Anna Kennedy Online – Autism Awareness Charity
Daddy and the Two Bears by Gary Anderson – A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion

Daddy and the Two Bears by Gary Anderson – A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion

Daddy and the Two Bears by Gary Anderson – A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion 

I can’t seem to find the right words to do this book the justice I believe it deserves.  So, I’ll just try to do my best to honour its author, Gary, his wife Michelle, and of course Alana and Dana, their twins.

Parenthood is a journey all of its own, and no two journeys will ever be the same.  Most of us have endured sadness and loss of some kind on our own journeys, yet this loss, the loss that Gary and Michelle had, was like no other. 

I cannot even begin to imagine how I would feel in their shoes.  It’s impossible to.  No parent should ever have to lose their child.  Having had a difficult pregnancy, to then lose both of their twins, is just total sadness, and heartbreak. 

Gary writes in this book how he felt throughout, and he gives us a very personal insight into his innermost feelings.  He relates back to his own childhood, and gives us a glimpse of how it has affected his thought process and life.  He discusses Mental Health so openly, and in a way that helps those to understand more, raising key awareness of something so vital. 

Daddy and the Two Bears by Gary Anderson

Gary writes candidly about how he tangles with how he thinks he should feel , and how he does feel.

His struggles internally, mentally and in the here and now during his toughest experience.

His writing is absolutely honest, transparent and you are compelled to read through to the end.  It’s often difficult for anyone to write exactly how they feel and to get the reader to understand.

However, Gary clearly explains the trauma, sadness and frustrations he goes through from a Dads perspective, and from the personal view of a guy who’s working through his own mental health challenges.

A truly raw and heart-breaking account of a tragedy too hard to imagine.

Having suffered through his early life growing up, Gary is faced with something he had no control over.

How he explains his struggles in coping, or not coping, his true story reaches into the depth of your heart and beyond.

Gary’s description on how he faced people and situations after makes you stop and think.  How would you ‘deal’ with this if faced with the same scenario? Nobody could truly say.  How long would you feel sad for?

Nobody can say, it’s an impossible question, and I truly appreciate how Gary highlights that there are so many things in a persons mind that can affect this and it’s outcomes. 

He makes you stop and think – makes you realise that everyday we may walk past, work with, or know people who are facing their own tragedies who may be keeping it in, or are reacting in some way …. we should never judge people as we don’t know what they are going through.

Gary and Michelle’s story takes me back to thinking about my sister in law. Her gorgeous first daughter was stillborn.  I had tried to do all I could to support her, she asked me to be present when she had to be induced and give birth, and I remember it all being so sad, yet surreal like it wasn’t happening in real time, but like I was watching it happen on a tv or something.

The emotions I had were real, yet I could never compare it to my sister in laws – this book explains a journey which makes me understand more, that she dealt with what happened in her own way, as did Gary and Michelle.

I would truly recommend this book. It has a lovely foreword from Paul Whitehouse, acknowledging the courage and hope Gary’s words give. A book that covers so many different areas, that everyone who reads it will learn something new.

Gary talks about mental health, grief, pain, and the resilience he didn’t realise that he had.  What an amazing couple he and Michelle are, allowing the reader to share their most inner thoughts, and feelings, whilst also raising awareness of TTS – Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome.

An emotional rollercoaster, make sure you grab your tissues beforehand – you won’t want to put the book down and will feel yourself willing the powers that be to shine some happiness on their lives. 

Thank you to Gary and Michelle for allowing us the privilege to read about their journey…

Arna & Ruby: A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion

Arna & Ruby: A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion

Arna & Ruby written by Helen Eaton Illustrations by Kris Coley
– a Book Review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion


The author Helen Eaton writes about her background in back of this book, as does Illustrator Kris Coley.  Both are absolutely outstanding and have come together to communicate Autism to the World in this magically brilliant book. It’s a real gem!

