Anna Kennedy Online – Autism Awareness Charity
Siena Castellon on the Chrissy B Show

Siena Castellon on the Chrissy B Show

Anna Kennedy OBE’s next guest on her regular ‘All things Autism’  monthly Chrissy B news piece is one of her charity Ambassadors Siena Castellon . 

Siena is a 17 year old neurodiversity advocate and anti-bullying campaigner. She is autistic, dyslexic and dyspraxic. She also has ADHD. Siena is passionate about changing negative perceptions and stereotypes about autistic people and people with learning differences.

When Siena was 13 year old, she created a website – – to mentor and support autistic students and students with learning differences. She created the website, because she found that all the online resources were aimed at parents.

On her website, Siena provides practical information and advice on how to overcome some of the academic and social challenges often faced by students with special educational needs.

Siena recently launched a school campaign – Neurodiversity Celebration Week – which aims to encourage schools to change perceptions about students with special educational needs by celebrating the strengths of their neurodiverse students and highlighting the advantages that come from interacting and perceiving the world differently.

Her campaign is supported by 23 major charities and organisations, including Anna Kennedy Online, the ADHD Foundation, the British Dyslexia Foundation, the Dyspraxia Foundation and the PDA Society. In 2019, over 350 schools and over 318,000 students participated in the first ever across the United Kingdom and abroad.

This year, Neurodiversity Celebration Week will take place in March 16 – 20, 2020. Siena hopes that it will be even bigger than last year.

Siena has also written a survival guide for autistic teen girls, which will be published in March 2020 by Jessica Kingsley Publishing. The guide will be illustrated by an autistic artist and will include a foreword by Dr Temple Grandin.

Siena has won numerous awards for her neurodiversity advocacy and website, including the 2018 BBC Radio 1 Teen Hero Award and the Diana Award. In 2018, she was also bestowed with a British Citizen Youth Award, received a Points of Light Award from Prime Minister Theresa May and met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a private reception in their home at Kensington Palace.

Siena is a work placement at UCL’s Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE). She is currently working on a research study on perceptual capacity and anxiety in autistic individuals. She believes it is important for the autistic community to be involved in autism research so that the research is focused on addressing our needs and used to improve autism support services, rather than on finding a cure.

Siena also works as a peer outreach worker for the Mayor of London, which involves managing youth-focused events and working with organisations and charities to support young people in London on a broad range of issues, including disability services and support. 

Siena is  passionate about maths and physics. Last summer, she studied theoretical physics at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada and had a one-week physics work placement at Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory.

This summer she attended a materials science course at Cambridge University and spent five-weeks studying advanced math at a summer program in the United States. Siena frequently gives talks about diversity in STEM, including to a Parliamentary group, Imperial College and The Francis Crick Institute. She is currently studying for her A-levels in maths, further maths and physics and hopes to study materials science at university.

Anna Kennedy OBE told us “We are proud that Siena is part of the AKO Team. I first met Siena at our National Autism Hero Awards 2 years ago and was impressed how much she had achieved at the age of 14. I am looking forward to working with Siena raising further awareness and acceptance of autistic children and adults.

Siena’s interview will be shown on September 2 at 10pm Sky TVs Chrissy B Show the only Mental Health and Well Being Show on TV on Channel 191

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.’


Matthew Bennett on Sky TV – The Chrissy B Show

Matthew Bennett on Sky TV – The Chrissy B Show

My name is Matthew Bennett, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 36. I am now 40 years old.

My problems started as a teenager when my mind became overwhelmed with the world. I started self harming to cope with all the sensory input and I discovered alcohol not long after. Alcohol quickly became my safety blanket and I began drinking to deal with any situation. It softened everything and made life bearable but it also nearly killed me. I was in rehab by the age of 21. 

I spent a year and a half there learning to exist without alcohol, but once I left there came many more issues. Sobriety hurt, so I was constantly looking for something to take the edge off. Everyday was exhausting.

My one real outlet was my music and writing. When I was 30 I decided to attend university to study Creative Writing and Screenwriting.

I love to learn and my brain is wired to see patterns in things so learning about storytelling was perfect for me but I struggled to make friends and I always felt like I was ‘outside’ the normal social groups.

Rumours were eventually spread about me and I didn’t help the situation by being honest about myself and my past addictions.Things soon got on top of me and I ended up suffering a break down.

I took a year out to recover and recharge and when I returned I ended up graduating with a First Class Honours Degree. 

I received my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome just as I was finishing university. Learning that you’ve been experiencing the world differently to everyone else your entire life is a difficult thing to come to terms with.

I struggle to process things at the best of times but this was beyond anything I’d ever experienced before. I was angry, I was in denial, I was sad, I felt like I was going through the stages of grief.

It took me a long, long time but I finally came to terms with who I am and why I am the way I am. I’ve led a very painful and troubling life but I wouldn’t change any of it because I’ve learned so much about myself and I now like the person that I am.

