Autism campaigner backs calls for significant improvement in diagnosis waiting times

Anna Kennedy

A leading autism campaigner has backed calls for significant improvement in diagnosis waiting times. Anna Kennedy OBE, founder of national autism charity AnnaKennedyonline, has spoken out after the National Autistic Society sent an open letter to Rishi Sunak highlighting the lengthy waiting times for an autism assessment.  Anna has campaigned for many years on autism diagnosis and the importance of early intervention. She said: “Promises are made however, we see little very little action. “I’m flooded with message across social media snd through the charity about wait times for an assessment for an autism diagnosis for their children. “Parents are complaining of waiting between two and five years for a diagnosis for their child, and it is very much a postcode lottery.” Recently Anna read an article that in central London families were waiting over a year for just for a referral diagnosis appointment, despite waiting time guidelines of three months. Anna says the government has yet to complete previous promises by a host of Health secretaries to officially record the waiting time figures. Anna says she was told that their were complex reasons for the delays, including increased demand for the assessment which had increased “significantly” in the last few years due to wider awareness about autism. More families may believe their children are on the spectrum due to charities like AnnaKennedyonline forging ahead to raise awareness and acceptance. Anna says the access to special needs services, which includes an educational psychologist’s report and a limited amount of free speech and language therapy on the NHS, appears to vary hugely depending on what part of the country the child lives in. Not all local authorities, health or education services provided equally strong support according to the parents she spoke to. Waiting a long time for a diagnosis means a window for early intervention could be missed. She added: “It has an impact on the child, it has an impact on the school, which doesn’t know what they are dealing with. It has an impact on the siblings, and obviously the family.” While some parents Anna has spoken to over the years campaigning did avoid seeking a “label”, others told Anna of being dismissed. In its letter to Mr Sunak, the National Autistic Society reveals an estimated 88,000 children are waiting to be assessed for a diagnois.  It says: “You have the opportunity to end the autism diagnosis crisis in your Spring Statement, by allocating the urgent funding that the NHS in England needs to both increase the number of assessments carried out and tackle the backlog. No one should have to wait years for a life-changing autism diagnosis.”

The world’s first International Baccalaureate autism school opens in Cambridge

The Cavendish School in Cambridge

The world’s first International Baccalaureate (IB) special autism school building has officially opened its doors, enabling The Cavendish School to accept an additional 50 students this term in Years 3 – 7.   The school, which started teaching in September 2021, was previously located in temporary accommodation at Girton Glebe Primary School with capacity for just 10 students. The new site means that more families, whose children’s needs cannot be catered for within current state provision in the county, will be able to access the specialist provision. Stephanie Smith, Deputy Headteacher, said: “It is tremendously exciting to finally move into our new school building, especially after watching the progress of the construction work during the past 12 months. The state of the art building reflects our vision of providing a safe, nurturing and inclusive space for our students to access their learning; enabling us to deliver specialist education for autistic students in the county, where they have not been able to thrive in a mainstream school.” Work on Cambridgeshire’s first state maintained special free school provision for young people with autism began in January 2021, and has been designed to provide optimal education environments for students with autism. Manufactured off-site in Northern Ireland by The McAvoy Group, the building is constructed from connected modules and offers sensory breakout rooms, a life skills room, a horticultural space and wider corridors to ensure that students do not feel claustrophobic when moving around the school site. Drawing on the success of the co-located mainstream schools, Impington Village College and Impington International College, the school will provide opportunities for the students, through shared use of support staff and bespoke extra-curricular activities. At full capacity, the school will provide specialist provision for up to 100 autistic students, in Year 3 – 13. This week, students and their families will familiarise themselves with their new building and meet their new teachers and support staff to ease the transition into their new academic environment. During their time at the school, students will pursue the IB programmes and accredited qualifications, alongside specific individual therapies or interventions, provided by dedicated onsite specialists in Occupational and Speech and Language Therapy. Each of the programmes allow teachers to personalise learning to the unique abilities of their students and the curriculum model allows for a wide range of activities including: Forest School, Lego-based therapy and life skills learning, to support the school’s mission of helping students develop into independent adults. Lucy Scott, CEO of Eastern Learning Alliance – a multi-academy trust of which The Cavendish School is a member of – said: “I am delighted that our concept of a school that breaks down the educational barriers that autistic students face has finally become a reality after years of planning, research and preparation. Through the knowledge and expertise of team, The Cavendish School will deliver an exemplary education provision for students with Educational Health Care Plans to help them flourish and thrive as healthy, happy individuals.”