The illustrations are monochrome throughout, in a graphic book form of story telling.  They are amazingly drawn with such detail, and each page is filled with a myriad of content.  Absolutely and intricately professional!

Arna & Ruby: A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion

The book follows the journey of a boy called Arna, and a girl called Ruby from two different families, and their different experiences of Autism. 

I love how it doesn’t just highlight Autism in terms of the children diagnosed, but also from the parents perspective – the questions they have, how they feel, their worries, anxieties, hopes and dreams for their children.

All too often books focus on the children diagnosed only, explaining what Autism means and how it affects the diagnosed person. 

However this book is expertly written also from the parents perspective, as they navigate their journey, from hearing the diagnosis, to including life at school.

I also love the way the author manages to convey the unique differences and nuances of how a male and female present – this is so very important and has been cleverly described and illustrated. 

The words and the illustrations both tell a story, both complimenting each other beautifully.

This book is a must for all parents, and indeed anyone who feels unsure or those struggling with understanding how autism can present. 

I read it thinking this would be useful for so many people, parents, their children, and would definitely have a place within educational settings to help with awareness, understanding and acceptance.

Whether you’ve read tons of books about Autism, or had training, I would say this book will definitely have something more to give.

It’s unique in how it covers so many areas and situations of Autism in its format, and would be of particular great use for parents of / and children transitioning to Secondary school, older children, and mainstream settings.

Its a must on any readers list regarding Autism in any shape or form. Informative, open and honest, and representative of both a parents and older child’s view. 

Skilfully illustrated on every corner of each page. Totally loved it!

Click here to purchase your copy

Our Lockdown Cookbook by The Students of the ASD Base: A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion

Our Lockdown Cookbook by The Students of the ASD Base: A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion

Our Lockdown Cookbook by The Students of the ASD Base
A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion


First of all, when I picked up this book it made me smile instantly!  The front cover is beautifully colourful with some fabulous quirky illustrations by Jack D. Evans, with a lovely clear bold heading at the top.  I don’t know about you, but I’m always drawn to a book initially by the front cover, .. and then I always turn to the back for the synopsis..

The back cover displays some truly admirable people, greatly respected for their efforts and contribution in their own fields in society.  Great advocates I thought, and it was inspiring to read their thoughts and acknowledgements for the cookbook content.

The foreword of this book is written by Mrs Esther Nicolaou; the ASD Base Manager of Cwmbran High School.  She explains the ethos behind the book, how it came about during lockdown, and what it represents.  I love the way she details how the students used the time and developed new skills – and forgive the pun; but the ‘proof is in the pudding’ of their new skills in this fabulous cookbook!

The book shares some amazing recipes from a group of ASD children. ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder, i.e. Autism as most commonly known.

These fabulous children have turned a negative – been stuck at home in lockdown – to a resounding positive! How cool is that?!

Our Lockdown Cookbook by The Students of the ASD Base - Book review

Lockdowns have been a strange time for all.  A time where most have been able to reflect on their lives, and try something different.

Those with autism and their families have experienced highs and lows in lockdown, just as anybody else has.

Here are a group of amazing talented pupils using this time to create something which is really rather special.

We sat down as a family and went through the cookbook together, discussing and sharing our comments.  Our son has autism and ADHD so we were interested in his feedback – he smiled the whole way through it. 

He said the front cover illustrations made him happy as it reminded him of the animated film ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’!  He actually smiled the whole way through reading the book, and he liked seeing the photos of each person along with their name.

We each struggled to choose a favourite recipe as they all sound so great!

We loved the way the book shared safety kitchen rules at the start, something lots of cookbooks forget, so a big thumbs up for this!

Also we thought it was brilliantly thought out including a list of equipment that might be needed, what a great idea!

The cookbook is clear, and laid out in an easy user friendly way.  Each page has the students name, photo, recipe title, with a list of ingredients, step by step method, and a photo of the finished dish.

