11 July 2008

The Queen's Birthday Honours (Part 2)

Ever since browsing the Queen's Birthday Honours recipients after seeing that Mr Tumble (Justin Fletcher) was given an award I've been meaning to post about the awarding of an OBE to Virginia Bovell. I like most others who have been involved in ABA will have heard of / met / been supported by Virginia - she is a truly inspirational woman and this award is very well deserved.

Virginia Bovell, is one of the Advisers and a member TreeHouse school’s governing body, and she has received an OBE for “voluntary services to autistic children”. TreeHouse is the national charity for autism education.

She said: “The OBE is a real honour but I feel that anything I’ve done is because of team work with a brilliant group of colleagues – not just TreeHouse and the National Autistic Society but hundreds of parents, some very dedicated MPs and professionals, and of course the inspiration offered by the children themselves. I see the OBE as recognition of the importance of children with autism, an incredibly marginalized group.”

Virginia’s work as an autism activist began when Danny, her son who is now 15, was diagnosed with autism just before his third birthday. Having been told that early educational intervention was the best way Danny could unlock his potential, Virginia found that there were no such services on offer. Together with three other parents in similar situations, TreeHouse was founded. Over the past ten years it has grown from a special school for four founding pupils in a room in the Royal Free Hospital, into the national charity for autism education. TreeHouse’s school in North London now has 62 children and the charity actively campaigns for better services and provides training and consultancy in the field of autism on a national scale.

But the story does not end there. Virginia has been involved full-time in the autism movement, helping parents to campaign across the UK; writing and speaking about autism; and also being involved in a range of academic and Government autism initiatives.

Virginia went on to say: “In the past 10 years the recognised prevalence of autism has risen to 1%, so autism will touch most people directly or indirectly – every school, every street, is likely to have a child with autism. Awareness has improved but there is still so much to be done. Nearly a third of children with autism are excluded from school at some point in their youth, largely because autism is still very much a misunderstood condition and most teachers are still not getting anything like the necessary training. My hope is that one day everyone with autism, children and adults, will access the support they need without having to fight for it, as valued and fulfilled participants in society.”

Congratulations Virginia

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