Me and my girl and boy, raising awareness and acceptance of autism

Archive for the ‘Bookworm Wednesday’ Category

#tescomumoftheyear Anna Kennedy and an #autism book giveaway – NOW CLOSED

Thanks to everyone who entered the book draw. Winners of books to be announced Mon 11 March

(Image courtesy of Tesco magazine)

Parenting special needs children is challenging and, at times, exhausting. Finding an appropriate educational setting for them is also a must, somewhere you can feel confident that they will be given the chance to flourish, somewhere where you feel that they will be given a chance.

Sometimes there just isn’t anywhere, sometimes there are no viable options. Anna Kennedy, the Tesco Achieving Mum of the Year found herself in this very situation, having been turned away by 26 special needs schools. Instead of sinking into a pit of despair and pity, Anna turned the situation into an immense victory by establishing a school and in time, a further school, a college and a respite home for the care and support of those affected by autism and their families.

Anna is an inspiration, having read her book (see giveaway below) I can only admire her commitment and determination to get the best possible education for her sons and the community. Her book Not Stupid is written in a open, honest and humorous way, detailing their journey from frustration to joy, a true rollercoaster journey. A must read for anyone either living with/caring for someone with autism or those who want an insight into life with someone on the autistic spectrum.

Here’s what Tesco Magazine said about a well-deserved winner: “Meet the mum who set up a school for autistic children after her own sons were turned away from mainstream education

Anna, 52, from Uxbridge, remortgaged her own house so she could set up a school for autistic children after her two autistic sons were turned away from mainstream education. She has now expanded support for those with autism to include two schools, a college, a respite home and a website with over 50,000 international followers.

Caring for two autistic sons is a huge task, yet Anna does this and more every day. ‘When I was told by the authorities that Patrick (now 23) and Angelo (now 19) were the only children in our area with autism, I felt completely isolated and alone. It was only when I bumped into another parent one day and recognised the symptoms in her child, that I realised I wasn’t alone. Together, we started a support group in my home.’

The group grew rapidly and was soon attended by 275 families. When Angelo and Patrick were later turned away by 25 mainstream schools, Anna resorted to converting her garage into a classroom. However, the local authority granted her sons only five hours of home tuition a week. Angelo’s tutor was completely unable to cope with a severely autistic child and on her third day collapsed in tears.

Anna was a dance teacher and had no experience of running a business but decided to set up a school for her sons and other autistic children. ‘I knew there were other heartbroken parents like me, feeling desperate after being rejected by school after school,’ she says. ‘That’s when I realised I could create somewhere for those children.’

After hearing about a local school that was scheduled to be demolished, Anna and her husband Sean put together a feasibility study to show how it could be converted into a school for autistic children – since there was such a need in the area. She lobbied banks and remortgaged their home to raise the £627,000 worth of refurbishment costs that were needed to secure a lease on the property for 30 years. ‘At the time my husband and I had just £3,000 in the bank,’ she says. ‘It was definitely a challenge but I looked at my sons and thought, “We can do this.”’

Anna turned to her local community for help and her determination paid off. ‘We applied for loans, fundraised and did everything we could to get the money. I did sponsored keep-fits and others did cycle rides. Volunteers started coming out of the woodwork to help us including carpenters, painters, and electricians. British Airways put in a kitchen as a team building exercise. A fabulous gentleman gave us furniture and carpet tiles – we picked them up from Basingstoke over six journeys in a borrowed battered old van and carpeted the hall, classrooms and corridors for free. I even approached the Probation Service and organised for offenders to come and volunteer – and after their community service time was up many kept coming back to help out. It was incredible.

Setting up the school was a steep and total learning curve as Anna had to find out how to do everything from writing an advertisement for a specialist headteacher to dealing with Ofsted, Health and Safety, and CRB checks. ‘The hardest thing was tiredness because Angelo only sleeps three hours a night and I was looking after both boys at home full time,’ she says. ‘We had no money and lived off 9p tins of beans, but we just had to make it work.’

The Hillingdon Manor School opened in 1999 with 19 pupils. ‘When Ofsted came to inspect the school in its first month, I was so nervous I was sick,’ laughs Anna. ‘They had the power to shut the school meaning we’d lose everything, including our house. The inspector said if he had a child with autism he’d have no hesitation in sending them to us and after he left I was running up and down the corridor filled with joy!’ The school is now the largest of its kind in Europe, offering 150 autistic children a safe, structured education and a brighter future.

Not stopping there, Anna went on to set up a community college in 2001, a respite home for adults in 2004, a second specialist school in Kent in 2011, and now has an international following of 50,000 parents of autistic children through her website, Anna Kennedy Online. In addition, she provides training for the NSPCC and Childline on the issue of disability bullying and speaks about autism all over the UK.

In 2009, Anna wrote the book Not Stupid about the struggle to set up The Hillingdon School and their patron Esther Rantzen wrote the foreword. In April 2012, she released a fitness DVD, Step In The Right Direction, and its success led to national Dance Day, which fundraises for autism charities.