I don’t think there are many people who can truly say that.

I now spend my time working with my son Callum Gage Bennett under the stage name FMA + 12 Gage.Callum’s mind is very similar to mine and he is incredibly skilled with words.

When he was younger, he had an abusive step father who would bully him and he used to be a nervous wreck and he suffered from a stutter.

When Callum was 15 we wrote some songs for fun and performed them at a gig with the aims of helping Callum’s confidence, the gig went better than we could have ever imagined and things snowballed from there. Callum no longer stutters, he will be 21 in August.

Callum has Dyslexia and it is likely that he too is on the autistic spectrum but he has chosen not to pursue a diagnosis.Since playing that first gig together we’ve gone on to play many many more gigs and shows as well as – Releasing our debut album ‘Parental Advisory’. Being short listed to appear on Britain’s Got Talent.

Winning an award for being inspirational and being the first rap act to appear on BBC Northwest Tonight. 

But one of the greatest highlights was performing at Autism’s Got Talent in 2017. Before playing this show I didn’t really know any other autistic people and I definitely didn’t know what the experience would be like.

I was worried that it would be a stressful couple of days in an unfamiliar and unwelcoming place but these thoughts couldn’t have been further from the truth.Autism’s Got Talent isn’t just a showcase of talented people, it’s a safe environment for people like me.

We met singers, dancers, magicians and impressionists of all age ranges and it was an honour sharing a stage with so many amazing performers.

Each and every one of the staff were so patient and incredible too. By the end of our stay in London we had met so many awesome people and gained some true friends.

I can easily say that everyone should attend this incredible show and if you are autistic and you have a special talent, skill or hobby that you want to share then you should definitely let Anna Kennedy know.

I’ve felt alone my entire life, but it was at Autism’s Got Talent that I first felt that I belonged. I will always be thankful to Anna for that.

Matthew Bennett

Twitter – @M_JohnBennett

The interview will be aired on Monday June 3rd at 10pm Sky TV 191

Chris Wild as Anna’s guest on the Chrissy B Show

Anna’s guest on the Chrissy B Show was Chris Wild on her regular monthly ‘All things Autism’ piece on SkyTV on the ChrissyB show, this will be aired Monday at 10pm . Chris is an author and artist and talks about living in the care system and now working to improve the care system.

Chris Wild spoke about his book ‘Damaged’ which is a heartbreaking story of kids trapped in Britain’s broken care system.

Chris lost his dad at age eleven and was sent to live, grow and be nurtured in the care system. But he witnessed the incessant physical and sexual abuse of vulnerable children.

Please watch this and find out what happened to him and what he’s doing to help others today.

Anna’s guest on The Chrissy B Show – Julie Wallman, Indie film producer

Anna’s guest on The Chrissy B Show – Julie Wallman, Indie film producer

Last week my guest on Chrissy B was Indie film producer Julie Wallman. We pre-recorded my next Autism piece and it will be shown on Sky TV this Monday 4th March at 10pm. I met Julia on Twitter 18 months ago and it was suggested that Julie follow me by a friend and mentor of her’s who is a senior official at Pinewood Studio. Julie was going through a tough time and shared her story. I was so impressed with Julie’s tenacity , creativity and story. Julie and I decided to meet and our first meeting took place at Bafta in Piccadilly since Julie is a member.

Julie’s dream was to work in the film industry and many years ago Julie became a runner on a film set where Marlon Brando was filming, at this time Julie was working for free, not her choice but Marlon changed this for her and she eventually received a wage for this job. She never forgot this story.

Julie’s twin sister had an accident on a film set 15 years ago that was not safe, she finally won her court-case. Sadly her Sister is no longer an Art Director doing the job she loved and is registered as disabled. Julie never forgot this story. Julie went to London in her teens with a dream and £200 in her back pocket. She got her first job as a carer. One wet day Julie arrived at a Client’s door carrying a package. She knocked on the door. An angry Man answered the door and said that she was late.

If you know Julie she is ‘never’ late for anything and was always early with her Clients. Julie showed the Man her time sheet. She was in fact early. The Man let her in and immediately she knew her Client was dying. The parcel was half of her homemade meal she always delivered to the Client as he would not buy proper food only spend money on cigarettes and booze.

The Elderly Man sadly died not long after and he had put in his Will that Julie could stay ‘free of charge for a year in his flat’ and Julie was invited to go to Israel to where he was to be buried. This Man in his kindness had given her the ‘chance’ she needed to get into the film industry. Julie never forgot this story.

Julie landed her first media London job after sending hundreds of CV’s working for the Discovery Channel. The boss was a very letchy man commenting on the way she dressed….she realised he liked her in a non professional way. Julie would go sick and get constant calls from her Boss and cards from him were put into her work drawer admitting his feelings for her. Julie contacted HR. HR decided her Boss was too valuable and they offered Julie a job on another Channel TLC for half the money she was on.

