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Autism and Sen in Fiction: Guest Post – What Jennifer Knows by Wendy James

Reposted from Jera’s

Shaz Goodwin says:  

When Wendy contacted me to guest on JJ about Autism and Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) in fiction I knew that we would be a good ‘fit’ for each other.  I have a great deal of admiration for what she does for families and am honoured to be able to share her guest post with you today.

Wendy lives in London with her husband and youngest son. A number of her short stories have recently appeared in anthologies, and 2015 sees the launch of her first solo novel, What Jennifer Knows. Her writing is inspired by family, friends, and everyday events that only need a little twist to become entertaining fiction.

As well as writing contemporary fiction, she loves to read it too, and spreads the word about good books online and in the real world.

Wendy is also a freelance proofreader, and a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service.

You can connect with Wendy on social media via Twitter @wendyproof, her Facebook author pageGoogle+ and Goodreads Author page.

by Wendy Janes

One of the subplots in my book, What Jennifer Knows, involves Jennifer’s young grandson, Tim. He’s having problems at school and she suspects he’s on the autism spectrum.

Autism and special educational needs are subjects that are personally and professionally important to me. My youngest son (20) is on the spectrum and I’m a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service.

We are a small part of The National Autistic Society’s vast selection of services in the UK. Via phone and email we offer advice to parents of children with a diagnosis (or about to receive a diagnosis) of autism on how to ensure that their children receive appropriate support to achieve their full educational potential.

Although many schools do provide children with an excellent education that meets their needs, some schools lack the skills, willingness or resources, and as a result, children and their families suffer. The impact of unmet needs can be huge: hours, days, weeks and months of lost education, days and nights of anxiety and upset.

I’ve been incredibly moved by some of the things I’ve heard, but in order to help families, we empathise with their distress and concentrate on giving them the tools to negotiate through to a solution. Turning a situation of conflict into cooperation can take time and patience, but I always believe it’s achievable. We use the law, regulations and guidance to empower parents, but don’t suggest they wade in and accuse schools of failing in their legal duties. The focus must be on the child, with schools and parents trusting, respecting and listening to each other.

In the early chapters of my story, Tim’s mother, Blythe appears uncooperative, critical, fighting the people who could help her, but really she’s scared. It feels to her as though the school staff are criticising her parenting, but worse than that, she believes they don’t even like her child. Her response is to attack them back.

I speak to many parents who feel like Blythe does, and if I can help them in even a tiny way by allowing them a safe space to express their worries, or by indicating a way forward, or giving them the confidence to negotiate and advocate for their child, I’ll have done my job. It’s a privilege to be able to help.

I also believe it’s a privilege and a responsibility to write about special educational needs and autism in my fiction. And for me, that involves ensuring that the inclusion feels respectful, natural, not tacked-on to the story for the sake of drama, and it begins with getting the facts right.

To quote from The National Autistic Society’s website:

“Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.”
As it’s a spectrum, it means that people with the diagnosis share certain similar difficulties, but they are affected in different ways. I’m constantly amazed at how my introverted and quietly spoken son has the same diagnosis as one of his friends who is a whirlwind of loud chatter. And they share the same umbrella as someone who has no functional speech at all. I’ve been particularly fascinated by the fact that someone on the spectrum who uses language fluently won’t necessarily understand all its nuances, and that someone who has no functional speech could have plenty to say.

I’ll never forget a video I watched a few years ago where a young man, who could only make what sounded to me like strange noises, was given a laptop, and I cried as he typed the words he couldn’t voice. I cried for the beauty and fluency of his language and for all the negative presumptions I’d made about him.

It would be unrealistic to make Tim in my story represent all the children on the vast spectrum. Tim’s an individual who isn’t solely defined by his pending diagnosis. He’s a little boy with strengths and weaknesses, who, at the start of the book, is going through a tough time that’s affecting his whole family.

I’d like to think that the small strand in my story about Tim is giving a voice to children with autism and their families, gently asking for understanding and a little compassion.

If you’d like to read more about autism, here’s a link to The National Autistic Society’s What is autism? page on their website:

Thank you for sharing Wendy.  And for the reminder of how we might make judgements from our own perceptions that may not necessarily be true.

A ‘spectrum’ is defined as being “used to classify something in terms of its position on a scale between two extreme points.”  I think the changes to diagnostic criteria reflect this scale and in my opinion, the most beneficial change is (as quoted from The National Autistic Society):
The emphasis during diagnosis will change from giving a name to the condition to identifying all the needs someone has and how these affect their life.
It changes perceptions and judgements away from ‘labelling’ towards the actual needs of the child/young person/adult and what can we do to meet those needs.  From my point of view, it’s not first and foremost about applying for an assessment for an Education and Health Care Plan (although that may be an outcome) but how we can make the school day less anxious and isolating and more inclusive.  A label is limiting whereas we should be looking at children holistically so that they can be who they are in the situations they find themselves.  Rant over 🙂

Below is Wendy’s novel, What Jennifer Knows.

