Celebration of Autistic talent coming to Clacton – 1st March 2020

Celebration of Autistic talent coming to Clacton – 1st March 2020

Autism Anglia invite you to come and help celebrate a variety of talent at their Autism Variety Show, to be held on 1st March 2020 at the West Cliff Theatre, Clacton. 

​Autism Anglia invite you to come and help celebrate a variety of talent at their Autism Variety Show, to be held on 1st March 2020 at the West Cliff Theatre, Clacton.

Autism AngliaThe Autism charity will be hosting a celebration of autistic talent on stage, along with friends of the charity and Special Guest Dean Beadle!

We are being supported by the wonderful Evolution Foundation College, Colchester, with Jacqui Tapsell as Stage Director, and college students will be supporting the performers on stage.

Autism Anglia Charity Ambassador, Anna Kennedy OBE, will be compering the evening, along with Gateway Radio’s DJ Aston Avery and one of AnnaKennedyonline’s Autism Advocates.

Anna Kennedy shared: ‘I am excited to see all the performers showcase their talent on stage. It is most definitely going to be a memorable evening for all those involved. Its about what our autistic children and adults CAN do. I will be looking out for performers that may want to be involved in my Autism’s Got Talent Roadshows’.

Tickets are now on sale at: http://www.westcliffclacton.co.uk/category/march-2020/Autism Anglia

There will be a discount for Autism Anglia members .If you wish to have an advert in their Programme, or are able to provide a raffle prize or sponsor the charity, they would love to hear from you!

Please contact Autism Anglia on email fundraising@autism-anglia.org.uk

Anna’s guest on Women’s Radio – Cathy Harpham

Anna’s guest on Women’s Radio – Cathy Harpham

Anna’s guest this week on Womens Radio Station was Cathy Harpham talking about the big decision to Home Educate her daughter Izzy

I am a married mum of 3 children – Olivia, Isabelle and Alex. Olivia and Alex seem to thrive in school, but Isabelle really struggled. I had several moments throughout Isabelle’s life, when I didn’t trust my intuition. I remember feeling she just wasn’t ready to start school at the required age and I felt she was just more vulnerable in some ways.

To cut a long story short, Isabelle’s problems started in Year 5 of Primary School. She developed a skin condition which would flare up from time to time and cause discomfort and led to several absences from school. Some absences began to be when her skin wasn’t particularly bad and she would start worrying about other things too. I had a good communication link with her teachers and had several meetings to discuss ways to make her day easier for her. She was given extra support in some lessons and access to a social group. Her skin eventually cleared up, but her worries and anxieties continued to be there for her.

When she transitioned from the small primary to the huge High School, it became a different story. She continued to complete her work to the best of her ability but was unable to bring herself to attend school on some days.

We again, kept up a strong link between ourselves and the school staff, resulting in several meetings to discuss ways to make it easier for Izzy to be in school. She was offered support short term  but nothing really improved for Isabelle on a personal level. She had panic attacks at the thought of going in, sat crying in a lot of her lessons and became very attached to me. Having to also deal with letters regarding her attendance, caused quite a bit of turmoil and was quite stressful for the whole family. The school helped in the best way they knew how to, at that time.

We exhausted every possible option for education, in the surrounding area, thinking maybe a smaller school might fit her needs best. We also researched home education. It became evident that she struggled on so many different levels, in a busy and noisy school environment, which was too overwhelming for her. She became a shell of who she was and then something just shifted for me.

After much research and discussions as a family, we decided to de-register Isabelle and home educate her. Our happy girl returned overnight and the whole family noticed the difference in her.

Having decided how we wanted to home educate, as it’s a personal journey for each family,  we decided we wanted to roughly follow the National Curriculum, using www.oxfordhomeschooling.co.uk Isabelle is thriving now, as she has always loved learning and can now focus and grow in a calm and supportive environment at home.

I have since been drawn to research further into Isabelle’s difficulties and we have uncovered a whole new world to understand. Through the professional expertise and incredible support of Spectrum North West, Isabelle has been empowered, by having a full explanation about her difficulties being concerned with the fact that she has Sensory Processing Issues.

Alongside and most definitely helping and enhancing my journey so far, has been my counselling training. I am soon to qualify as a Person Centred Counsellor, having studied for several years at www.cheshiretherapycentre.com I am hoping to continue my journey with learning more about how counselling can be made more accessible for those with sensory processing issues/autism. This will be through an amazing charity called www.cheshireautism.org.uk , where I hope to be volunteering alongside Lisa Cromar, as my mentor and support.

Despite my nerves getting the better of me on my radio interview with Anna Kennedy recently, it was fantastic and almost surreal to be heard on several topics which I feel so passionate about! I hope, more than anything, to reach out to others who are maybe experiencing anything similar to what I have been through and say you are not alone!!

