Anna Kennedy Online – Autism Awareness Charity
Anna’s guests this week at Women’s Radio – Brenda from Apparent Pathway

Anna’s guests this week at Women’s Radio – Brenda from Apparent Pathway

 ‘All things Autism’ Anna’s guests this week at Women’s Radio was Brenda from Apparent Pathway

Anna Kennedy’s guests this week on Women’s Radio Station was Brenda from Apparent Pathway. ‘All things Autism and life in Lockdown’ will be aired at 1pm and 1am every day this week.  Please see www.womensradiostation.com

 

Brenda shared:

It was a great experience to talk with Anna and introduce myself on the show. I am Brenda, a proud parent to a teenager who has a diagnosis of ASD and ADHD. This year, I set up a service that supports parents raising children living with individual differences to stay empowered whilst navigating through procedural challenges, called Apparent Pathway.

It was nice to discuss how, as a parent, I have and continue to advocate for my son’s efforts to be better recognised, as he has transitioned through schools, local offers and services, within different boroughs and counties.

As well as  navigating through changes in legislation and circumstances. It has been good to talk about how I have experienced the attentiveness and skilled assistance from therapists, practitioners, teachers, charities and council workers towards my son’s needs as they have supported him to make big strides in his success as he continues to achieve in his learning and purpose in life.

It has been reassuring to talk about how myself and other parents in similar positions endured despair, uncertainty and the immense worry that comes with waiting for a decision, diagnosis’, access to a provision and or service, with someone who understands and recognises how these experiences can have an overwhelming impact on any parent.

As a professional working within the local authority settings; I supported parents like myself to manage the challenging circumstances that they found themselves in. These roles allowed me to observe, listen to and identify, what I would describe as, ‘grey areas’ that resonated to me as a fellow parent.  I felt tremendous empathy for parents who were engaging in the processes, but, not feeling empowered, or that were searching for solutions, yet, finding themselves feeling lost.

What I recognised is that no professional wants to be in a position where they cannot support or apply their skills when needed, however there are obstacles for everyone one, which tends to be around miscommunication, misunderstanding, a lack of funding, availability, or consistency. That is where it is hard.

Apparent Pathway was set up this year, during a year of uncertainty and unforeseen challenges. These challenges have created difficulties especially for children living with ASD like my son. The changes in the environment have had an impact on his well being, which has coincided with changes to his health.

As a parent ensuring that your child is supported even when there is a change in their  health and wellbeing, assistance required, change in the law, or their circumstance, it takes a lot from a person to take on setbacks and seek possibilities that will benefit their growth and development.

It has been rewarding for me to talk with Anna about  starting a service that supports parents in a way that allows them to receive the insight and resources to go from gaining clarity, to then taking action towards creating possibilities that enable them to feel empowered to make conscious contributions towards their child’s progress.

Anna, thank you for allowing me to share my encounters and how I aim to support fellow parents like myself experiencing similar experiences.

If parents want to find out more they can go to www.apparentpathway.com or contact Brenda at apparentpathway@gmail.com

Anna’s guests this week at Women’s Radio – Neeraj Sharma from Daisy Chain

Anna’s guests this week at Women’s Radio – Neeraj Sharma from Daisy Chain

 ‘All things Autism’ Anna’s guests this week at Women’s Radio was Neeraj Sharma from Daisy Chain

Anna Kennedy’s guests this week on Women’s Radio Station was Neeraj Sharma from Daisy Chain. ‘All things Autism and life in Lockdown’ will be aired at 1pm and 1am every day this week.  Please see www.womensradiostation.com

​This is Neeraj’s story: Neeraj, who has trained as a solicitor and spent the last seven years at the helm of the Citizens Advice Bureau in Darlington, has been able to bring his skills, knowledge and talents to Daisy Chain.

Neeraj had a major impact on Citizens Advice Darlington bringing in sources of revenue and establishing relationships with the community, funders and stakeholders. He introduced a range of new services including the introduction of asocial isolation programme for older people as well as a youth employability programme for those aged 16 to 30.

Neeraj Sharma

Neeraj said: ‘My work has centred on ensuring that struggling families and individuals are supported to overcome key developmental barriers through access to free advice, information, advocacy and training. It is important that families and individuals access all the support they are entitled to so they can have the best possible life outcomes.

