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Meet the Team

Learn all about the awesome team behind the AMNJ family

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Penny Chapman PPG Cert - Chairperson and Co-Founder of the AMNJ Charity

Hello - I'm Penny, a full time mum of 2 & full-time parent carer to my daughter Lily-Mae.

I started the AMNJ Facebook group in August 2022, following a really difficult time when my daughters challenges were misunderstood by some professionals and the complete lack of support, I faced on island. 

My daughter is now 18 and we have the challenge of negotiating adult services!! Lily is a "multiple neurodivergent" as she has several co-occurring types of neurodivergence including being autism with a PDA Profile, ADHD, ARFID, OCD & several more.

I created AMNJ to share information about all types of neurodivergence especially those that are not well known to help educate parents, individuals and professionals.

Through the group I met Niamh, who was equally passionate about inclusion & the importance of the neurodivergent voice being heard so in true impulsive ADHD fashion, one day over Christmas we decided to set up a charity. Fast forward 6 weeks and on the 3rd February 2023 we became a charity registered by the Jersey Charity Commission.

We now have 1,122 members in our Facebook Group, a committee of 9 dedicated volunteers, additional hardworking Facebook admin & 2 charity experts.

The Facebook group is made up of parents, neurodivergent individuals, professionals, Ministers etc. I believe in total transparency & removing that imbalance of power working together as equals to support & empower each other.

I am qualified as a Neurodiversity & Inclusion Trainer receiving a distinction for the Level 3 N&I Train the Trainer Certificate with the Positive Psychology Guild.

I have also completed the Trauma Recovery Model Practitioner training with the TRM Academy.

I am incredibly proud of the AMNJ family & the support shown by all members helping each other so nobody has to struggle alone & not be heard.

In addition, to the charity I have been a member of the States of Jersey Complaints Board since September 2020 and enjoy walking my 2 dogs.

 

Niamh McDermott - Deputy Chairperson and Co-Founder of the AMNJ Charity

Hi, I am Niamh, I am one of the Co-Founders of the Charity. I met Penny through her Facebook Group and was so impressed with her passion, knowledge and drive to make meaningful change for the neurodivergent community on the island. It seemed like the ideal opportunity to start up a charity that would make a real difference and in true ND style that is exactly what we did. 

 

I am a full-time single parent of two neurodivergent children, and I was diagnosed with ADHD at 40. The journey my children had, has not been easy and this was exacerbated by the lack of understanding and knowledge from the services that were working with them. This made life more difficult than it needed to be and one of the reasons for starting the charity. I do not want other families to go through this, and I will work tirelessly to improve services.

 

My background is in Finance where I worked in Private Equity for over 10 years, and qualified as a Chartered Accountant Technician. I decided to go back to University in my late 30's and I studied an FdSc in Psychology and Criminology and then an Honours Degree in Social Science. I am due to qualify as a Neurodiversity and Inclusion Trainer in September. Like a lot of ADHD people my brain needs a challenge and before I am even finished with this qualification, I am wondering what I should study next ……….

 

I am also a member of The Independent Prison Monitoring Board. We make regular monitoring visits to the prison to check on the welfare of the prisoners and the condition of the Prison. We meet with prisoners who have completed an application to see us and try to help resolve any concerns they may have. It is a really great team of people on the Board. I have recently joined The Inclusion Education Board. This was formed on the back of the NASEN review into Inclusive Education on the Island. The review made over 50 recommendations and the board is tasked with overseeing these events.

 

I am really proud of the work we have achieved so far with the charity. I love the fact that we have a wonderful committee made up of Neurodivergent people. Everyone brings a unique perspective to the Charity and a lifetime of lived experience. I feel the best way to make the Island a truly inclusive place is to start to listen to the voices of those that are actually neurodivergent.

 

I would like Jersey to become a leading Centre for Neurodiversity, a place that other jurisdictions look to for an example of best practice. My dream is to have an AMNJ Centre that offers the services that neurodivergent individuals and their families need, all in one place.

Melanie Paine - Lead Counsellor ND Counselling

I have worked in a school environment since 2008 and have gained huge personal satisfaction and pride in directly supporting children and their families.

