Article by Fabafterfifty
If you are confronted with ‘No’s’, find another way around it! That’s the motto by which Anna Kennedy lives her life, and to great effect.
When her mother-in-law informed Anna, who had recently turned 50, that she had nominated her for the Daily Mail’s Inspirational Woman of the Year award, little did Anna know that just 2 weeks later she would be announced the winner at a gala ceremony followed by a meeting with Samantha Cameron.
Faced with the problem of having 2 autistic children for whom she could not find suitable schools, and having seemingly exhausted all options available to her, Anna quite simply decided that she would start up her own school, specifically addressing the needs of children with autism and Asperger’s .
Finding a building formerly used as a special needs school locally, which had not been used for 18 months, seemed an omen. But, significant funding was required, and with only £3,000 in the bank and projected costs of £450,000 to get the school up and running, a lot of persuading, fund raising and talking to banks was required before the dream could go ahead.
With the council getting fully behind the idea and offering the premises rent free for 5 years the dream became a reality. By 1999 Anna had opened Hillingdon Manor School, a specialist primary school for children with an autistic spectrum disorder. By 2003, Hillingdon Manor School had expanded to open a middle and upper school, and now provides specialist education for 85 children with autistic spectrum disorders aged between three and nineteen.
More schools to open
Not content to stop there, Anna is now set to open Baston House School in Bromley, Kent, which is set in 3 acres of land with plans to accommodate 150 children from from 3 to 19 years of age.
Anna is also mindful that children grow into young adults and become elderly people so she is now providing a range of facilities, including a community college for people aged 16 plus offering vocational training from two sites in west London, a residential home for those attending the college, a specialist support out reach service and a thriving social networking club for young people to spend time with their own friends and to meet new people of their own age.
Exhausted just reading about it? Anna hasn’t stopped there. She has already had one book published about her own family’s experience of living with autism and is about to start a second.
In March 2011 , a medic alert bracelet is being launched for people with autism to wear, with its launch being highlighted as part of World Autism Day. Anna becomes emotional when she says that the bracelet is being named the AK bracelet, in recognition of all the work she has done for autism.
As Anna says, when you are a parent with a child with autism, you want to make sure that they have the best education possible and the best possible life after you have gone. “In making sure that I get the best for my own kids, I find myself looking after everyone else’s as well!”
What an Inspiration! What a Fabwoman!