Up until now, my work has been with people who have been deprived of the support they need and have reached crisis point. I seek to harness the skills that I have acquired working in a rights based arena and redeploy these to field of autism support services provided by Daisy Chain.

‘The Daisy Chain day centre, farm and outdoor activity spaces provide a vital safe haven and productive platform for both children and adults. I am delighted to be tasked with the opportunity to expand upon the beneficial and vital autism based support services across the Tees Valley.’

About Daisy Chain

Daisy Chain Project’s mission is to improve the lives of families affected by autism across the Tees Valley and surrounding areas.

Daisy Chain is a 5.5 acre site:

  1. Day & Learning Centre – state of the art sensory equipment
  2. Therapeutic Farm
  3. Sensory Play Gardens
  4. Polytunnel and Eco-environmental growth areas for Adults with Autism

We provide:

  1. Respite
  2. Activity Clubs
  3. Independent Living Skills Training & Employability Scheme
  4. Schools placement programme in accordance with Schools across the Tees Valley
  5. Training and support programmes for Families,
  6. Accredited training for Schools, Employers, Businesses

Annually, we offer

  1. Loss of routine
  2. Sensory Issues (such as sensory overload within the home….panic buying leading to loss of food types where those individual not being able to access food which meets their sensory needs)
  3. Extreme loneliness and Isolation
Daisy chain sensory
‘The Daisy Chain day centre, farm and outdoor activity spaces provide a vital safe haven and productive platform for both children and adults. I am delighted to be tasked with the opportunity to expand upon the beneficial and vital autism based support services across the Tees Valley.’
Daisy Chain

More About Daisy Chain

In response to National lockdown we launched a support line for families and Young Period.  To date we have supported over 1800 calls and rising.

Callers can access the support line by calling:  The telephone support service is on freephone number 0800 031 5445

Our telephone and virtual support service offers individuals and those around them access to a specialist team who provide signposting, bespoke visual resources, personalised family support and bespoke strategies and interventions, alongside being a listening service.

This support is offered over the phone and by video-conference, giving families access to the advice and information that they would otherwise be missing out on at this time, and is in response to the increased demand identified during and following the first lockdown.

As a charity we have sustained mammoth £400,000 financial losses due to closure of our Superstore on Protract Lane, Cessation of our Training and Fundraising Income.

Coming out of lockdown has not been a straightforward proposition, we have seen an increase in acute support needs at a time when we are seeing a loss of 20% of our income.  Combined with social distancing measures logistically we have had to make many changes in order to operate.

Daisychainstore.co.uk   – “Launched”

Following the significant and detrimental financial impact of the first national lockdown earlier in 2020 which led to the closure of the charity’s superstore which sells high-quality donated items including clothing, furniture and household goods we launched a new initiative.   Daisy Chain Store, an online shop selling high-end clothing giving customers nationally the opportunity to grab a bargain while helping us recoup lost funds caused by the pandemic.

The online fashion platform for designer and vintage items features brands such as Valentino, Dior and Versace, and is an expansion of our online offer which also includes a presence on Depop and eBay in addition to our social media accounts.

Fundraising – “Win a Wedding”

As part of our fight back campaign we have launched a fundraising initiative:

We’re offering couples the opportunity to win a complete wedding package in return for raising £500 for Daisy Chain, vital income to allow us to continue supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the North East.

We’re hoping it will give a couple who may not otherwise be able to tie the knot the opportunity to do so, and as we know so many people’s weddings have been impacted this year, we’ve opened it up to people who have been married since 23rd March to give them the opportunity to have the ‘do’ that they have missed out on due to lockdown and restrictions.

You can find out more about the competition here: www.daisychainproject.co.uk/win-a-wedding

Daisy Chain Store

Following the significant and detrimental financial impact of the first national lockdown earlier in 2020 which led to the closure of the charity’s superstore which sells high-quality donated items including clothing, furniture and household goods we launched a new initiative.

Daisy Chain Store, an online shop selling high-end clothing giving customers nationally the opportunity to grab a bargain while helping us recoup lost funds caused by the pandemic.

