Founders & Executive Directors:
Hi, I’m Debs
I am so excited to be part of this and looking forward to what the future can bring if we are working together.
I am mum to three children (a 13 year old and 12 year old twins) with a wide ranging list of additional needs and disabilities. On paper it looks hard work but in reality, we are a family like any other – we do things in a way that suits us and we have fun. However, I do understand what sleep deprivation, tick box exercises and frustration at the lack of common sense used in the system can do to a family.
In my spare time, I love reading, doing my Family Tree, heading to the beach or our caravan, playing Animal Crossing with my daughter, listening to music with my youngest son or playing Lego Marvel Superheroes with my eldest son (I do actually like car racing games but he says I am not very good so refuses to play with me) and I adore stationery! None of this would be possible without my husband who should write a book on How to be a supportive husband.
Hi, I’m Katie.
It is really great to be part of this exciting venture, to be working with Debs and to bring us all closer together.
I am the very proud mother of 6 children aged between 15 and 23years old. All my kids are my teachers and my friends especially my disabled daughter who is 21yrs. She has opened my eyes to the world of disability in an extremely positive way. Thanks to her I have been fortunate to have met some truly amazing parents across the country. I know only too well that we are all on a long journey and having a supportive network is vital to our resilience.
I set up the Calderdale Parent Council as the second parent forum in the country over 12 years ago. This spearheaded parent participation around the country and there are now over 150 forums running and overseen by Contact a Family and Department of Education. In 1998 I co-founded 1Voice–Communicating Together which brings families together who have children who use alternative communication. I’m a freelance trainer specialising in supporting parent forums to build on their skills and capacity to engage with local services. My real love is training parents around resilience, positive thinking, dreams and goals and running parent workshops. One of the things that has hit me most when meeting families is that what many of them want more than anything is to be a family and do fun things together which was the reason for seting up a social enterprise called Visits Unlimited. We work with the tourist industry to ensure that families with disabled children have memorable days out.
I have a real passion about health and social care and am the vice chair on the Calderdale Healthwatch Board.
I love to walk, have days out, go to concerts and gigs, and be with my kids watching a DVD after a takeaway!
Hi I’m Isabelle
I’ve joined Debs, Katie and Pippa because I passionately believe that families of loved ones with autism, learning difficulties – like mine – are ‘Stronger Together’. I hope the experience and knowledge I’ve acquired over the years will help support Bringing Us Together’s aims to inform, involve and inspire other ‘extra-ordinary’ parents.
My pre-children years were spent in Editorial, first in books and then in journals. Then, when my son was diagnosed at a young age, volunteering in my local school became a career as a special educational needs practitioner. I became the Lead Practitioner for Autism across a Federation of mainstream primary schools, running its Autism Support Team. I was Secretary at my local NAS branch for many years and ran several local parent support groups.
I know first-hand how hard it can be for people with autism and their families when their differences and needs are not fully understood, adjusted and provided for. When my son hit crisis point and was admitted to an acute treatment unit as an inpatient, I mounted a campaign for him to receive appropriate treatment and care in the community. Now, I am campaigning and working collaboratively with ‘Stronger Together’ families, NHS England, charities and other partner organisations to ensure that ‘Homes not Hospitals’ become a reality for all people with autism, learning difficulties or both.
I believe that families know their loved ones best and are their strongest advocates. I believe that behaviour is a communication and the key to helping is understanding. I believe in ‘homes not hospitals’. And I believe in music, reading and dogs!
Non Executive Director
Before I was lucky enough to have my two children I had the bizarre idea that they would be ‘mine’, and that I was there to help them make their way through live. Ha ha! I learnt early on in my life as a parent that it was the other way round! I belong to them in ways they can never belong to me, and they have more to teach me than I can ever teach them. And now I have two beautiful granddaughters who I also belong to.
Both my daughter and son mean the world to me. They changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. Unfortunately my son died at the age of 15 as the result of his impairments. That was 15 years ago now, but I still feel his strong compassionate presence in my life.
It was the lessons my son taught me that motivate me to work with disabled children, young people and their families. I think it is so unfair that our beautiful children are not valued exactly as they are. They have so much to give, so much to teach. And I think it is so wrong that parents are treated with such disrespect and that our experience is so often disregarded. We have so much to teach with regards to how things should be.
I do lots of different things these days – run ibk initiatives; training; facilitation; consultancy etc. But the thing that links them all together is my passion for raising and promoting the voice of disabled children, young people and their parents.