On 12 May 2012, Anna organised the first talent show of its kind called Autism’s Got Talent, which saw children and adults with autism perform on stage to a packed audience at London’s Mermaid Theatre. The show included a performance from autistic dancer James Hobley, who had appeared on Britain’s Got Talent.

Anna was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2012 for her services to special needs education and autism.

Anna says, ‘People with autism shouldn’t be hidden. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I want all children, including my own boys, to have the chance to make a mark on the world just like everybody else.’

Our judges said: ‘Anna’s singlehanded determination to help families living with autism, while also being a full-time carer to her two sons, is truly inspirational.”

The Tesco Mum of the Year awards ceremony will be taking place at The Savoy on March 3rd, hosted by Fiona Phillips, with appearances from special guest stars of screen, stage and sport. You can follow the twitter feed on the night via the hashtag #tescomumoftheyear. Th event is also being televised to be shown on Channel 5 on March 10th, very appropriately Mothers Day.

Now for the book giveaway:
I am delighted to be able to offer a giveaway of 20 copies of Anna’s book via this blog.


Not Stupid as described above, is a must-read and you will want to laugh and cry at the incredible journey that Anna has taken to secure autism care and support for her local community. I finished reading it and half-wished we lived nearer.

To be in with a chance of receiving a copy of Anna’s book, please:

1. Retweet/share this post to Facebook and let me know (@AutismMumma) you have done so,
2. Either leave a comment below or tweet “I’d like to win a copy of #tescomumoftheyear Anna Kennedy’s book with @AutismMumma”

(Entries are restricted to UK-only and closing on 10th March at 10pm but the book is available on Amazon as both a paperback and Kindle version)

It would be fantastic if as many people as possible could follow the twitter feed on 3rd March and watch the Channel 5 transmission on March 10th, there are some amazing mums being honoured, please click here for a behind-the-scenes photoshoot.

Thanks very much for reading and for Tesco Magazine for giving me the opportunity to write this blog and host a book giveaway. It goes without saying that RTs and comments (the more. The merrier) would be welcomed! Jx 😘

Book Worm Wednesday – Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days

Today’s “Book Worm Wednesday” is written once again by 10year old T, he absolutely loves reading, something I’m really pleased about.

A report in September 2012 indicated that “children and teenagers were embarrassed to read” – read the report here – so I hope it’s something that he doesn’t grow out of/feel pressurised to.


T’s review today is “Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days” by Jeff Kinney, as before these are his words and I’ve made minor cosmetic adjustments.


When Greg and Rowley put money he has to pay on Rowley’s dad’s country club membership card, Greg and Rowley owe him a total of £63. Greg and Rowley start brainstorming ideas for ways to earn money.

They eventually come up with a company called the V.I.P lawn service. So they make flyers and let people in the neighbourhood know about it. Greg figured they could start things up again in the winter. But Rowley got fired on the spot. Greg called the winter company the VIP snow removal.

Greg had earned a few pounds since Rowley had left. But will Greg earn enough money in time or will he suffer a severe punishment from his parents?


Thanks for reading, this was postponed from last Wednesday Jx 😘

Book Worm Wednesday – Captain Underpants

As you will have probably gathered from the title, T has again written this week’s Book Worm Wednesday. So, Tra-la-la! It’s “Captain Underpants and The Revolting Revenge of The Radioactive Robo-Boxers” (the titles are enough to make you giggle!)


Over to T, apart from minor cosmetic adjustments, these are his words:

“Book 10: In our last adventure, Tippy Tinkletrousers and his time-travelling high-jinks changed the course of human history for ever, resulting in the destruction of Captain Underpants.

Following this, George and Harold, (and their two pets) Crackers and Sulu will have to figure a way to change it back.

George and Harold realised Crackers and Sulu were suffering so they decided to take Crackers back to the Mesozoic era, (because he was a pterodactyl). But Mr Krupp – the school principal – chased after the four friends as they locked the door so he couldn’t get in. George and Harold found the time machine and set it to 65 million years ago and pulled the chain. But Mr Krupp had got in and when the time machine took off so he went as well…

Tippy had found out where they were going and used his time machine to chase after them. When they reached their destination, Tippy had arrived first.

The time machine had landed on a massive tree and Tippy started kicking the tree with his massive leg. The time machine fell and broke. The chase was on. Tippy started chasing our heroes. Mr Krupp was there too and when George snapped his fingers, Mr Krupp suddenly turned into the superhero named Captain Underpants. He was back!

With our heroes in the Mesozoic era, will our heroes get out before Tippy strikes revenge…”

I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s got me interested in finding out more, well done T!



For more information on the author, Dav Pilkey, you can check out his website here..

Thanks for reading Jx 😘 comments/RTs/shares welcomed.

BookWorm Wednesday – my favourite book ever!

Today’s “BookWorm Wednesday” is my favourite of all time.


It’s a book I would dip in and out of in childhood; and when my parents divorced when I was 9years old, it vanished. They were both dealing with the aftermath of a very viciously fought divorce and I couldn’t very well say “ummm, do you remember that book…”, I’d have probably been told off for reading it anyway.