The online fashion platform for designer and vintage items features brands such as Valentino, Dior and Versace, and is an expansion of our online offer which also includes a presence on Depop and eBay in addition to our social media accounts.

Click here for the website   

Fundraising – “Win a Wedding” 

As part of our fight back campaign we have launched a fundraising initiative:

We’re offering couples the opportunity to win a complete wedding package in return for raising £500 for Daisy Chain, vital income to allow us to continue supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the North East.

We’re hoping it will give a couple who may not otherwise be able to tie the knot the opportunity to do so, and as we know so many people’s weddings have been impacted this year, we’ve opened it up to people who have been married since 23rd March to give them the opportunity to have the ‘do’ that they have missed out on due to lockdown and restrictions.

You can find out more about the competition: Click here for details

Anna’s guests this week at Women’s Radio – Mona from Harry Specters Chocolates

Anna’s guests this week at Women’s Radio – Mona from Harry Specters Chocolates

 ‘All things Autism’
Anna Kennedy guests this week at Women’s Radio was Mona from Harry Specters Chocolates

Anna Kennedy’s guests this week on Women’s Radio Station was Mona Shah from Harry Specters Chocolates. ‘All things Autism and life in Lockdown’ will be aired at 1pm and 1am every day this week.  Please see www.womensradiostation.com

​This is Mona’s story:

​It was an absolute pleasure to be invited on Anna Kennedy’s show to talk about Harry Specters, a social enterprise founded by my husband and I to employ autistic young adults.

We have our own experience with autism, having a 22 year old son on the spectrum. He is the inspiration for setting up the company, which is based in Cambridgeshire and offers delicious handcrafted premium chocolates.

As a social enterprise, 51% of profits go back into the business to further our social aim and help more autistic adults into employment. Our business is built on harnessing and celebrating the skills that autistic people have.

Harry Specters

We understand the challenges as our son is autistic, but we’ve realised that once these neurodiverse skills are embraced and applied in an adapted working environment, it can be so rewarding.

Seeing our chocolatiers feel a personal sense of achievement, independence and a love for the product they have created is amazing.

From a love of chocolate starting as a hobby at home, turning it into a small business has taken time and like all businesses, small steps are taken every day to improve in all areas.

Our journey from starting out in our conservatory, to a new factory, events and award ceremonies has been a fun and rewarding one so far.

The company’s most recent social impact report celebrates a total number of 467 beneficiaries which mostly includes young people with autism spectrum disorder. They contribute to the business in different ways.

This includes making, packaging and selling chocolates for our online and corporate customers. Some of them are also involved in back office, design work and photography.  In summary, all of them learn new skills resulting in increased confidence, hope, and aspirations for their future.

Not forgetting others who have experienced benefit from positive social impact – support has been given to parents and carers and autistic people who have shown an interest in one-time projects to raise confidence.

We work with local schools and colleges to offer free work experience and most of our staff come through these placements. Harry Specters also works with other businesses and organisations to improve their corporate social responsibility agenda.

34 awards in 5 years have been presented to us confirming our reputation for artistry and excellence and positioning Harry Specters as a luxury chocolatier brand. We are a social enterprise, meaning consumers benefit not only enjoying a great product but by knowing they’ve contributed to a positive social or environmental impact whatever that may be.

Our staff make great chocolates (well they must do as they’ve won several prestigious awards proving that they taste and look amazing)!

When our customers buy from us they have their own different reasons but lots of consumers quite rightly are choosing to make their purchases wisely and do some good in the world.

We, as a business have a mission to continue to make the very best chocolates at the same time as creating employment for those people (like our son – the inspiration behind the business), who deserve a chance and that may otherwise be marginalised.

We have high hopes and big goals to employ hundreds of autistic people and are proud of what we’ve achieved so far.

Harry Specters

Campaigning and sharing our business model to encourage other businesses to become more inclusive is what we thrive on. We provide an autism friendly environment and for those who choose to work here, which can build confidence and skills. Ultimately though, we have fun!

The chocolates have won numerous awards for their delectable taste from The Guild of Fine Food and Academy Of Chocolate. Harry Specters future plans continue as we strive to deliver social impact and enable more autistic adults to have a brighter future of employment prospects.

