anna kennedy kate winslet
AN AUTISM campaigner has received an OBE from Her Majesty the Queen, and rubbed shoulders with Hollywood royalty at Buckingham Palace.
Anna Kennedy, who set up Hillingdon Manor School, in Harlington Road, in 1999, after struggling to find suitable education for her two autistic sons, was honoured by the Queen on Wednesday last week for services to special needs education.
Speaking about her ‘surreal day’, she told the Gazette: “The Queen asked me about my campaigning and I told her about my boys. She asked whether I actually started the school, and when I said ‘yes’, she just said ‘Oh, how wonderful’.
“My mother and mother-in-law came too, and they were overwhelmed by the occasion.
“I accepted it on behalf of all the families of children with autism. I have had so many messages on Facebook and Twitter, and hopefully it will open a few doors that were closed before, and help me to raise more awareness.”
Also at the palace that day was Oscar-winning actor Kate Winslet, who received a CBE for services to drama. She also raises awareness about autism through her charity, the Golden Hat Foundation.
Mrs Kennedy said: “She said ‘congratulations’ to me, and then said she had been looking for me and wanted to have lunch one day, to talk about autism. She said she would come to me, so we will probably meet up in the new year.”
As well as her work improving educational resources for autistic children, Mrs Kennedy launched Anna Kennedy Online, a charity dedicated to disability equality. She has also written a book, Not Stupid, about her struggle to find her children a place at an appropriate school.
■ Hillingdon Manor School is to publish its own book on Friday, My Teacher Looks Like a Bowling Ball, drawn from pupils’ experiences. See next week’s Gazette for more.