All too often cookbooks are too full of written information lacking interest, and lacking a photo of the finished article.  This cookbook shone in all of these areas, and having the recipe authors name with their photo makes the book more personable and relatable.  It’s difficult to choose just one favourite recipe as there is something for everyone.

A definite success, and a cookbook that’s a winner in our eyes.  Well done to all the students who worked so hard, and delivered on a challenge to learn new skills during a difficult time in lockdown for the whole Country. 

You really have produced a fabulous cookbook that would inspire and motivate anyone to get cooking. 

Keep up the great work, you and your cookbook are brilliant!

“Not Stupid” written by Anna Kennedy: A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion

“Not Stupid” written by Anna Kennedy: A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion

“Not Stupid” written by Anna Kennedy
A book review by Beverly Guest our Charity Champion


This is an inspirational true account of a lady called Dr Anna Kennedy OBE, and her fight alongside her husband Sean Kennedy for their children Patrick and Angelo.  To say this book inspires is an understatement, it’s a shining example of how Anna says; ‘You either give in, give up, or give it all you’ve got!’.

The foreword of Annas fabulous book is written by Dame Esther Louise Rantzen DBE, tv presenter and journalist – check this out on Annas website with further information it’s really informative

Not Stupid by Anna Kennedy - Book Review

At the outset, Anna was faced with the rejection of so many schools all saying they could not meet her children’s needs. In fact in all, 26 schools turned them away.  TWENTY SIX !! It’s hard to imagine 26 schools turning children away, not because of the usual catchment area or for being full, but because Annas children had both been diagnosed with autism and needed specialist educational provision – something these 26 schools felt they couldn’t provide.. imagine as a parent being faced with that amount of rejection.

The fight to help her children was to become the start of many ‘you can’t do that’ challenges that Anna would face …. and ultimately overcome.  If you’re ever lucky enough to meet Anna, you will be bowled over by her energy, aura, enthusiasm and commitment to create equal opportunities for those with autism, to raise awareness, understanding and acceptance.

All this on the number of hours sleep you can count on one hand on a regular basis.  Outstanding dedication and resilience!

Truth be told, too many people still have the ‘Rain Man’ film in their minds of what everyone with autism is like.  Yet in reality, just like all neurotypicals differ, so do those with autism – there are no two alike, all are different in some way.

Anna from the outset of her sons diagnosis’, and from being turned away by so many schools, was determined to prove her sons were ‘Not Stupid’, that they had something to offer and COULD achieve.  The book explains, and Anna clearly demonstrates that she did just that!

Proving that anything is possible, if you believe.. then you CAN achieve.  Hence the title of Annas book..

There are hundreds of thousands of people in the UK diagnosed with autism, and Anna wanted to show the World that having autism didn’t mean they were ‘stupid’.  She pulled every ounce of determination from her soul and succeeded in creating a vital centre of excellence for those with autism. 

A dedicated place to help those with autism to thrive and succeed in the best way they possibly could with support and encouragement, making them feel valued and part of society. And why shouldn’t they?!

A truly inspiring story of true grit, determination and love for two boys Anna believed in – but not just for her boys, the whole autism community, and all those with special needs. 

You will enter this book and go on a journey, following a winding road of emotions, tears of sadness and joy, and come out the other side feeling inspired, with a deep love and admiration that those with autism deserve the right to be heard, understood and accepted just the way they are.

She was ‘just a Mum’ of two boys with autism.  But in reality, she was much more than that.  She was a light, a beacon of hope, of inspiration.. someone who would continue her journey forever on this path of inclusion for all, indeed a role model for all. 

Have your tissues ready, as you delve into the TRUE story of a family who were determined to prove their boys deserved more.  And they did just that, and MORE.  Enjoy.

Follow Anna and her Charity’s’ journey here, and don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter!