More about the work we do can be found on our website: https://www.harryschocs.co.uk/

Harry Specters Chocolates

Please see details of social media channels:

‘All things Autism and life in Lockdown’ will be aired at 1pm and 1am every day this week.

Please click here to tune in.

Anna’s guests this week at Women’s Radio – Kelly and Hester Grainger

Anna’s guests this week at Women’s Radio – Kelly and Hester Grainger

 ‘All things Autism’
Anna Kennedy guests this week at Women’s Radio 
are Kelly and Hester Grainger

Anna Kennedy’s guests this week on Women’s Radio Station are Kelly and Hester Grainger . ‘All things Autism and life in Lockdown’ will be aired at 1pm and 1am every day this week.  Please see www.womensradiostation.com

​This is their story:

Hester and Kelly Grainger are parents to two autistic children, India who is 10 and Hudson who is 8.   Both children were diagnosed last year, as was Kelly age 44. His wife Hester is neurotypical and they’ve been together for 19 years and married for 12.

They didn’t get any help pre or post diagnosis with either the children or Kelly and they know they aren’t alone so they launched Perfectly Autistic, a community to connect parents, partners and people.

They want to provide support, guidance, understanding and also connect with others on the autism path, as it can be lonely. They are sharing their own journey, knowing everyone will have a different experience.

Having gone through the diagnosis process three times, they felt that there was a huge lack of support, guidance and information provided.

They were simply handed a report and sent on their way. Having spoken to many others, Hester and Kelly realised this experience is very common, so they both decided that they wanted to do something about it.

Kelly had worked in the corporate world for 23 years in a number of senior sales and marketing roles for global companies, before deciding to leave and launch his own business with Hester.

This was partly due to him being diagnosed autistic, as he can now manage his workload and diary and there is no more travelling. It also means he can be around for the children. As well as their day job running Hudia, offering PR and web design, they’ve been increasing their knowledge on all things autism.

Hester has a qualification in understanding autism and wanted to read as much as she could about it.

Kelly has attended lots of courses too and finds he understands himself much better now and is also learning to understand himself more.

Kelly and Hester Grainger

Please see details of their social media channels:

‘All things Autism and life in Lockdown’ will be aired at 1pm and 1am every day this week. Please click here to tune in.

Anna Kennedy’s guest this week at Women’s Radio – Mikey Kay

Anna Kennedy’s guest this week at Women’s Radio – Mikey Kay

Mikey Kay talks ‘All things Autism’ – Anna Kennedy guest this week at Women’s Radio

Anna Kennedy OBE’s guest for this week on ‘All things Autism’ is Mikey Kay​, which will be aired at 1pm and 1am each day this week on www.womensradiostation.com.

This is Mikey’s story:

I didn’t know what my second career was going to look like after twenty years flying assault helicopters in the British Royal Air Force. That episode of my life took in multiple tours of duty including Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Northern Ireland.

It was exhilarating and rewarding in so many ways but I knew there was another calling. And little did I know at the time, that the multi-tasking skill sets of flying helicopters in formations of up to five, low level, at night, in a high threat environment, onto high value terrorist targets, at a specified time and location – would translate into what I do now.

I can’t even begin to express how much I love film-making and articulating complex issues on camera, to produce documentary style films that have the power to impact society for the better.

To take an idea, an issue, usually complicated, then figure out how to piece it together in a framework that allows you to film efficiently, the interviews, the connective tissue – commonly know as ‘b-roll’ or ‘General Visuals (GVs), and then write an engaging story arc, and finally, to bring all the hard work together by editing a compelling piece of TV – it’s a magical feeling.

Mikey Kay ‘My Autistic Big Brother and Me’ was my first long form documentary and was first broadcast on the BBC in the U.K., based on the life of Spencer – my severely autistic brother, who also happens to replicate the fitness and resilience of a mountain goat when let loose on the mountains of Snowdonia, in North Wales.

Truth be know, it is also Spencer’s medicine , his therapy if you like, and has been the critical component to his mental health since he learned how to walk.

Spencer wasn’t the only character, the story was also about the selflessness of our mum, Nicola, who was ferocious in her care and responsibility for my brother, and who tragically died at the young age of fifty six from cervical cancer.