I am extremely passionate about mental health and acknowledge the potential benefits of addressing issues in childhood, rather than allowing them to perpetuate into adolescence and adulthood.

I am a qualified counsellor, having studied the CPCAB Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling, and I am a member of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists.

My work offers me an opportunity to work with young people and gain a broader perspective and understanding of the issues they experience. A large amount of my counselling work is with common mental health problems; stress, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation.

 

I have a thirst for knowledge and thoroughly enjoy researching emerging mental health strategies. My most recent research has been into PDA and the impact of neuro-divergence on mental health.

Ruth Ansell - Treasurer

I'm Ruth, originally from East London. My husband and 3 children aged 13, 16 and 18 are neurodivergent. 

I am an avid reader and Minecrafter, have Functional Neurological Disorder which affects my mobility and as a family we regularly visit the cinema.

I recently completed the Institute of Accounting and Bookkeeping level 3 and work as an Administration Officer for Jersey Employment Trust so after finding lots of support from the AMND Facebook group decided to contact Penny after seeing the post asking for a Treasurer.

Katherine Burke - Committee Member

I was born and grew up in Jersey, leaving at the age of 17 to study in the UK and pursue a career in classical music. I returned some 12 years later with some wonderful years of study, and a collection of opportunities and experiences as a freelance musician that I will never forget. Amidst that I qualified as a secondary school teacher and on return to the island I became the Head of Music at a local school. I continued to teach instrumental music whilst my children were young and have recently returned to classroom teaching. My first child was born in 2010 and we very soon realised that she was somewhat unique! After many failed conversations and questioning my own mind we finally found a head teacher who listened to us and our daughter received diagnosis of Autism, ADHD, dyspraxia and sensory processing differences. My son, born in 2015, has also received a diagnosis of ADHD and is awaiting an Autism assessment. He suffers daily with the effects of RSD (rejection sensitivity dysphoria). My husband is awaiting an assessment for ADHD. Through that initial journey of reading and discovery with my daughter I soon realised that much of my life experience - of feeling ‘different’, struggling with and not understanding social interactions, sensory sensitivities and the need of routine - was explainable by having an autism profile. I was diagnosed as autistic at the age of 45 and am now a proud neurodivergent ally. I am passionate about ‘spreading the good news’ of neurodivergence and of sharing lived experience as much as possible. One of my dreams is to be involved with schools across the island doing just that, in the hope of improving the knowledge and skills of teachers and the experiences of ND youngsters across the island. I continue to love performing and take part in local concerts whenever I can, including with the Jersey Symphony and Jersey Chamber Orchestras. I also love theatre (especially musicals), art and shopping!

Carl Birkin - Committee Member

Currently completing placement work to qualify for my CPCAB Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling training in the Person Centred model of counselling

 

Having worked in finance for the best part of a decade, I decided I needed a change. I starting training in counselling as a way to explore how to help myself and found that I was very interested in people, what they have to say and their lived experiences.

 

I have a daughter who is neurodivergent and became interested in working with AllMatters Neurodiverse Jersey when trying to learn how best to help my family.

 

Now I want to use the training and experience I have gained to help those who are Neurodivergent and those around them who may also require assistance."

James Hadley-Piggin - Committee Member

Hi everyone, I’m James and am one of the newest additions to the AllMatters Neurodiversity Jersey (AMNJ) Committee.

 

At the age of seventeen, I was formally diagnosed with developmental

co-ordination disorder, otherwise known as dyspraxia. I have tried not to let
dyspraxia define me, rather as time has gone on, embrace it.

 

Eight years after my diagnosis, I have made myself very sporty and my most recent undertaking was a 48-mile ultra marathon around Jersey raising money for AllMatters Neurodiverse Jersey (AMNJ).  This was a very tough race and there are more details on the AMNJ Facebook page.


I am originally from Hampshire but grew up in Devon from the age of eight until I left for University at Queen’s University Belfast at eighteen. I have also lived in Cardiff and Australia and moved to Jersey in December 2021 so I am used to moving around a lot!


Ironically, I am just about to move back to the UK to start a new career in teaching, embarking on my PGCE at a school in Kent. I am training to be a secondary school English teacher with the plan being to come back to Jersey to teach once I have qualified.