Julie took that job to avoid ever meeting her Boss again. Not long after Julie was headhunted to work for a top TV Company in Rome. Julie flourished at her role, which was to train a team of 6 and eventually this led to her problem solving areas within the company.

Seven years later Julie’s mum was poorly back in Ireland so she decided to move back and she got a job as an assistant working for the famous Film Producer/Writer Roger Corman.

Not long after she moved up to becoming a Script Supervisor. It was a structured and organised environment. Julie never forgot this.

In a 3 month period in between working with Roger Corman Julie was able to assemble an Irish Crew to work on a film in Jersey Channel Islands called ‘The Crooked Mile’, she was involved with the script and able to work alongside the writer so the script worked for the locations and budget.

The Writer was happy as he put his full vision on the script and the Director the same! This movie won a ‘Tribeca Award’.

Julie was able to do 2 jobs, work as Producer and Writer. It worked beautifully for her and the team! She learnt and never forgot that preparation of the script is key to a good, safe and happy film set and meant all crew were paid!

Julie travelled all over the world for many years with her job and she loved it.

Years later she noticed that The film Industry was changing…she felt not for the better.. A few years ago a very hurtful event occurred to Julie in her life. This in turn meant she began to struggle with her work as a script supervisor. It felt like the organisational Head structure was changing. Scripts were not finished and not locked down, new changes were coming in the night before….

Crew were being run ragged! and Julie felt this was not fair as it could be avoided if more preparation was done in the first place. Why were scripts not locked down and too long in duration? The job Julie loved was becoming unbearable. Shortly after Julie was diagnosed with PTSD and depression by the GP and given anti-depressants. Julie stopped taking the tablets, they were taking away her ‘spirit’.

During this time Julie has done voluntary care work with the Elderly and went back to working on scripts that she has written or co-written herself. Julie really struggled with the BFI and Creative England online process and waiting process for funding, but lets not forget she was able to produce a film that won a ‘Tribeca’. As an Independent Producer she felt there was no chance of making a film for ‘up and coming talent’ without BFI or Creative England support. She was right about that too!

BFI and Lottery funds have said yes to a movie titled Genuine Fakes but at the last minute mentioned a clause that you can’t Produce or Write means she won’t get funding from them. Julie feels this is mean spirited. BFI first said you will get ‘clouded’ by doing 2 jobs and Julie proved this is not the case, they now say you can’t do 2 jobs. But a Writer and Director is 2 jobs and Producers all feel it’s not fair as Julie has done all the work and must stay as Lead Producer.

Then Creative England said ‘don’t like the script’ and Julie feels this is not good enough for public funded bodies just to say this when she has already assembled an amazing team and built a community around the film. She feels like she has been discriminated against by the BFI and Creative England because of her diagnosis and people are quick to say ‘you will be treated like everyone else’ but that’s not good enough where reasonable adjustments need to be made to help Julie. She feels the BFI and Creative England have really let her down.

She hopes her letter creates a platform for others to openly discuss their experience with the BFI / Lottery Funding and Creative England. Julie wants to thank her amazing team who work in an open, honest and transparent way. Her team continue to ask her why the BFI and Creative England have not stepped upto the mark? Julie is also waiting on a written apology from the BFI for the way she was treated at her meeting with Ben Roberts .

Julie Daly-Wallman was only diagnosed less than a year ago with high functioning autism after the process took 2 long years. Julie wants to embrace who she is and hope others do too!

Julie messaged Anna after the interview: ‘I want the world to know we may be different but we too have a place in society! if people gave us a chance! The Camera Man said to me after the interview My Son has Autism I said to him ‘

I hope someday, we won’t have to fight anymore and that Autism will be like any other disability’ so it blends into society for a change instead of fighting society that don’t want us! well we want them and we won’t go away!

Anna Kennedy OBE

Autism with Attitude are the final contestants on BBC One’s The Greatest Dancer!

The Greatest Dancer auditions draw to a close this weekend, the finalists compete to win £50,000 and a chance to perform on Strictly Come Dancing.

Our favourite contestants going through the final round are of course – Autism with Attitude!

AUTISM with Attitude, the street dance group from Hillingdon Manor School, entered the European adventure last year. 

The school made history when they qualified as the first special needs dance team to reach the finals of the United Dance Organisations Championships.

Dance teacher Jonathan Baron founded Autism with Attitude in 2013 after students were offered the opportunity to perform in Autism’s Got Talent, a show also set up by Anna Kennedy Online.

Autism’s Got Talent showcases the talents of adults and children with autism. Participants told us that autism is not something to be ashamed of, but is to be celebrated – one described his Asperger’s as ‘like a superpower’.

Autism with Attitude started on Autism’s got Talent – look at them now!

The Greatest Dancer continues at the slightly earlier time of 7:30PM on BBC One this Saturday evening, tune in and enjoy the trailer!