I am the mother of two young men, Patrick and Angelo, who are both affected by autism. In 1997, in response to the growing need for support for parents of children with autism I co-founded the registered charity Hillingdon Care and Support (HACS). Two years later in 1999 having been turned away by no fewer than 26 special needs schools when searching for appropriate educational facilities for my sons we transformed a derelict council building in Middlesex, West London into Hillingdon Manor School. The school, which is now a centre of excellence, has earned considerable recognition for its outstanding work, and caught the imagination of Esther Rantzen who is now its patron.
In 2008 I co-authored the best selling biography “Not Stupid” which poignantly portrays my struggle to find appropriate provision for my sons – 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.
My story appeared as an hour long BBC ’pick of the day’ Video Diary documentary and my 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.
I am regularly invited to speak at conferences on living and working with Autism and I have also taken part in numerous TV talk shows and news programmes.
In 2009 I won ‘Woman of the Year’ an award run in conjunction with the Observer and Smooth Radio and I have recently been awarded The Chairmans Award for last year’s prestigious ‘Director of the Year’ award.
I’ve also received the Daily Mail’s Most Inspirational Woman Award through which I met Samantha Cameron in 10 Downing Street to discuss my work. I am currently involved in many campaigns with Act Now, Anti Bullying Campaign and Strength in Numbers.