. Recognising and nurturing the unique strengths of individuals is key to unlocking their potential and we are proud to support this leading charity and autism event.’

Previous AGT stars include the dance group Autism with Attitude, who recently appeared on BBC One’s hit show The Greatest Dancer.

Anna and her team took the show to St Ives and the audience were treated to a dazzling array of live performances, including 23-year-old singer Charlotte Fieldson, who was non-verbal until the age of five when she started to sing along to ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Local magician Jono Blythe also wowed audiences with the help of his glamorous volunteer Katie Price, who travelled down to Cornwall to support her son Harvey as he made his debut performance in the show.

Harvey – who has severe autism, a rare complex genetic condition called Prader-Willi Syndrome and is partially blind – has been playing the keyboard since the age of four. He performed two songs at the event, footage of which will be shared on Katie Price’s latest TV show this summer.

Anna Kennedy OBE, a passionate advocate and campaigner for individuals and families affected by autism for over 20 years, reflected on the night, saying: ‘This year’s Autism’s Got Talent has been another smash hit, packed with some of our most exciting talent yet. We’ve been blown away by the amount of positive feedback from both press and families and are hugely proud of all of our performers.

‘AGT is a life changing experience and it has been a privilege to watch our performers gain confidence and self-belief. We’re looking forward to celebrating our next roadshow on 12th October at the Winston Churchill Theatre in Ruislip.’


Daniel Docherty on singing and his autism

Daniel Docherty on singing and his autism

Carlow & Kilkenny’s number one radio station with over 73,000 adult listeners every week.

Daniel Docherty has an amazing voice. He has autism. He comes from Kilmanagh, County Kilkenny and is a 2nd Year student at WIT.

Please listen to the podcast below:

Anna’s radio guest this week: Giuliana Wheater

Anna’s radio guest this week: Giuliana Wheater

My guest this week was Therapist Author and Teacher Giuliana Wheater on Womens Radio Station. Giuliana shared her experience:

“It was with a sense of real privilege and joy that I met with Anna on Tuesday to be interviewed for

Having met Anna in person for the first time at the Autism’s Got Talent Roadshow in St Ives last month , I was struck by how passionate , motivational and down to earth  she is in real life , just as I knew she would be.

The show blew me away. It was so emotional just seeing how all these young people with different abilities had risen above their challenges after being written off by professionals  and also because after so many years of feeling isolated and like a lone voice in the dark , I was suddenly surrounded by the warmth , belief and inclusion of so many others who have fought for their child as I have and come through such odds to help them achieve their dreams .

I’ve never got through so many tissues in one sitting and that’s the absolute truth . I came away knowing that this really is work I will continue doing until I draw my last breath in this world.

After meeting Anna she invited me into her radio show just two weeks later . I shared with her some of the utter heartbreak, frustrations and triumphs that my son Ollie and I have shared . Much of this journey took place against a background of quite intense domestic abuse.

We not only survived all these challenges – but thrived – and my son who was written off at school, his dreams of an English degree removed as a result and who had his funding legally spent elsewhere, purely because he has autism, has just completed a creative writing and publishing degree and been personally invited by his tutor, an 8 x award winning poet, to do his masters in creative writing . I actually don’t know how I’m holding it all together, I am so proud and so bursting with love and admiration for my boy.

For those of you who missed the show , I would say three words : Never Stop Believing .

Don’t let professionals, whether they be teachers , doctors or psychologists , ever define your child because they have a label. Just as 100 people a common cold aren’t all the same personality, nor are 100 people with autism. You will all as parents know that life for our special children is never going to be straight through a front door.

So get your mental  ladders, ropes  and shovels out and scale roofs, tunnel underneath or climb through windows to find another way.

Don’t take no for an answer.

Don’t let your child be forced into restrictive behaviours or ways of thinking.

Don’t let them be hemmed in by the invisible cage bars of negative beliefs and limitations.

Go to see the teachers and advocate for your child. Hold schools directly accountable for any funding you receive as it often goes into a huge melting pot and won’t be spent on your child.  I printed postcards each year for Ollie with his photo , a little about his condition but on the reverse all about what HE found challenging and what HIS strengths and gifts were . 

I would meet regularly with staff and suggest simple things such as breaking down multiple instructions on a white board for the whole class for instance so that it was inclusive and discreet . 

I also ensured that Ollie sat his exams in my therapy chalet in spite of being told this wasn’t possible : a child can sit their exams anywhere so long as it has an invigilator and an examiner present. I also made sure that Ollie could stop the clock whenever he was overwhelmed so he could calm down before re-starting the exam. I had to fight hard for this but I gently and continually persevered, knowing Ollie had this right . He got 9 GCSEs more than the school predicted and they could lap up the better league table results: win-win !! 

I would love to say more here but space won’t allow it – and I do love talking ! However if you’d like to know more of how you can help your child I have blogs linked to my website

Thank you so enormously to Anna for having me and allowing our voices to be heard .

If you missed Giuliana’s interview please tune in everyday at 1pm on until Monday.

Congratulations to one of our Charity Ambassadors Matty Street!

Congratulations to one of our Charity Ambassadors Matty Street!

A 22-year-old entrepreneur from Rochdale has begun his racing career, thanks to the help of a team of disabled drivers.

Matty Street is the CEO of TeamKarting, the indoor karting track in Rochdale, and on Saturday 6 June he took part in his first race at Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk with Team BRIT. The team consists of all disabled drivers, and invited Matty to take part in a BMW 116 Trophy race, alongside their drivers.

Qualifying tenth, Matty started the race in the middle of the pack. Racing in tricky wet conditions Matty’s past karting experience shone through and he was able to finish a respectable fourth, just short of a podium position. Matty has now brought the Team BRIT car in which he raced, to his TeamKarting base, where it is on display with new livery kindly donated by local Rochdale company Graffic Detail.

Matty was diagnosed with dyslexia, dyspraxia and Asperger’s (a form of autism) when he was at school. 

He said: “I found school extremely difficult and was predicted poor grades. I struggled with socialising in my early teenage years and had very little self-belief. At the age of 12 I discovered karting, which had a huge effect on me and helped me manage the challenges that Asperger’s can cause. I won a £30k scholarship to go racing at the age of 14 which opened doors to the expensive world of motor-sport. When I first took my GCSEs, just before I began my racing career, I failed them all. When I re-took the exams, I passed everything, as my teachers began to relate his work to motor-sport which helped me understand and retain information.”

Matty studied motor-sport engineering then went on to secure a degree. He worked at TeamKarting while studying and became Executive Manager at the age of 19. In July 2017 he raised enough investment to buy out the business and become CEO. It is now the UK’s highest rated karting track and has won an award for being autism-friendly. 

Matty said: “I want to increase opportunities for disadvantaged or underrepresented groups and I am hoping that through my racing career, I will inspire others who face challenges similar to me, that anything is possible. It was amazing to take part in my first race alongside Team BRIT this weekend. I’ve known about the team for some time and we share the same passion for creating opportunities for people that may never have thought it possible to get into motor-sport. I’ve faced challenges my whole life, but with the right support and a lot of determination, I’m running a business and starting my racing career.

I strongly believe that we have a responsibility to reinvest back into the grass roots of motor-sport and make it more inclusive and open to all irrespective of physical, mental, academic and cultural background. I am so passionate about this because I have seen first hand how motor-sport can changes people’s lives. Being autistic, I’m proud that I’m proving people wrong and I want to help other people do the same.”

Matty will race again with Team BRIT at Brands Hatch on 17 August.


Author: Mala Thapar