The book has long since been discontinued but I found a copy on Amazon and have really enjoyed re-discovering it.

It’s not really a book you’d read from cover to cover in one sitting, but more of a dip-in-and-out when you’ve got a rare moment to yourself.

The book is split into three sections – the first covers ancient superstitions, creatures, plants and festivals. The second section covers regional stories from across Great Britain such as alleged hauntings, origins of place names and local festivals. The final section details British folklore.

It’s not a small book, both in size and content but I’ve always found it both interesting and, when I was younger, terrifying!

This is an example of the wonderfully detailed illustrations in the book:


It’s certainly a book that makes you consider how ancient folklores and traditions have shaped festivals and superstitions today, as well as some genuinely spooky stories.

Definitely worth a read.

BookWorm Wednesday by D – Bud and Roo’s Spectacular Adventures, The Beach – Product Review


Today’s “BookWorm Wednesday” is one with a difference; D has made her first comments for these posts and it’s also a product review too, multi-tasker me 😃👍.

Here’s today’s book:


“Bud and Roo’s Spectacular Adventure – The Beach” follows two dogs as they find clues which lead to their first adventure.

The book has very simple, but very effective illustrations and the detailed illustrations provide plenty of opportunities for questions and discussion about the pictures.



The text is large and bold, easy to spot on the page, which is important for readers to gain their confidence.

This is what D thought, I asked her what she liked about the book:

“Everything, the two funny dogs found the blue bucket. The bucket was the same colour as the Ferris wheel and the door. I liked the ladybirds in the pictures”

There is a ladybird in every picture, sometimes it’s easy to spot, sometimes to have to hunt for it. D enjoyed that aspect!


“Bud and Roo’s Spectacular Adventures – The Beach” is available from Amazon and you can follow the author on twitter @JMCvalentine. A lovely little book!

Disclaimer: we were sent a copy of the book for the purpose of this review. These are my words and I have not been paid.

BookWorm Wednesday – Astrosaurs The T.Rex Invasion

Today’s “BookWorm Wednesday” is once again supplied by T (my 10 year old) – he asked for and received loads of books for Christmas – and it’s a way of utilising his brain cells during the holidays too.

Over to T (as before these are his words, I’ve made minor cosmetic adjustments):


Astrosaurs: The T. Rex invasion

Author: Steve Cole

When Teggs and his crew are on holiday in the spooky stone planet of Sphinx II, Teggs meets his old friend, Tute.

Tute says he discovered a pyramid and Teggs is willing to investigate. Tute said that the pyramid used to belong to the T.Rex’s years back and Lord Ganster discovered it a thousand years ago.

When Teggs, Tute and the crew get there, they spot a T.Rex mummy! But as it disappears in the distance, Teggs, Arx and Tute discover the way in.

Meanwhile, Iggy and Gipsy are investigating a warship that was found a few miles away. But the pair are only lucky enough to fall into a trap led by a large T.Rex bearing his teeth – the terrifying Skunch.

Back at the pyramid, Teggs, Arx and Tute were passing a series of tests eg. dodging laser beams. But the hardest came to building an alien engine. As the lights kept going out to signal the start of a bomb exploding, the three finished a few jewels before. But an alien named Keprish has been controlling Lord Ganster and the mummies.

With Keprish’s power and the T.Rex invasion troops hard on their heels, will the Astrosaurs and Tute ever get out alive?….


Thanks for reading, I’m sure he’d appreciate comments Jx 😘

He was delighted that Steve Cole read his review:


BookWorm Wednesday – Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Third Wheel

T has written today’s BookWorm Wednesday, he loves to read (something I’m very pleased about) and the majority of his Christmas list contained books!


Over to T, apart from minor cosmetic tweeks, these are his words:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The third wheel

Author: Jeff Kinney

Books published: 9

The story:
Greg Heffley is having to deal with harder times nowadays. But when Uncle Gary moves in for a few weeks, Greg has to sort out why his uncle goes on his computer.

When Greg finds out in assembly that the student council will be replaced, his best friend, Rowley Jefferson, runs for Social Chairperson.

When the elections come, Eugene Ellis, was running for president, and when he says that he will replace the toilet paper with the expensive-quilted kind. When he finished his spreech the whole place went berserk.

As Eugene won president, the vice- president – Hilary Pine – suggested doing a class fundraiser. Javan Hill came up with the idea of a motor cross stunt show and Eugene suggested a wrestling event. But they settled on a mixed event. Eventually the event is morphed into a valentines day dance.

As Greg scrambles to find a date, he’s worried about being left out in the cold on the big night. His friend, Rowley, doesn’t have any prospects either, but maybe that’s a consolation. Then an unexpected twist gives Greg a partner and Rowley the odd one out.

But a lot can happen in one night, and in the end you’ll never know who’s going to be lucky in love……


For more information on the books and the author, please click here

Thanks for reading, I’m sure T would love feedback Jx 😘