Autism Warrior: Anna Kennedy
Anna is the founder and chairperson of the British charity Anna Kennedy Online, which aims to support and share information to families and adults affected by autism. She is also the cofounder of two schools, a vocational college, and a respite service.
Accomplishments: Anna is extremely proud to have established a school for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Due to her hard work and perseverance, the school is now one of the biggest schools for children with autism in Great Britain. The school currently teaches 190 children ages four to 19 years old from 17 different local authorities in the country.
Anna is also very proud of launching the talent show “Autism’s Got Talent” in May 2012. The show allows children and adults with autism from all over the world to showcase their talents and compete against each other. According to Anna, the show is already in its 7th year and is continuously growing.
For her efforts in helping children with autism and their families, as well as for campaigning for their benefits and rights, Anna was awarded a Royal Reward for Inspirational Mother (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 2012. She was also the recipient of the prestigious Institute of Directors (IOD) Chairman’s special award for her selfless community service. Due to her continuous efforts to help children with autism and their families, Anna was recognized with the “Achieving Mum of the Year” award during the Tesco Mum of the Year Awards 2013 event.
Goals: Anna dreams of transforming her charity into a foundation in the near future. She claims that this will allow her to offer more opportunities and assistance to children and adults with autism.
Inspiration: Anna’s journey as a champion of children and adults with ASD started at home. Her two boys, Patrick and Angelo, were both diagnosed with certain autism spectrum conditions. Due to her frustration with the lack of facilities and support for children on the spectrum in their area, and many other places across Great Britain, she launched a support group in their home.
According to Anna, the families and carers of individuals with ASD need respite breaks, access to better educational facilities, and support with finding employment for their children. She says that many individuals with autism simply give up trying to look for gainful employment due to the lack of response and understanding from employers. These realities that she has personally witnessed and experienced are giving her the strength to continue fighting for the rights of young people with autism. She believes that given just small reasonable adjustments, these young warriors will prove they have much to offer for the betterment of society.
Advice for families affected by autism: Arm yourself with information about the systems in place to support your son or daughter, whether it be education or care. Early intervention is crucial for our children, and consistency is key. Never give up and fight for the rights of your son or daughter. If you don’t speak up for your child, who will?
This article was featured in Issue 69 – The Gift of Calm This Season