Trust your intuition and let it guide you. I have set up a facebook group called Sensory Musings if anyone wants to join and discuss issues or share information around this. I can also be contacted via email cathyharpham@gmail.com

Thank you for reading!

Equality Act 2010 – Duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for their staff

Equality Act 2010 – Duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for their staff

Where someone meets the definition of a disabled person in the Equality Act 2010 (the Act) employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to any elements of the job which place a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.

Employers are only required to make adjustments that are reasonable.

Factors such as the cost and practicability of making an adjustment and the resources available to the employer may be relevant in deciding what is reasonable.

Please click here to download

Please note that this is general guidance only and cannot by its nature deal with all circumstances. It is always best for you to take your own, independent legal advice if you are unsure of your obligations in specific circumstances.

This guidance is aimed at businesses to help them understand what adjustments they are required to make for disabled employees and job applicants. Of course, individual circumstances may vary and employers need to act in accordance with their legal obligations.

Further useful information can be found at the end.

Anna’s guest on Women’s Radio – Claris Angafor Interview

Anna’s guest on Women’s Radio – Claris Angafor Interview

Claris Angafor was Anna Kennedy’s guest last week on ‘All things Autism’ on Womens Radio Station.

Anna first met Claris at our charity Autism Expo two years ago where Claris was looking for more information on autism and looking at strategies to work with her son. Here are the details of the interview:

My name is Claris Angafor, I’m  married   and a mum of 2 gorgeous  boys. 14 year old who is autistic and a 9 year old. I am an autism ambassador and advocate. I am the founder of CAN-Abilities Foundation(UK registered charity since September 2018) and owner at CAN-Decor Ltd.

I am a passionate, resilient, dedicated and caring individual.  I believe that any child no matter the circumstances under which they were born, deserves to be well looked after, loved, understood and accepted by all. I like to describe myself as a voice of hope and advocacy to those who have experienced those issues which most often are deemed too sensitive or emotional to talk about. Since what one gives a voice to has the power of changing one’s life.

Most parents especially from the BAME community rarely talk about their autistic children, what motivated you to become an autism advocate?

 At first it used to be very difficult just letting friends and family know that my son has a disability and worst of it being a disability that cannot  be easily seen, like autism. When parents have a child with a Disability they also go  through the stages of grief and loss https://www.toolshero.com/toolsheroes/elisabeth-kubler-ross/

They grieve the child they thought they would have.  This happens because most mothers, when  pregnant do not expect anything to go wrong with their baby after delivery.  All parents have anticipations, aspirations,  dreams and wishes for their children.  All parents are excited and full of expectations, to hear their child’s first words, see them achieve their milestones at appropriate time. Unfortunately,  sometimes, our expectations fail us especially when your child has been given a diagnosis for autism or any other disability, be it visible or invisible.

So I went through all these stages of denial, anger, bargaining,  depression and before acceptance.

Also, one goes through shame, blame from individuals be they friends , family or just people we see on the streets or in the community. Individuals or other  children look at your child and they laugh, bully and intimidate him. At some point, I used to get very angry with people walking away from my son, even at events, people will not sit at the same table with us. Other children will describe him as mad.

This used to hurt me quite a lot and at times we ended up just staying at home which could have let to isolation in the long run. As the years went by, I discovered this was taking a toll on all of us. I started working on my mindset by acknowledging the fact that individuals have the right to think or behave the way they wish. And it was down to me to react to whatever they said or not. I therefore, told myself that I was going to treat anyone who says anything negative about any autistic individual as ignorant and needing some form of awareness or education.

Also, if as parents,  we understand,  love and accept our children with autism, others will do same. And if we don’t explain or tell our stories /autism journey , they will never know. I therefore decided to train as an autism Ambassador/advocate. So I started with raising awareness through talks at small gatherings. It was at this point that I discovered that once one shares their story, they feel liberated and give their child a voice. I also did a Post graduate degree in autism and asperger all in the quest to improve my knowledge in autism.

As a parent with an autistic child, what are some of the challenges you have faced or are still facing

  •  Lack of proper understanding about autism and the autistic individual’s
  • Lack of proper support for my son and the entire family
  • Individuals not wanting to understand or help autistic individuals
  • Difficulties having proper speech and language therapy for my child
  • Lack of proper care/attention at the hospital. When an autistic child goes to hospital, proper checks are not made because everything is put down to his autism and if he doesn’t cooperate, doctors do not follow up on him after he has gone home.

You took your son to Cameroon for holidays some years back, what was your experience? How did people treat him?

