Skip to content

Toggle service links

From OU Student to Autism Campaigner

Jane’s story is one of resilience and of achieving against adversity. Despite her own deteriorating health, singlehandedly raising two sons with their own health conditions, homelessness and redundancy, Jane was determined to further her education and be a voice for others.

Jane has won awards for her studying achievements and, although she can no longer work professionally, she is an advocate for many UK charities. Against the odds Jane persisted and encourages other students to stay determined and achieve what you might once perceive to be impossible.

Driven by her sons’ health conditions

“My first son didn’t meet his developmental milestones and was diagnosed with autism and medical conditions. When my second son was born with severe eczema, I had my hands full. My joints started reacting badly after pregnancy and my sons also had anaphylactic reactions to food and were hospitalised.”

“I initiated the special need pathway but there was no support and I was going through a divorce. I knew I needed to know about autism and help the school teach him and other children. I went to my local OU branch and despite having no qualifications or even knowing what psychology was, I knew I had to study it along with a teaching degree to become an educational psychologist and improve knowledge and understanding.”

“While studying I worked part time in a school and singlehandedly brought up my children; even when homeless for a while. It was challenging but I continued my studying at night as my eldest son seldom slept.”

Educational achievements

Jane completed her BSc in Psychology with The Open University, and was awarded the South East Open University Regional Award and Adult Learner Award for my outstanding achievement, inspiration and dedication. She went on to complete a PGCE, then an Advanced Post Graduate Diploma in Child Development with the OU.  She was unable to take up her place on a Doctorate programme. due to her deteriorating health.

“Despite a change in pathways, I started my Masters in Education (Leadership and Management) at the OU, with a focus on organisational transformation in schools. I completed this whilst working as advisory teacher for autism/social communication for the Local Authority. In 2010, one month after being made redundant, I completed my MA.”

“Following my steering group work with the Autism Education Trust I was offered the post of lead educationalist for the National Autistic Society. I later became the strategic Assistant Headteacher working with teaching schools across London and for the DfE Autism Education Trust. I successfully trained up young people to become autism trainers.”

Declining health led to career change

Jane’s health deteriorated and she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) in 2015 and autism in 2016. She’s unable to work professionally again, and now uses her time to campaign on issues that are important to her. This April was about raising autism acceptance, speaking to media and helping the British Airways i360 tower in Brighton to #gogold.

“I use my skills and expertise to speak on autism, health, education and improve accessibility to transportation. I’m a Trustee for Carers Support West Sussex (CSWS), a Trustee and Co-production member for Social Care Institute of Excellence for equality, diversity and human rights.”

“I volunteer for EDS UK Support, and I recently started the Sussex Ehlers-Danlos community group and won the “Local Hero” Crawley Community Award in March of 2019.”

“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved”

To others facing challenges in their life, and thinking about studying with The Open University, Jane says:

“Persistence and resilience got me to where I am today. When things go wrong, and they do, be resilient but open minded. Do it. IT’S NEVER TOO LATE. I had no previous qualifications. There were times I doubted myself, but I knew I could do this, for me and for my children. I’ve helped others, I’ve won awards and I’m proud of what I have achieved.”

About Author

Liz works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She has over 15 years' marketing experience working across a range of sectors, from diamonds to shampoo. She has a BSc (Hons) in Management from UMIST. In her spare time, Liz is usually found on roller skates or off travelling, having adventures.

Comments are closed.