A Champion’s review of a Champion’s book

A Champion’s review of a Champion’s book

“From A Tear to Here by Dawn Avery” a book review

A Champion’s review of a Champion’s book – by Beverly Ann Guest


As a Charity Champion for Anna Kennedy Online I first met the Avery’s at Autism’s Got Talent (AGT) at The Mermaid Theatre in London.  I attend this show every year, it moves me every time, and to me it’s ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’!

The year I met the Avery’s I had just organised a loan car from my workplace for the Charity’s’ upcoming AGT roadshow; which was a spin-off from this London event it was so popular!

Dawns youngest son Aston had been on stage in London receiving a standing ovation, he performed brilliantly and everyone loved him – I remember being outside the theatre afterwards with my Mother-in-Law Chris where we saw Aston and family – we were super excited to see him and let the Avery’s know how much we’d enjoyed his performance as we passed by.  We admitted to being a bit star struck having just seen him perform live on stage!

Dawn had mentioned early on to us that she was writing a book about their families journey, so having read Annas amazing book ‘Not Stupid’ I knew I’d want to buy it. I LOVE a good book, and when it’s about something your family relates to, it makes it all the more important.  I especially love seeing Dawns Aston perform song ‘Budapest’ and always call him my ‘Budapest Buddy’!

I loved seeing Aston each year, he was thriving more each time – and I also enjoyed supporting families on the day of AGT too as Dawn mentions in her book. I have too many memorable families to mention, you become instantly so proud of them – all of them have their own ‘pocket of greatness’ as I say, and all outstanding!

A Champions review of a Champions Book!

What a great book this is!  From start to finish, anyone in or involved with an autism family will feel a connection to the Avery’s journey in this lovely book.

Indeed I felt many similarities in some parts, and it was nice to actually read something that talked about some of the stuff we too went through, just like Annas book did.

If you hadn’t already known the Avery’s, when you read this book, it has a sense of holding you in such a way that you’d feel like you knew them.

The books covers are striking, standing out in an eye catching design, and when you delve in, it’s a truly lovely read, has a great writing style, and will have you on a rollercoaster of emotions.

It’s written in such a way that the reader will feel a personal connection, and gain an understanding of an autism families journey.

Dawn writes lovingly so about her boys, husband and family, and quite rightly so.  Aston not only has autism, he has other health conditions which added to their journey and quest to do whatever it takes to help and support him.

In fact it’s common for those with autism to have other and overlapping conditions, as does my son Christopher. 

Dawn has written about their journey in such a way as to show that Aston is who he is WITH various conditions, and NOT in-spite of them.  And that’s right don’t you think?!

She has been true to herself and thanked all the professionals and family, and it is clear, you can feel the warmth and love oozing from each page of the book.  An added bonus are the pages nestled in the centre with a selection of fabulous photos of Aston and family; just a snippet of his journey .. (and trust me at every event I always manage to sneak a selfie with Aston, I think he’s used to me doing that now and have a few photos .. I’m such a big fan!).

As an autism parent, it’s nice to read something you can truly relate to, where the words resonate with you.

I found myself thinking back to our own journey, as Dawns book brought back some memories for me that’s for sure.  I loved this book, it was so honest and transparent, such a clear read and would be great for anyone new to autism to get their teeth into. A must on the book list for those just starting their journey.

In fact whether you are just at the start of your journey, or .. already on the your own path, you will find something to hold dear from this book, something of true meaning to you.

Do give it a read, you can get hold of your copy of Dawns book via our Charity website link below, where you can also read about Aston, Dr Anna Kennedy OBE, all the other Ambassadors, Patrons and of course us Charity Champions!  Don’t forget you can sign up there to our Newsletter to hear about all things autism for our Charity with upcoming events, workshops and more!  Click here to purchase your copy!

New Book Launch – called From a tear to here!

New Book Launch – called From a tear to here!

New Book Launch – called From a tear to here! 

