Anna Kennedy OBE is an incredible woman. Her work ethic and demand to change the way people deal with autistic people has paved way for positive changes. Her Twitter page has 67.2k followers worldwide. Anna not only started a school for autistic children but offers advice online for families and runs an 'Autism's Got Talent' competition for autistic people to show their incredible talents. Anna is such a positive person and it's easy to warm to her. Having spoken with Anna on the phone, she's funny and one of the loveliest women we have spoken to. She is an inspiring woman and BeautyTies are honoured to have her on the blog. Without further ado, here is our interview with Anna.
BeautyTies: What made you take the first step into founding the autism charity?
Anna: "I started my charity in 2009 because after my sons were diagnosed almost 10 years down the line parents were still struggling with trying to get a diagnosis for their sons or daughters, trying to navigate their way through a complicated Special Educational Needs system and once their children reached adulthood, the fight to get the right education and care continued throughout the years, and less support seem to be available. I didn't want parents to feel as isolated as I did when starting out on our journey.
"I am so lucky to have a passionate team of volunteers, Charity Champions, Ambassadors and Patrons who give up their valuable time to support the charity. We have created some amazing events such as Autism's got Talent, Autism Hero Awards and the Autism Expo to name but a few. You can read about them on our charity website www.annakennedyonline.com"
BeautyTies:"What did you do for work before your charity started?"
Anna: "Before the charity started I moved to London from the North East with my husband. I worked for Sanderson Textile Manufacturers as an Order Office Supervisor.
My down time was going to Tap for Fun a group of people having fun tap dancing. Something I loved to do as a child."
Beauty Ties "What is the most challenging thing you have faced in your line of work?"
Anna: "The most challenging thing I have done I suppose is set up a school for children on the autism spectrum since my sons were both at home aged 5 and 8 years old receiving 5 hours home tuition because there were no places available for them within the system. I felt frustrated because all the books I was reading talked about the importance of early intervention. Therefore, after speaking to parents in a similar situation at a parents support group I had set up, I decided to set up my own school. A real roller-coaster learning curve. Now 21 years later, after educating over 500 children, it's now one of the largest schools for children with autism in the UK.
Beauty Ties:"What advice can you give to anyone who is struggling with autism themselves or with an autistic family member?"
Anna: "If your son or daughter has recently been diagnosed with autism the best advice I can give is take it one day at a time, some days good, some days not so good. When going to meetings if you can take an advocate who knows the SEND system with you if you feel overwhelmed or anxious about the meetings ahead. Write down questions you would like to ask to prompt you to keep on track. Keep all reports about your son or daughter in chronological order in a file or online. This really helps to keep things in order later down the line when you are searching for information. You may need to work towards a SEND tribunal to get the right educational care and support for your son or daughter."
Never give in, persevere and keep the end goal in sight. You need to speak for your son or daughter and search for extra inner strength. It can be tough therefore you need to look after your mental health and well being. I know it's tough as a parent carer when your juggling many balls in the air. Take 5 mins time out as and when you can to recharge your batteries."
BeautyTies: "How have you and your family been coping in lockdown? It’s been a difficult time for everyone."
Anna: "Lockdown has been up and down. My eldest son Patrick, who is now 30, diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, was on furlough and Angelo now 27 profoundly affected by his autism and sensory processing difficulties was also at home. Some days were tough especially with lack of sleep, anxiety and trying to work and support my sons.
Everyone is trying their best in a difficult situation and trying to get used to our new normal. Hopefully it will not be for too long and the autism community will keep strong, safe and support each other as best we can."
"I have had to postpone our events until next year which is frustrating, however we have been conducting workshops online, supporting families, constantly updating our website. I am continuing with my weekly radio interviews on Womens Radio and monthly radio shows with one of my Ambassadors Aston Avery on Gateway Radio.
"I also have zoom chats with guests where the autism community can listen in and ask questions."
BeautyTies "You always look stunning online. What is your beauty routine?"
Anna "You ask about my beauty regime. I always try and make the best of the way I look no matter how I am feeling. I try to keep fit my exercising, walking with my son and dancing. I love dancing, it helps me feel young. I was 60 this year which at first really worried me silly I know however, I am now ok with it and am grateful to be fit and healthy. I am quite a positive person and I think that really helps me through these difficult times. My motto is 'You can either give up, give in or give it all you have got and then some!"
Anna “If you would like to keep up to date with what we are doing as a charity please check out the charity website or follow me on social media."
Anna is an Ambassador for 'Born Anxious' company
Anna has her own bag for life design to support her charity for Born Anxious too
Campaigning for a better future
Julia "We want to thank Anna for doing this interview. It means a lot to us to hear from Anna directly about her journey."
Collette "Anna is an incredible woman who strives for change and makes it happen. Once you know your child has autism you have two options. 1) Read up on it, use the information to help your child and your family 2) Ignore it. The second option doesn't bear thinking about. My responsibility as a parent is to work with my child and listen. Tell her knowledge and adapt where necessary. I did tell one person my child was autistic, and my child was no longer allowed to play with hers. This is what ignorance does. We shouldn't shy away or panic if someone is autistic. My daughter can sing the periodic table and a hundred numbers of PI. I'm over 40 and don't even know this stuff. She is amazing! Every child is different but should we stop them playing because one is different? No. Lets teach our kids about diversity. Anna's website has so much information on it, When I learned that AKO had a Sugar Rush bake off competition, I told Natalie and she got so excited she went straight to the local shop and got things to decorate the cake she would make. I left Natalie to the kitchen contents and sat watching her make what she wanted to. Natalie told me she wanted to add Nutella to the mix. When it was finished I asked what the story was in her decorating. She told me she was putting the gummy bears standing up and the love hearts were protecting them from being bullied. It was so sweet how she thought like that. Natalie entered the competition and we forgot about it. One morning Natalie ran through and told me she won! She was so excited. The joy this competition brought her was amazing. She could express her creativity. She got to choose a t-shirt from Born Anxious and was awarded the AKO sugar rush bake off Champion Baker apron. Anna has given autistic children a chance to be recognised and expressive. It's wonderful. Anna's platform has helped so many families and will continue to do so. Anna has given us hope for a better future. Some much needed positivity. Anna understood how hard it is when my child argues with me using facts. I have accepted I will lose arguments with her due to her fact-based arguments. With Autism there is no social grace. They don't make small talk just for the sake of it. If you are boring them -they will happily occupy themselves. It is difficult and it is a learning curve. When people unite and share, it leads to a better world. I thank Anna for everything she does and for this interview."
Anna Kennedy Online website: https://www.annakennedyonline.com/
Anna Kennedy OBE
54 A Cowley Mill Rd
Office : 01895 540187