Mum’s tenacious care for Spencer had not translated to herself, and the long absence of a HPV ‘smear’ test, over twenty years actually, had resulted in a Stage 3C tumor on her cervix. On the morning of September 4th, 2009, having washed Spencer’s sheets and bathed him, as she had everyday of his life due to his incontinence, she passed away at home, in Charlotte’s arms.

Charlotte is our sister, and has picked up from where mum has left off. This time though we have ensured Spencer has a care team, and a little place to call his own. The journey from mum passing, to where we are now, was inspirational, unique, tragic, and at times bloody hilarious.

And so over four years, I used the making of this very personal documentary to refine my techniques of shooting, editing, storytelling.Mikey Kay

And with the help of wonderful friends in the business: Wil Surratt was a massive source of genius when it came to helping me tighten and make sense of the complex bits;

Clare Jones and Eric Harwood were responsible for helping me get the film to the big screen; and other friends like

Subrata De who were always on hand to offer loving advice when I had a block – My Autistic Big Brother and Me will now live forever as a loving dedication to my mum, brother and sister.

As for me, my passion for telling stories just grows. It has not been easy. In fact, it’s been a mighty struggle.

No one wanted to touch an enthusiastic veteran with little-to-no experience in the documentary business.

I have never been knocked down so many times in my life. And in the media business, unlike the military, you don’t get told why your idea wasn’t commissioned, or why you were not picked to report on a certain news story you are one of the most qualified to tell – the media business judges you with silence, and it is brutal.

But many of us veterans know what tenacity means, we know what hustle is, we also know what decency is, and integrity, and the ability to think on our feet, we are adept at acting effectively and instinctively in high pressure situations, we know how to make a robust plan and ninety nine point nine percent of the time, we deliver, and if we don’t, we’ll own it. Never underestimate the ability of veterans to learn on the spot.

And that is what I have chosen to do. Take a 360 degree approach to production – become effective at shooting on all cameras including drone, doing the sound, producing, directing, story writing, and editing—and doing it in some of the most risk-on and austere places on the planet.

But also growing the relationships and becoming a go-to for low footprint film-making, a one-man operator that can deliver a high quality product on time – and in the era of COVID 19, the skill set is now becoming an increasingly valuable commodity.

My hope is to keep making important documentaries about subjects I am passionate about, like autism, societal stigmas, conflict, global warming, and holding truth to power.

Recently, I had someone knock on my door about an exciting project – and I’ll let you know in due course how it goes.

Til then, you can find out more about what I am up to on my social media channels:

Mikey KayRudyard Kipling once said – ‘If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch, if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, if all men count with you, but none too much, if you can fill the unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, yours is the earth and everything that’s in it, and which is more, you’ll be a man my son.’

My mum used to read this incredible poem to me when life wasn’t going great.

And boy, has it stood the test of time.

MIKEY KAY
Correspondent and Filmmaker

 

Anna Kennedy’s guest this week at Women’s Radio –  Sophie Holmes

Anna Kennedy’s guest this week at Women’s Radio – Sophie Holmes

Sophie Holmes from “Mummy of a Square Peg” talks ‘All things Autism’ and medication – interviewed by Anna Kennedy at Women’s Radio

Anna Kennedy OBE’s guest for this week on ‘All things Autism’ is Sophie Holmes​ from “Mummy of a Square Peg” , which will be aired at 1pm and 1am each day this week on  www.womensradiostation.com.

This is Sophie’s story:

Sophie is a Mum of two boys, Matthew aged 9 and Edward aged 7. They live in the beautiful county of Devon in the South West of England. Matthew is neurotypical and Edward is autistic.

As a secondary school teacher Sophie was already familiar with autism having taught autistic children in mainstream schools. Even with this knowledge and experience she still wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis of her son at the age of 3.

Similar to most parents she found it challenging to process the diagnosis and what it would mean for the future of her son.

Sophie HolmesThe journey to diagnosis was fairly straightforward. The staff at Edward’s nursery noticed that he was, developmentally, two years behind his peers, so he was referred to the child development centre. At the time, the wait was 18 weeks to be seen for the initial appointment, this has now increased to at least a year.

Sophie and her husband then moved Edward to the preschool attached to the mainstream school that his elder brother attends. Here, the staff started the ball rolling for his EHCP application in preparation for Edward starting foundation.