We are so excited to launch this spectacular book written by Dawn Avery, one of our charity champions

Dawn Avery shared:

Aston Avery has achieved so much in his young life.  More recently Creating Team Avery Essex.  He has fundraised for various charities over the years, raising to date a net £80000.00.  He and our family support National charity Anna Kennedy Online.  With help of a small group, he runs Astons pamper project for local heroes.  He has given so much back to our community in raising autism awareness.  I started to document his story many years back and could see for herself it was to unfold into a story of hope and achievements.

A negative to a positive.  A story of overcoming so much to be the man he is today.  I was passionate about people sharing our journey.   We have been helping many local families to date, listening to their struggles, and creating inclusive events, as well as taking a short film into local schools and groups.  We recognised a need, for people to see a person that had already experienced what they were currently living through.  Understanding their fears.  Thus, the book evolved.

This book tells the story of our family’s pathway, living with autism and ill health.  It documents how it affects each of us, not just Aston.  It gives an insight into a journey that many would not understand.  I was so lucky to have the help Of Michael Barnard- Editor and The Michel Barnard charitable trust- the sponsor.  With additional help from Designer Tally Nothey and Aston himself creating doodles for each chapter the book and my dream will become a reality.

About Aston  

Born in Basildon in 1991 Aston-Martin Avery was certainly different, not less, but different.  At the age of two and a half, Aston was diagnosed with Autism. In those days, little was known about the condition.  Unable to speak until the age of 6, and virtually out of control, the book plots the remarkable and miraculous journey of Aston.  From his difficulties and health issues to a confident, well-spoken voluntary radio DJ.

Now an ambassador to the Anna Kennedy Online charity and a provider himself of help to many deserving causes.  As a family the journey was a contrast of despairs and jubilations. At the start of the journey, Aston was an extremely difficult child, requiring lots of professional intervention.

He would bang his head continuously, eat inedible objects and generally tantrum at every opportunity. He was a constant worry to us all and would run away the moment our backs were turned. The task of looking after Aston was made even more difficult as we had to hold down jobs and care for our son Aaron, although to his credit, he was highly supportive.  Autism takes on many different forms and within this book, you will discover many of the traits of autism ranging from the need for routine, to the absence of emotions, and the acceptance by autistic people that everything they are told is true. Innocence is evident in all Aston does to this day.

I hope you enjoy our journey, and that it gives you an insight into living with an autistic person. For those who have an autistic child or who are coming into contact with an autistic child, I hope the book helps you to understand their problems and needs, thereby helping to give you some guidance on how to cope with those problems.  It also documents the influence of others including the professionals.

About Dawn Avery

Dawn Avery is the part of the first charity champion couples and covers the Essex region. Dawn first become involved with Anna Kennedy Online in May 2015 when her son Aston took part in Autism’s Got Talent.

Dawn said “It was a time I would not change for anyone as he really embraced his Autism from the very moment we become involved. We were made to feel a welcome part of the team. We have held a number of Autistic & proud events for the charity including supporting the Essex, The AKO Celebrity football match and the AGT roadshow in Essex. We continue to come up with various ventures to support this amazing charity”

Keith is the other part of the Essex charity champion couple. Keith said “We had always fundraised for various charities but this one deserved us to go that extra mile. We are always looking for other ideas to raise funds but more importantly autism awareness in the Essex area”

Keith and Dawn’s son Aston was offered to be an Ambassador for Anna Kennedy online, his Autistic & Proud fundraisers were then made for the charity.

Purchase your copy!

From a tear to here – an Autism families journey

From A tear to Here-Autism a families journey

This book tells the story of Dawn Avery’s, our Charity Champion and her family’s pathway, living with autism and ill health.  It documents how it affected each of her family and not just her son Aston.  It gives an insight into a journey that many would not understand.

Dawn was so lucky to have the help Of Michael Barnard- Editor and The Michel Barnard charitable trust- the sponsor.

All proceeds will go to Anna Kennedy Online!


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