‘Wobble stools’ and the positive impact of active learning for children with ADHD

A montage of pictures from School Supplier

With the success of the School Supplier wobble stool trial, why have they and standing desks had such a positive impact? Movement Breaks vs Active Learning We know some children with ADHD are more relaxed and more able to concentrate and retain information when they can move or fidget. It is difficult for many to sit still for long periods of time so naturally squirm in their seats or rock their chair on two legs, often displaying what we consider disruptive behaviour such as kicking desk legs or making noises. One solution employed by many is to introduce ‘ Movement Breaks’. Asking the pupil to leave the classroom to run an errand to partake in a pre-organised physical exercise. The issue with this of course is that the child is being asked to miss portions of the lessons and although may be beneficial to the rest of the class to reduce perceived disruption, we are failing the individual. Upon the child’s return, anxiety levels are instantly raised as they know they will now be asked to remain still again for a set duration, impacting upon behaviour, concentration, focus and memory. It is then common for ‘disruptive’ behaviour to return in a matter of minutes. Why Active Learning works: One of the principle influences on the way in which the brain of a child with ADHD works is something to do with what’s called dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is the pleasure based, reward-based neurochemical that helps significantly contribute to the ability to focus and concentrate. Children with ADHD have what’s called dopaminergic dysregulation. Dopamine is not being transmitted around the brain as effectively or successfully as neurotypical children and that impacts upon their ability to pay attention and focus, what we call attentional dis-regulation. Understanding this, we understand why a child with ADHD is feeling so much, because it stimulates the transmission of dopamine around the brain and helps them to focus and concentrate. It is of course not unique to children diagnosed with ADHD . There is a range of other conditions that would also benefit. Looking at children with dyspraxia, different ways of sitting at a desk or related to surfaces can work really well for them. The feedback has been amazing on our try before you buy scheme for the wobble stools such as below: “If you take the trial stool back, you have to take the child with you” “It’s really good it helps me focus” “We felt that they helped a couple of the children that we trialled them with to concentrate for longer while sitting at their table without needing movement breaks” We offer a trial for schools to ensure they are suitable as we know not every child is the same, so if you would like to take part, please visit , call 01704871901 or email

Dr Anna Kennedy selected as autism Ambassador of the Year by IAOTP

An award ceremony

The founder of a UK autism charity is celebrating being honoured by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP). Dr Anna Kennedy was recently selected as Top Autism Ambassador of the Year by the IAOTP. The award was for her outstanding leadership, dedication and contributions to autistic children, parents of autistic children, professionals, media and all who are concerned with autism. Dr Kennedy has more than 23 years of professional experience as an educator, mother and autism ambassador and campaigner after setting up a support group and later a charity in her name. After diagnoses of asperger’s syndrome for Anna’s eight-year-old son and Autism for her five-year-old son, Anna and her husband Sean started an autism support group. A stunning 275 families joined, sparking their idea to open a special school, a project they completed by remortgaging their home and raising a significant amount of funds.. Anna has now cofounded two schools and an adult vocational centre.   As the Chairperson and founder of Anna Kennedy Online Autism Charity, her team of volunteers actively incorporates workshops, training, legal advice, and  speaking engagements across UK. Additionally, they update social media and the AnnaKennedyOnline website to remain current. The President of IAOTP, Stephanie Cirami, commented:  “We are honored to have Dr Anna Kennedy a part of the IAOTP family. “She is brilliant at what she does, has tremendous foresight and her advocacy skills are unmatched. We know she is an  amazing asset to our network of professionals. We are looking forward to  meeting her at the Annual Awards Gala this year.”   Dr Kennedy is an active member of the autism community and serves as an ambassador for the Special Dreams Foundation, Includability and Born Anxious. She is a committee member of LOANI, Ladies of All Nations International Group, and a patron who supports DaisyChain, Square Peg Foundation, Kilmarock Horse Rescue, Autism Support Crawley,  Cheshire Autism Practical Support and Hillingdon SEND.  Throughout her illustrious career, Anna has received awards, accolades and was recognized worldwide for her commitment to raising autism awareness and helping those on the spectrum. Looking back, Dr Kennedy attributes her success to Patrick and Angelo, her two sons, who have been the driving force of her charity. She believes it is important amongst a growing community to make help, support and advice available to all. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her family and sharing her journey to inspire others. For the future, she will continue to fight hard for all diagnosed with autism, so their voices are heard and improve  educational and other resources for individuals, families and care takers who are touched by autism.   Dr Kennedy’s biography, ‘Not Stupid’, her story of the struggles she faced while setting up a school for her boys and how she improved the quality of life for her sons and other children with autism, is available on Amazon. For more information on Dr Anna Kennedy please visit:

Forest School and autism at Quorn Hall School

Forest school

Forest School is a type of outdoor education that takes place in natural spaces and encourages participants to develop personal, social, and practical skills. Quorn Hall, a provision for students with social, emotional and mental health difficulties as well as autistic profiles, boasts an impressive amount of space for their own beautiful on-site Forest School site.   Forest School became a phenomenon in the UK and was soon being offered to people of all ages and abilities. Amongst those who benefited from this way of learning were participants who struggle in a traditional classroom setting including pupils with autism. There is a growing body of evidence to prove a link between increased well-being, higher achievement, and access to nature. There are many individual stories illustrating the positive influence which Forest School has had on its autistic participants.   What can Forest School at Quorn Hall School offer children with autism?   When these approaches are brought together by an autism-aware practitioner, autistic children have an opportunity to thrive. As a result, Forest School at Quorn Hall offers:   1. A person-centered approach doesn’t only consider the differences or difficulties someone may have. Special interests are welcomed and encouraged in the woods and are a great way to engage people.   2. Quorn Hall’s Forest School staff recognise that autism brings with it various strengths. These are often selective and focused. Some participants may choose to engage purely on a visual basis by staring into a fire, for instance. As a result, they can be encouraged further by developing their fire starting skills, experimenting with a range of materials, they can be encouraged to learn about the fire triangle and how to sustain a fire. They can then go on and learn how to cook on an open fire.   3. The team at Quorn Hall encourages an interest in and a love for nature. Their Forest School develops participants’ skills, knowledge and understanding centered around nature. It also includes learning skills about survival and bushcraft. When this comes together with the passion and focus autism brings, great things can happen.   4. The UK has some incredible role models for young people with autism, who also share a love of nature. Sir David Attenborough, Bear Grylls and Ray Mears are just some of our best-known wildlife, bushcraft and survival experts. As well as presenting TV nature shows and being a best-selling author, Chris Packham is also a tireless campaigner for the environment and has been diagnosed with autism which he has written about and discussed on TV.   5. The benefits of being in an open and natural environment. This realisation helps the practitioner to better empathise with people who are experiencing differences in their sensory processing. Sensory rooms often seem to feature recordings of running water, wind or rainfall, and gently shifting light. All of this is often available in the woods, in the  breeze through the branches and the clouds slowly drifting by above the trees. Forest  School works in partnership with the participant and their supporters to meet their sensory needs. There is a rich sensory environment that can be explored in Quorn Hall or, if there is a need to reduce stimuli, quiet spaces can be created in sitting spots, dens, tents or hammocks.   6. Building up confidence, resilience and self-esteem are central to the Forest School approach at Quorn Hall. Recognising individual achievement is hugely important. For some participants, this may be through repeating the same exercise over and over again, or adjusting it slightly. It could mean that an individual tries a different type of food  that has been cooked on the fire that they wouldn’t normally try, or they show an improved ability to interact with others patiently.   7. Social interaction can happen at the participant’s own pace. This approach allows space for people who are becoming overloaded, and people can join in with a group activity or seek their own solitary activities. Participants may lack confidence to begin with or simply feel content just sitting and watching before deciding to take part after gaining  confidence to join in on their own terms.   8. The Forest School ethos maintains that everyone is a learner. Teachers, support staff, and Forest School practitioners are encouraged to reflect and learn alongside the  children they teach. This is a great motivator for autism learners. This process encourages the adults involved in their support to learn about the autism child and to appreciate their individuality, gifts, sensory needs, and communication needs. The relationships built at Forest School, together with the observations made, can be carried over into the rest of the child’s education and help them to reach their full potential. To learn more visit

A school for children with autism – is there a finer place to work?