Then my family was completely new to autism and it was their  first time meeting my son.  Some were afraid, some were angry, some were just indifferent.  So it was a mixture of different feelings from individuals. But one of the things which I discovered which hurt me so much was the fact that I was treated like a complete stranger by my family. There were individuals who will completely ignore my son and never said a word to him or just to ask how he was doing under the assumption that since he doesn’t speak and therefore does not understand.

I went home ready to teach and educate people especially my family about autism.

So before we left the UK, we had communicated with the speech and language Therapist from school  and she had helped us laminate postcards on autism, we had PECS for the whole journey and information on autism to distribute to people on the plane. There were some instances where people will stop us along the streets to give us pastors’ phone numbers to pray for our son to be healed. There was an instance in a travel bus  where a lady told me not to allow my child to my  go out of the bus when it stops for security checks because according to the lady,  my son was ill(Some people still see autism as an illness).

Younger children were fascinated by my  son’s stimmings, flapping, vocalisations. Some were amazed with the fact the he doesn’t talk but is very good in the use of technology.

The most disturbing part of the experience was the stares, whispers behind ones back, laughter and even insults. But as a parent, of an autistic child, I have developed thick skin, and deliberate blindness to such behaviours.

As a parent I found  it difficult and embarrassing when my child demonstrated unusual behaviors in public which I had to start explaining to some people like:

  • Inappropriate touching or invading other people’s space
  • Flapping hands or spinning around
  • Being fascinated with a particular item
  • Extreme displays of affection or the opposite. My son is very cuddly and if he loves someone he openly shows this by trying to kiss the person.

What advice can you give parents with autistic children.

The most important advice is a quote which I share with  all parents :

  • “Parents, don’t think that there’s a different, better child hiding behind the autism. This is your child. Love the child in front of you. Encourage his strengths, celebrate his quirks, and improve his weaknesses, the way you would with any child”.(Claire Scovell LaZebnik, author of Growing Up on the Spectrum).
  • Understand and do further studies about autism
  • Be the voice of your child
  • Make sure you attend all meetings involving your child and if possible take another person with you.
  • Ask questions in case you do not understand and seek a second opinion.
  • Join a community of special needs parents.
  • Always make notes for future purposes.
  • Share your child’s story with those who matter and those who wish to learn.  You may be inspiring and helping someone heal
  • Love,understand and accept your child the way he/she is.
  • As a parent, whatever you do, don’t give up on your child. Keep battling alongside them.
  • They need our help with patience, guidance and love.
  • Laugh as often as possible

How do you think people can best support parents with autistic children.

  • Involve both parents and their children in community activities
  • Please always check on parents. Most parents of autism are quietly battling the devastating effects of depression Amen some.
  • Parents take breaks and ask friends or family members to help babysit

Do you think a lot of awareness is needed in this area?

Oh yes,  a lot of awareness is  still needed maybe not as much as before but awareness is still vital. Autism is not a word  to be feared but a child to be loved.

Claris Angafor

The voice of Hope and Advocacy

The EHCPs – Do Parents Matter?

The EHCPs – Do Parents Matter?

Question: Are the views of parents and young people relevant when deciding what should appear in an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCp)?

The Answer

Yes! This was emphasised, yet again, in the recent case of NE and DE v Southampton City Council (SEN) [2019] .

Granted this is also stressed on the Special educational needs and disability code of practice and elsewhere but it is useful for us to remind ourselves of this important fact, not least of all because, in relation to the above case, the First-tier Tribunal seems to have forgotten it.

The case in question involved to a 16-year-old lady, referred to as EE, who had various special educational needs. She attended a College, which was not her parent’s preference as they wanted her to attend a Centre; neither of these are mainstream placements.

There are quite a few issues covered so the case is well worth a read. For our purposes, we need to appreciate that the First-tier Tribunal compared both placements in relation to their relative costs and suitability. They determined that both placements were suitable given EE’s age, ability, aptitude and special educational needs. Where the parental preference fell down was on costs as to place EE there was not seen to be an efficient use of resources.  EE’s parents sought the assistance of the Upper Tribunal.

One of the grounds of appeal concerned a challenge to the tribunal’s assertion that the evidence related to the unsuitability of the College for EE was limited; more particularly her parents had given evidence which went to the unsuitability of the placement but this was simply ignored.

Upper Tribunal Judge Lewis took a dim view of this and stated in para 14 of his decision that: 
“I also consider that the parents are entitled to succeed on their argument that the tribunal’s decision is flawed because it did not address their oral evidence to the tribunal about why they considered their daughter had not made any progress at the College. Again, it was not disputed before me that the parents gave such evidence to the tribunal.”

Oh dear. This case is a reminder to parents and young persons that their views are important and relevant. Granted, different weight may be attributed to others dependent on their expertise and the relevance of their evidence, but the voice of parents and young people should not be ignored.

Author: Mala Thapar