In terms of my role on the committee, I am going to be helping out with the sporting side of things using the money raised from the ultra-marathon to encourage more neurodivergent people to get into sport. From personal experience, being sporty can be brilliant for breaking down barriers and building confidence.

 

My motto in life has always been, just because your neurodivergent, it doesn’t mean you can’t achieve, it might just take you longer!

Andy Wright - Committee Member

Howdy, all!  My name is Andy, and I am the proud parent to one of the most amazing little dudes.  Rylie was adopted in March 2015, and he’d had a very tricky start to his life, which meant lots of trauma for him.  He had been exposed to neglect and multiple caregivers, so he didn’t know which way up his world was.  But, and somehow, he effortlessly settled into the family, and he went from strength to strength.  He’s the kind of boy who brings sunshine to others wherever he goes.

 

I noticed when he started primary school that some things were “not quite right”, and – after consulting with professionals – autism and ADHD were quickly discounted as being the reason for his differences.  However, the clues regarding his primary disability were there all along, we just hadn’t been told about them and what they could mean.  Undeterred, and in the face of an enormous amount of indifference and, in some cases, hostility, the pieces of a rather complex jigsaw started to come together.

 

In May 2022, Rylie was diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) – this meant he had been prenatally exposed to alcohol.  He was also diagnosed with autism and ADHD, despite these previously being ruled out.  I very quickly established that FASD is a long-forsaken disability, despite its prevalence, especially in Jersey, and conservative estimates put FASD’s prevalence rate at three times that of autism spectrum disorder.  FASD affects every area of his life – from being able to remember things that we would take for granted, social interaction and communication, language, and executive function.  What Rylie can do one day, he may not be able to do the next day, or ever again – and people find that very difficult to understand and accept.

 

I had to up-skill on FASD very quickly as professionals do not understand this disability, nor how it presents – there is no on-island support.  Professionals frequently talk about fetal alcohol syndrome, but this is now an outdated diagnostic term.   

 

With FASD, it is frequently assumed that “behaviour” is a result of bad parenting, when it is actually a symptom of FASD.  The symptoms of FASD are magnified when combined with early years trauma.  But FASD in itself is trauma.  With FASD, nothing is what it seems: lying isn’t lying, it is confabulation; stealing isn’t stealing, children don’t understand personal ownership as that is far too abstract for them; and anger or violence can be a symptom of a sensitised and damaged stress response system.

 

I spend about five hours a week researching FASD: I read research papers; I study the brain and how prenatal alcohol exposure affects each area; I research strategies for emotional regulation, effective learning, and boosting memory; and if I don’t know what something is, I look it up.  Because I know, if I don’t, then no one is going to do it for me.  I have never met one single professional in Jersey who can talk confidently and knowledgeably about FASD.

 

Everything has been a battle in terms of professionals recognising Rylie’s FASD – but we now appear to be in a place where things are moving forward more positively.  Albeit there is the occasional hiccough. 

 

Whilst fighting every day for my child, I have learnt a lot about myself, too, and I have found a lot of strength that I never knew I had.  I have had to be resilient, pushy, demanding, persistent, tenacious, stubborn, and – most of all – a downright pain in the backside towards those who have the power to give my boy everything he needs.  Knowledge is power as the old adage goes – and acquiring that knowledge is a commitment I have made to myself and, most importantly, to my boy.  Only by understanding him can I successfully advocate for him in all areas of his life.

 

I feel very honoured to be a part of the AllMatters Neurodiverse team, and I am here to help anyone who believes that their child, or themselves, might have FASD.  Diagnosis is difficult, and there is – at the moment – no on-island FASD pathway, despite local prevalence rates.  But it can be done.  And early diagnosis is essential for best outcomes.

Sophie Venton -  Young People's Peer Support Group

Hi- I’m Sophie, a 23-year old who is neurodivergent. I am now a Paediatric Therapy Support Worker for Health and Community Services within the Neurodiverse Pathway. In 2022 I became a First Class Graduate specialising in the field of Disability at the University of Winchester. Working closely with other organisations such as the Jersey Youth Service and Jersey Children’s Commissioner in previous projects, my background has always focused on the social, mental and physical well being in a child’s quality of life and strongly believe that no child should feel invisible. My work ethic and community-oriented philosophy is centred on emphasising the value of all children feeling like they should be part of this world and creating a better world for them through awareness and teaching. 