Children at Gretton School

Gretton School warmly welcomes autistic children and young people aged from 5-19 years old, as weekly boarders or as day students.   Every student at Gretton has a diagnosis of autism or aspergers syndrome and every student is unique.   By Headteacher – Mrs Elkins   A student asked me this morning “Do you hate autism, Miss?” This is one of her favourite questions to ask me. I gave her a sideways glance and said “Do you think I’d be working here if I did? I happen to think I’m very lucky to work at Gretton!”   This got me thinking about what autism must feel like to live with. I know that many of our students feel anathema towards their own autism; they feel ‘different’, certainly anxious a lot of the time… misunderstood. But the truth is, when I started working here with these unique souls, it felt like arriving at my happy place.   At Gretton, there is one of the most creative, hilarious and learner-centred teams I’ve ever worked with – all with the collective aim of allowing the young people that come here to become the best version of themselves. And we know, from parental feedback, that the staff that work with these amazing young people are such an important part of their school experience. One parent said: “I know it’s what you guys do, but we honestly can’t thank you enough for being patient, kind, accommodating and understanding.”   We also know that professionals notice the change in learners’ prospects.  One has commented: “The schools that he attended before coming to Gretton just concentrated on how badly behaved he was and did not look at how intelligent he was. What you have done is amazing… you have completely changed his outcome.”   So when I think about why I feel so fortunate to work at Gretton (and yes, of course I’m biased), the following are just a few of the reasons: ● The way our teachers teach – with calm humour and an endless toolkit of teaching strategies   ● The way our Teaching Assistants and Residential Support Workers support the learners – with patience, kindness and an investment in learners’ interests   ● The way the Senior Leadership Team shapes the school – with a commitment to the development of strong relationships and reflective practice across the school   ● The wraparound support from the Behaviour and Welfare, Multidisciplinary,  Admin and Admissions Teams – always looking to improve the provision for students and make Gretton a welcoming and happy place to be   ● But above all… the students!   Gretton School – Where Autism makes sense For further information on how to apply for a placement for your child, contact  Gretton School Admissions today on 01223 277438 or visit their website for further information

Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic Pupils


The Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic Pupils (CReSTeD) is a charity founded in 1989 to help parents and those who advise them, choose an educational establishment to support a student with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD). These include Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, ADD, ADHD as well as Pragmatic and Semantic Language Difficulties. The CReSTeD Council includes representatives from the BDA, Dyslexia Action, Dyslexia-SpLD Trust, the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre, educational psychologists and schools. CReSTeD maintain a Register of schools and teaching centres, accredited for their provision for students with SpLD. These establishments are visited by a Consultant, selected for their experience in the field of SpLD, to ensure that the criterions set by CReSTeD are met. All schools and centres are revisited every three years or earlier in certain circumstances. If successful, they are placed into one of six categories according to their type of provision: The MS category includes schools approved by the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) as Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark Schools.  These schools have demonstrated a high commitment to dyslexic learners and undergone rigorous scrutiny in order to achieve the Quality Mark award, an honour that they hold for 3 years before being re-verified by the BDA. They are identified on the CReSTeD Register with the BDA Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark logo.  The CReSTeD Register is available to view via the website  It’s a valuable resource for parents, educational advisers and schools. Further information For more information about CReSTeD email:   Website:

Cardiff City Hall to host Wales’s biggest Mental Health Conference in 2022 with Frank Bruno MBE

