We are delighted to confirm our first Patron Anna Kennedy OBE. Anna is a guiding light in the autism community and excels in raising autism awareness around the country. The work she has done setting up autism specific schools, Autism’s Got Talent, AnnaKennedyOnline is awesome, and we are extremely honoured she has agreed to support us in this way.
Anna said “It was an honor to be asked to be Patron of ChAPS and being Patron of this autism support group will be the last group of the 8 Charities and groups I am now Patron. I was impressed with the services offered from this group whether it be advice or practical support for families across Cheshire. I look forward to meeting families from the group, sharing experiences and helping to raise further awareness.”
Teesside University Honorary Graduate Anna Kennedy OBE is the mother of two boys, Patrick and Angelo, who are both affected by autism.
In 1999, having been turned away by no fewer than 26 special needs schools when searching for appropriate educational facilities for her sons, she decided to take matters into her own hands and remortgaged her home to transform a derelict council building in Middlesex, West London into Hillingdon Manor School.
The school, which is now a centre of excellence for children and young adults with autism, has earned considerable recognition for its outstanding work and early in its life caught the imagination of Esther Rantzen who is now Hillingdon Manor's patron.
In 2008 Anna co-authored her best selling biography 'Not Stupid' which poignantly portrayed her struggle to find appropriate provision for her boys – a story which will be familiar to many parents who feel they could not get what they felt their children needed from the local education authority.
Anna's story appeared as an hour long BBC 'pick of the day' Video Diary documentary and her story has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers, including the Times Educational Supplement, The Times, The Observer, The Guardian, The Daily Mirror and The Daily Mail.
Anna is regularly invited to speak at conferences on the subject of autism and has also taken part in many high profile TV talk shows, debates and news programmes.
Recently Anna met with the Department of Health to share results of their charities survey on autism diagnosis. Anna will share these results and feedback at her presentation in April at the University.
In 2008 she merged her school with Hillcrest Autism Services to gain access to greater resources to continue her work.
Anna went on to win ‘Woman of the Year’ in 2009, an award run in conjunction with The Observer newspaper and during the same year was also the recipient of the coveted Institute of Directors (IOD) Chairman’s special award for outstanding contribution to the community.
Samantha Cameron named her the Daily Mail’s most Inspirational Woman of the Year 2010 and most recently Tesco Mum of the Year 2013.
In November 2013, Anna, who is from Middlesbrough, received an Honorary Doctor in Professional Achievement from the University.
We are delighted to confirm our second patron, the incredibly talented Susan Halkon, who lives locally and will be another huge asset to ChAPS.
Susan Halkon (nee Nickson) began writing professionally when she was 14, when she won the Lloyd’s Bank Film Challenge with her short film Life’s A Bitch. Since then she has gone on to international success with her hugely successful sitcom Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, which ran for 9 series on the BBC. As well as Two Pints, Susan show-ran three series of her original series Grownups, as well as script editing two series of Coming of Age and contributing an acclaimed episode of the comedy anthology series Spine Chillers.
Most recently, Susan has brought her unique brand of wit and warmth to the sitcom behemoth Birds of a Feather, writing on and story-lining two series of the hit ITV revival. In all, Susan has worked on over 130 episodes of broadcast sitcom, and has worked with stars including Sheridan Smith, Will Mellor, Stephen K. Amos, Miriam Margolyes, Ralf Little, Kathy Burke, Joe Pasquale, Mark Benton, Pauline Quirke and Bungle from Rainbow.
Susan feels passionate about the work of ChAPS, having grown up with her wonderful autistic brother Tim (probably the blokiest bloke she’s ever met, and she’s met Bungle from Rainbow), and she looks forward to supporting them in any way she can.