For the last four years OutNewsGlobal magazine has supported and covered “Autism’s Got Talent”, held at London’s beautiful Mermaid Theatre annually.
The show is devised and put on by the charity, Anna Kennedy Online. In person, Anna Kennedy is a formidable force, not just for the Autistic community but she fights for LGBTQ+ rights too. Many of her performers come from the LGBTQ+ community. Anna’s team of volunteers are not only diverse, they are keen for everyone to be who they want to be.
Much as OutNewsGlobal has interviewed many of the acts and celebrities endorsing the charity event over the years, we have never sat down and chatted to the lady herself. Anna talks to our chief correspondent Steven Smith on the lead up to her AKO expo at Brunel University, on June 17th 2023.
1) Why did you start Anna Kennedy Online?
I started AKO because so many parents, writing to me 10 years down the line after my sons were diagnosed with autism, were going through the same issues my family had. I didn’t want parents to feel alone and struggle the same way we did, trying to navigate the many hurdles of the Special Educational Needs System. Plus, simple tasks that many families and individuals take for granted can be more problematic for those living on the spectrum, so having someone listen to you or advise you can be a game changer.
2) OutNewsGlobal has covered “Autism’s Got Talent” for the last four years. How do you select the acts and what do we have in store this year?
The closing date for “Autism’s Got Talent” is very soon and once again we have been inundated with entries, even from Indonesia this year!
We look for performers where their primary diagnosis is autism from as young as 5 to no upper age limit. We choose 20 performers with varied talent, and it is sooo difficult to choose the final 20. We cannot wait to go through all the entries later in June.
Watch this space…
3) Do you think there is a correlation between the autistic and LGBTQ+ community?
Yes, I would say our biggest supporters of the show are from the LGBTQ+ community.
I think empathy binds the two.
4) You seem to be very popular amongst the gay community; have you always been an ally?
I think it could be because I am of the opinion that we are all born Free and Equal. I treat every individual in the way I would hope to be treated. I am always open to learn in this ever-changing world. We have had many amazing autistic and LGBTQQ performers, presenters, and guest presenters.
5) If someone feels they are autistic or might be on the spectrum, how do they find out?
If you feel you or a loved one may be autistic, talk to someone for advice. You could speak to your GP, health visitor (for children under 5) or any other health professional. There are lots of useful websites and resources online.
6) What information is there for people living with autism out there?
Information for autistic individuals, whether children or adults, is improving all the time. There is better awareness raising which is great, however the autism community wants acceptance, hence why we celebrate World Autism Acceptance Day on April 2.
7) What gay icons have been an influence on you?
I suppose a music gay icon is Madonna. I love how she is constantly reinventing herself. I also admire how she has made something of herself, coming from a poor background. I love people who never give in and make their mark on the world.
8) What does Anna do for fun?
I love to dance when I get the opportunity. You may have seen me dance in my office on social media. It’s a great stress buster and keeps me feeling young.
9) What would you say to people who think all autistic people have a special talent like in “Rain Man”?
I find this frustrating when you meet someone, and they ask what your son’s special talent is. There is a saying, “When you have met one autistic person, you have met one autistic person”. They are all so different from each other like you and I. Do not presume, learn about that person.
10) Your son Patrick just got his first tattoo. What’s your verdict? Is it more difficult for someone having a procedure like that when they live with autism?
It has taken quite a long time for Patrick to decide about a tattoo. It was always going to be a T-Rex, however he was worried about many aspects of the procedure. I think it looks really good! I didn’t expect it to be so big. He is happy with it and proud of himself for sitting for 3 hours. If he is happy that’s what matters.
STEVENS QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS TO ANNA:
Madonna or Adele?
Mexican or Japanese food?
Dancing or Shopping?
The one thing you would change if you were mayor of London?
Make London an autism friendly city.
Your wish If I was a fairy?
Never to grow too old so I can still be active for my sons, and dance of course LOL!