Mental Health and Wellbeing show 2022

The Headspace magazine are pleased to be working with the Mental Health and Wellbeing Show 2022 in Cardiff! Organised by Ajuda Event Management, Cardiff City Hall is due to host one of the biggest Mental Health and Wellbeing events in the UK on 10th May 2022 to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, with Frank Bruno MBE in attendance as keynote speaker! The all-day event will welcome over 1,000 guests to the Welsh capital to raise awareness and develop knowledge on a wide range of topics including workplace mental health, suicide prevention, eating disorder awareness, men’s mental health, bereavement, diversity & inclusion, youth mental health, mindset, substance misuse, and much more. Included in the day is over 35 live seminars, 70 exhibitors in our exhibition and lots of networking opportunities. Organisations joining on the day include Samaritans, NSPCC, BEAT, Action for Children, 2 Wish Upon a Star, and National Centre for Mental Health among many more. The event is supported and sponsored by Ajuda Training and Precision Biotics. Frank Bruno MBE will be presenting a keynote talk on his inspiring story of resilience and strength after facing years of ongoing mental health issues. His battle with mental health led him to form the Frank Bruno Foundation to help other people who are suffering. Tickets for Frank’s talk begin at £25 per person, with the option to upgrade to a dining experience with Frank. Other speakers include founder of 2WishUponAStar Charity and recent Pride of Britain recipient Rhian Mannings MBE, former professional footballer Neville Southall MBE, Paralympic athlete Andy Lewis MBE, Member of the Senedd Jack Sargeant and a host of special guests will be speaking on mental health and wellbeing for this monumental event. Event director Dawn Evans says: “Following such a difficult few years for all, I could see there was a clear need for a bigger and more extensive event around mental health and wellbeing in the UK. The team at Ajuda always strive to provide our customers with the training and events that really matter to them, so we decided to create an event to accommodate the rising need for mental health and wellbeing training.” Tickets for the event are already available to book, with entry to the exhibition free and seminar tickets at just £5 per person. Tickets can be ordered on Eventbrite or by contacting the Ajuda Events team on 02922 400382 or    

Sharing Best Practice and Evidence-Based Therapy for Autistic Individuals

Sundail Theray for austistic individuals

Sundial Therapy Conference 2022 : The first annual therapy conference in the Northwest is going to be held on 1st April 2022 at Haydock Park Racecourse.  This is a perfect opportunity for all those with a common interest in special educational needs to keep abreast of current research and available support strategies. By coming together at the Conference there is an opportunity to learn about therapy practices, meet fellow professionals, autistic individuals, and their families.  There are a wide range of therapies available to meet individual needs and targets, including meeting provision requirements for Educational Health Care Plans. Therefore, attending the Conference can help widen knowledge of what, where, when and how therapy offers may assist people from 0 – 25 years, either directly or indirectly via training/adopting specific approaches. The value of therapy is monitored using outcome measures and it is important to show how people may benefit from timely intervention.  More importantly, Sundial Therapy stress the importance of gaining the views and opinions of autistic individuals regarding their needs.  Perhaps you are a young autistic adult, parent/carer, SEN Officer, SENDCO, Care worker, Learning Disability Nurse, OT,  SaLT, Psychologist, SEND educator; anyone who believes in the importance in aiming to Develop Independent Autistic Lives. Listen to the Latest Thinking from our keynote speakers talking about sensory integration, speech & language therapy and clinical psychology.  Our speakers will enlighten you and focus on sharing information from their field of expertise, including; Communication and interactions with particular interest in support for those with the greatest communication challenges Thinking around Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for People with Intellectual Disabilities with a focus on how to adapt psychological assessment and treatment methods to the needs of clients with intellectual disabilities Coaching Parents of Children with Sensory Integration Difficulties We will be sharing a recorded interview with Dr Temple Grandin, an American scientist and animal behaviourist, being one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to document the insights she gained from her personal experience of autism. In addition, there will be a range of workshops on offer, including Makaton signing, equine assisted occupational therapy and communication aids. You will also get the chance to meet some of our inspiring students who will be involved in the organisation in the lead up to the conference as part of their accredited learning, as well as supporting on the day of the conference.  The conference will be held in this unique setting, in the luxurious premier suite, which has fantastic views across 127 acres of beautiful parkland.  If you are interested in attending our face-to-face conference, join us on 1st April 2022 for an exploration of current thinking about therapy practices and methods in autism.   Sundial are a specialised  therapy, assessment and intervention centre based at Wargrave House School & College for children and young adults from all over the northwest region. Email for further details and we look forward to seeing you at Haydock Park.