Not Stupid by P-IndependentPublis


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									Not Stupid
Author: Anna Kennedy
Table of Contents

Foreword by Esther Rantzen ix

Introduction by Ivan Sage xiii

ONE: Shattered Dreams 1

TWO: What is Autism? 31

THREE: Trials and Tribulations 45

FOUR: Battling Bureaucracy 63

FIVE: A Leap in the Dark 83

SIX: Hard Work, Policies and Procedures 103

SEVEN: A Dream is Realised 129

EIGHT: Branching Out 145

NINE: Moving Forward 167

TEN: Unity is Strength 187

ELEVEN: Trouble and Strife 199

TWELVE: Patrick 209

THIRTEEN: Angelo 231

FOURTEEN: A Busy Schedule 249

FIFTEEN: Sean 259

And Finally… 273

Acknowledgements 285

Useful Contacts 299

When Anna and Sean Kennedy discovered that one of their sons had Asperger’s syndrome and that their
other son was autistic, they were truly devastated—but their family’s troubles were just the beginning.
Turned away by no fewer that 26 special needs schools when searching for appropriate educational
facilities for their boys, Anna and Sean were down—but not out. Anna was determined to prove that for
children like her sons, the challenges of growing up with autism—to demonstrate to the world that they
were simply Not Stupid—did not have to end in defeat. Through sheer guts and determination, they turned
their situation into a victory by establishing a center of excellence for the care and support of those with
autism. The school quickly became over-subscribed—proof that educational provision in this field is
inadequate, and proof also that it is still possible to transform a vision into reality through simply not
giving up. Anna’s story, and that of her ever-improving sons, is a beacon of inspiration for parents of
special needs children all over the country. Not Stupid offers readers a rollercoaster of emotions—from
the depths of frustration and despair to the dizzy heights of joy—but most of all, it offers a real sense of
hope for those whose lives are affected by autism.

Looking at the psychotherapist’s report, I felt a rush of
blood from my feet going straight to my head. ‘It says here
my son’s got Asperger Syndrome.’

‘That’s right, Mrs Kennedy.’

‘Well, this report says it was diagnosed three years ago – this
is the first time we’ve heard anything about it!’ I was
incredulous. How could this total lack of communication over
such a vital diagnosis possibly have happened?

Ever since his traumatic birth, our son Patrick had endured
poor health, and his experience of life in his nursery school and,
later, in a mainstream school had resulted in copious tears and
frantic tantrums since day one. Now at last we knew why.

‘Why didn’t anyone tell us this before?’ I demanded.

‘We just assumed you knew.’

My husband Sean and I were attending an annual review at
Patrick’s school in 1997, in Hillingdon, northwest London, to
discuss his progress – or, should I say, his significant lack of it. The head teacher, Patrick’s teachers
and the educational
psychologist present at the meeting didn’t know what to say to
us when they realised no one had had the foresight to inform us
of Patrick’s condition.

To be honest, the rest of the meeting was just a blur and I was
unable to concentrate on anything being discussed because I
was selfishly thinking, Christ, both my boys have autism! This
is terrible. What have I done wrong?

When we arrived home from the school it soon became
obvious that Sean was reluctant to talk about Patrick’s
condition at all. Instead he preferred to discuss ways to get back
litigiously at the doctor for failing to inform us when Patrick
had been originally diagnosed.

All this was in the wake of learning, shortly earlier, that our
younger son, Angelo, had autism. At the time we had known
nothing of the condition. If I remember correctly, my first
instinct was to wonder how long Angelo would live and I had
immersed myself in a quest to find out as much as possible
about the condition, with varying degrees of success, ever since.
At least the literature I had recently read had given me some
idea of what Asperger Syndrome was.

Nevertheless, the news that Patrick had it made me realise that
my dreams of one day having children of my own and a carefree
life were turning out to be a far cry from what I had hoped.
Because my own childhood had been so regimented, I had been
looking forward to a more relaxed way of life when, eventually, I
would settle down and have a family of my own. I’d had dreams
of days on the beach with my kids building sandcastles and having
fun. Now all those aspirations seemed like a distant memory.

I decided to speak to the consultant paediatrician at
Hillingdon Hospital to find out why we had not been informed
of Patrick’s diagnosis three years earlier. The paediatrician
insisted he had, indeed, informed us of his diagnosis at the time.
‘I think we would have remembered something like that if you
had,’ I replied angrily.

My only recollection of that particular meeting in 1994 was
that the paediatrician had said, ‘Your son has got very difficult
behaviour’ – and that he had recommended we send him away
to a residential school, but there was no way Sean and I would
even have considered that, particularly as Patrick was only 4
years old at the time.

Sean and I now found ourselves setting...

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