New Year Honours for services to special educational needs

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A mother of two autistic sons who became a prominent campaigner for better information and services is among several recipients in the 2018 New Year Honours List to be recognised for services to special educational needs (SEN).

Deborah Brownson’s son Jake was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was 18 months old and the difficulties she and her family experienced led her to write He’s Not Naughty! A Children’s Guide to Autism — a non-technical guide that explains ‘why children with autism behave the way they do’. She now runs a successful consultancy and acted as an advisor on the BBC series The A Word. She was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Brownson told the BBC the honour had come ‘completely out of the blue’.

I am not sure why I was singled out. I am proud to be part of a community of parents up and down the country doing something to make the world better for their children.

A total of 130 people were recognised for their services to education in the 2018 list.

Among others recognised specifically for services to SEN were Naomi Marek, Chief Executive of Sky Badger, who becomes an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Marek took to Facebook to say how stunned and honoured she was at receiving the award. Sky Badger was created by her and three other mums in October 2011. Between their 11 children, three are disabled and two have life-limiting conditions. The website aims to give families in similar situations information relevant to them. It has provided online support to over 695,000 families who have children with disabilities or special educational needs.

She told Sky Badger’s followers:

Sky Badger was born out of the toughest time of my life, tough times that I know we’re all going through every day.

When Max [her son]got ill I thought it was the end of the world. Now I know that it was just the beginning of a new world. My boys have been the making of me and I wanted you all to know that. I keep thinking of all the mums and dads that I’ve met through Sky Badger over the last few years. Those times do make us stronger and Max is Max and I wouldn’t wish him to be anything else than the kind, funny and beautiful boy that he is. He’s my hero.

It’s been a fabulous adventure and all the better for having you all be part of our Sky Badger journey. Thank you and a Happy New Year.

Among others to become MBEs were Paul Berman, Chair of Trustees, Wargrave House School; Joanna Brotherstone, Governor, Greenmead School, Wandsworth, London and Co-founder of the charity Small Steps; Christopher Brown, Governor, Tom Finney Community High School, Preston; and Sarah Butcher, Director of Care, Priors Court School, Berkshire.

Rebecca Foster, Course Leader for PE and Senior Lecturer in Adapted PE at the University of Worcester, was also made an MBE for services to inclusive sport and young people, and Jennifer Meakin for services to children with disabilities, particularly through sport.

British Empire Medals were awarded to Mary-Joy Langdon for services to disabled and disadvantaged children, and to Ellen Whiles, for services to children with special dietary needs.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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