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Autism diagnosis hits parents ‘like grieving process’

11:07 12 January 2011

Sarah Jefferies, centre at Baston House School with principal Steve Vincent and Josephine Hodder, who runs the parent support group at Blenheim Children

Sarah Jefferies, centre at Baston House School with principal Steve Vincent and Josephine Hodder, who runs the parent support group at Blenheim Children's Centre

Archant

A mother who was left confused by the help available after her autistic son’s diagnosis has set up a support group for parents.

Sarah Jefferies, 31, from Chislehurst, is trying to raise awareness of the group, Parents are Special Too, as the first independent school in the borough dedicated to children on the autistic spectrum is launched.

Baston House School, in Baston Road, Hayes, set up by super-mum Anna Kennedy, opened its doors to its first six pupils last Tuesday after finally gaining Ofsted certification before Christmas.

Mum-of-three Mrs Jefferies coordinates some 16 groups run by parents and carers of youngsters with any additional needs at centres across the borough. But she says not enough families affected by autism are aware of the support available. “It is like a grieving process when you finally have a child diagnosed,” she said. “At first, it can be difficult to accept. There are a lot of parents out there who struggle to deal with it, and we want to say that there is support out there for them.”

Recently, Mrs Jefferies has been inspired even further by the founder of Baston House, Ms Kennedy, who won the Daily Mail Woman of the Year award on December 23, and was rewarded with tea in Downing Street with Samantha Cameron.

Mrs Jefferies said: “Anna has done so much for children with autism. She has been an inspiration. Knowing her has made me want to work even harder.”

Mrs Jefferies’ five-year-old son was diagnosed with high-functioning autism two years ago. She set up her first parents group in June last year, with the backing of Bromley council. At the same time she managed to complete a sponsored trek in Snowdon for the National Autistic Society and is in training for the Great London Swim in July.

If you would like to find out more about one of the groups coordinated by Mrs Jefferies, contact 020 8464 0276. For more information on services in Bromley for children and young people with disabilities or additional needs, visit www.bromleyparentvoice.org.uk.

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