When they went for Edward’s yearly review at the end of foundation, the school said that were unable to meet Edward’s needs and that they should start looking for a special school.

The journey to diagnosis was fairly straightforward. The staff at Edward’s nursery noticed that he was, developmentally, two years behind his peers, so he was referred to the child development centre. At the time, the wait was 18 weeks to be seen for the initial appointment, this has now increased to at least a year.

Sophie and her husband then moved Edward to the preschool attached to the mainstream school that his elder brother attends. Here, the staff started the ball rolling for his EHCP application in preparation for Edward starting foundation.

When they went for Edward’s yearly review at the end of foundation, the school said that were unable to meet Edward’s needs and that they should start looking for a special school.

Sophie says that parents should look around as many special schools as possible, then when parents find the right school for their child they should write on the EHCP specific reasons why their child should attend that particular school. The other important advice is to keep nagging the 0-25 team at the local council. If parents don’t get a response from emails or voice messages, then just keep constantly trying other numbers and the persistence will pay off.

After all of this, Sophie struggled with her mental health for a while, so that’s when she started writing a blog. She had a few friends who were writing blogs so she decided that she would start one as a way to help with her mental health. She felt that by writing down her experiences as a parent of an autistic child would help her to process all that had happened.

Sophie’s blog is called Mummy of a Square Peg. It was the saying ‘Square peg in a round hole’ that inspired the name of the blog because a lot of autistic children face struggles to fit into our current society. The aim of the blog is to raise more autism awareness, to offer support and advice to other families going through similar.

A lot of Sophie’s blog posts are about their experiences and adventures in the great outdoors. Both of Sophie’s boys love being outdoors, going to the beach, walking in the woods and on the moors.

Sophie believes that most autistic children love being outdoors and parents shouldn’t be afraid to take them out. Of course, the outing probably won’t be very relaxing but it will be worth it for the child’s experiences.

Sophie HolmesWhen Sophie first took Edward to the beach, he refused to even put his feet on to the sand. Then he would run off as far as he could along the beach and Sophie would have to sprint after him and physically carry him back.

In recent months, his behaviour on the beach has improved, he no longer runs off (he does still wander off but doesn’t run anymore). He also now takes an interest in playing with other children on the beach and he will actually build a sandcastle using a bucket.

Sophie also believes that autistic children thrive when they go camping. Edward absolutely loves the freedom of camping, the fact that he can collect some twigs and leaves and run around pretending that are spaceships. Then when he’s had enough of running around the campsite, he will just take himself into the bedroom compartment, climb into his sleeping bag and play on his tablet.

Again, just like visiting the beach, camping will not be relaxing for the parents. Before parents embark on a camping adventure they should contact the campsite first and ask how they can be supported.

For example, Harlyn Sands holiday park in Cornwall gave her the key to the disabled toilet to change Edward, a wristband with name and number and they gave the staff a description of Edward in case he had wondered off. Hendra Holiday park in Newquay also gave them free swimming passes and took them to the front of the queue. If the campsite aren’t forthcoming with these sorts of things then find somewhere else to stay.

Sophie spoke about her mental health struggles. She believes that initially people should phone their GP and then self refer to the Depression and Anxiety service.

Sophie was offered a place on a group CBT course. She was initially sceptical about this but soon discovered that not only did it equip her with tools to cope with her mental health, she also made friends with some terrific people who shared their journey together.

Sophie HolmesSophie also attended some hypnotherapy sessions with the lovely Tiffany Armitage in Ivybridge, Devon. These sessions don’t involve someone swinging a watch in front of your face but rather you are placed in a daydream like trance through guided story.

Sophie says that when you are having a bad day you must think to yourself ‘I’m allowed to have a bad day, everyone has a bad day. I know I will feel better tomorrow.’

Then have a shower, brush your teeth and get dressed (you might have to force yourself to do this, but you will feel better) That night, before you go to bed, plan a simple routine for the following day and work to achieve those small activities then reward yourself afterwards with a big bubble bath and play a relaxation track or something similar that you enjoy.

Above all, as parents of autistic children it is important to connect and reach out to other parents going through a similar journey. Keep talking and sharing experiences. You are not alone.

Social media details:

 

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