 

I had always struggled to fit into social situations and masking them within every aspect of day to day life. Throughout education I struggled to find who I was and often fell into a ring of ‘laziness’ or ‘distraction’ due to the difficulty of my neurodivergence. Always feeling out of place even when I went to college, it wasn't until at university that I finally felt I fitted in even with a small group of neurodivergent friends. Feeling this dreaded loneliness and emptiness throughout my childhood and adolescence, and being approached by AllMatters to set up a Peer Support group, enlightened and inspired me to help those who felt the same as me as a teenager to set up a ring of support they could access once a month. I wish I could have accessed this peer support group when growing up so I wasn't alone in understanding and self accepting my own neurodivergence. It would have positively impacted my life including social interaction but also to be a part of something that could help other teens with similar life experiences to feel valued within this world. 

 

I hope that delivering this peer support group for neurodivergent teens will help them feel a part of something special and give them opportunities I wish I had as a neurodivergent teen. Please feel free to contact me directly on amndiversejersey.peersup@gmail.com

Kate Wilson - Content Editor/Graphic Design

Hi everyone! My name is Kate, and I was diagnosed with autism in 2023 at the age of 32. I have been working as a midwife for 10 years, and have recently moved into the world of "Digital Midwifery" by working on the island's electronic patient record project. I have a post-graduate certificate in Medical and Healthcare Education allowing me to practice as a clinical teaching fellow, am a qualified Professional Midwifery Advocate, and I am in the final dissertation stages of my MSc.

I have spent most of my life feeling like an outsider, wondering why I didn't quite 'get' my teenage friendship group and even cutting myself off from them entirely in my early 20s as we grew apart. I don't blame them for this, they just became more and more interested in things I didn't understand ( Keeping Up With The Kardashians, what is that about?!) and I preferred my own company where I didn't have to try and pretend to be interested in the same things.

This was a very freeing time in my life. I covered myself in tattoos, regained my love of rock and metal music, and met my long-distance best friend through a mutual love of story writing online. I was being unapologetically me. 

But it wasn't until I met my fiancé that I realised I wasn't weird, or a loner. Will was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, and he and I clicked instantly. We got each other. He didn't question my quirky sensory issues (I avoid stickers like the plague), I helped him keep track of his meds, we balanced each other out and were inseparable from day one.

Unfortunately, in 2021 I developed PTSD from a traumatic birth I attended. Symptoms went unnoticed or ignored by my workplace despite me asking for help for several months, resulting in me finally leaving the hospital at the end of a busy night shift with no break and having a total breakdown. A fantastic consultant psychiatrist and JTT got me back on track, and this is where autism was first mentioned by the consultant.

The birth had challenged my core views and belief in midwifery, made me question everything I knew about myself as a midwife, and teamed with compassion fatigue and near-constant masking on shift, it was a perfect storm for PTSD.

I was given the AQ-10 by the consultant in 2022, and then 18 months later I received my autism diagnosis. The process has been life-changing. I understand myself so much better now, and no longer feel like I am an outsider. I am unapologetically me again, quirks and all.

I joined AllMatters Neurodiverse Jersey because I have always lived my life with a passion for helping others. It is why I became a midwife, and it is why now I want to help neurodiverse people by supporting the charity.

I am a dab hand at content creation and editing, and have self-taught some basic graphic design, and so will mostly be supporting AMNDJ in this capacity.

 

 I am also offering volunteer time to support neurodiverse pregnant people (or pregnant people with a neurodiverse partner, or older neurodiverse children) in a non-clinical capacity. This means I can talk to you about local maternity care and help you to advocate for yourself as a neurodiverse patient. We can talk about how you can make your pregnancy and birth meet your needs, and make plans to help you cope with the experience. We can cover normal parent preparation topics such as labour, breastfeeding, and bonding with your baby. Please use the contact page if you would like to talk to me about this.
Unfortunately, I cannot provide clinical/medical care whilst volunteering for the charity, so please see your usual midwife for this.

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