What Jennifer Knows


A vital member of her Surrey community, Jennifer Jacobs is dedicated to her job as a dance therapist, helping children with special needs to express themselves through movement. Wife of a successful though reclusive sculptor, Gerald, she is known for having a deep sense of empathy, making her a trusted confidante. So when two very different friends, Freya and Abi, both share information with her that at first seems to be an awkward coincidence, she doesn’t tell them. But as the weeks roll by, the link revealed between the two women begins to escalate into a full-blown moral dilemma – and also brings to the surface a painful memory Jennifer believed she had long since forgotten. What is the right thing to do? Should she speak out or is the truth better left unsaid?

Amazon author page UK

Amazon author page US

Autism Parenting Magazine – Coronavirus Autism Home Activities

Posted by Shaz Goodwin at Thursday, November 26, 2015



Gifts and Giveaways – Happy Holidays from both of us!


Happy Holidays to All! Have we got some exciting gifts and giveaways for you! First, there’s a special Christmas present for everyone. Scroll down to find out more. Meanwhile it’s all hustle and bustle as we prepare for the festive season. This is Pam’s first Christmas without her youngest, Alec, who has hightailed it to the French Alps to work as a chef in a ski resort – she’s drooling over the thought of some fabulous cuisine when he finally returns. In snowy Colorado, Lorraine has the usual thirty-odd friends (some odder than others) congregating for a big social Christmas dinner. Strangely, it’s our husbands who like to take over the stuffing and roasting of the traditional turkeys. Could it be they don’t trust us to get it right? Or that they love basking in the glowing accolades? Either way we’re not complaining.

Sale: When Good Friends Go Bad

Amazon UK has chosen When Good Friends Go Bad for their “12 days of Kindle” sale at the rock-bottom price of 99 pence.

So as not to disappointment our American readers we’re also holding a Kindle Countdown from 23rd to 29th December. US 99 cents all 6 days  UK   USA 

We’ve done a whole new look for Million Dollar Question which will be uploaded shortly to Amazon. Hopefully it just shrieks of humor and romance!!! To celebrate we’re holding an Amazon giveaway so join in – you may win a kindle copy. 20 copies to be won. Enter here.

Coming soon: Love, Lies & Other Deceptions

Long ago we two sisters started our separate writing careers with short stories and we’ve had a lot of fun gathering up 20 short romances and twisty tales for our first ever collection. Available January – follow us on Amazon for updates. Your Holiday Gift: The Trouble with Charlie. To celebrate we’re offering one of our short stories from Love, Lies & Other Deceptions to any blog follower who emails us at Just tell us if you would like it in kindle, epub or pdf format.                                                                                     



Season‘s Greetings, One and All

Ellie Campbell

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What does Christmas mean to you? asks author Jenny Harper

256px-happy_new_year_06463When did Christmas start for you? In September, when the first decorations started to appear in garden centres and certain shops? In December, when postal deadlines loom? Or will it only finally happen on Christmas Eve, when the stress of juggling work, day-to-day family needs and shopping has almost become too much, but you can finally sit down with a glass of wine in the happy knowledge that everything is sorted?

Sometimes we lose sight of the reason for doing things. Christmas is a religious festival – in Scotland, when my parents were young (in the early 20th century), it wasn’t even a public holiday! But as our society

Source: What does Christmas mean to you? – Take Five Authors

The Not Too Perfect Heroine

Take Five Authors

When I was fresh out of high school, my mother made an interesting observation about a friend of minee_o_vento_levou_-_rhett_e_scarlett. ‘Trouble with Kathy,’ she said, ‘she’s just too perfect.’ Now Kathy was a truly lovely person, sort of girl who taught Sunday school, made friends with homeless people, considered a glass of wine a walk on the wild side and discovered all kinds of intimate details about people I’d known for years and never bothered to ask. And she was popular – I’ve no idea, in fact, why she was hanging out with me. But would I want her as a heroine?  Maybe, if I was writing a certain kind of romance. Then again, possibly not. After all, wouldn’t most of us want to be or spend time with Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind rather than the saintly Melanie Wilkes?  Yes, Scarlett’s selfish, wilful, and likely…

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Are you in the mood for a little romance?

Fab. We are too! 

Today we’ve three offers we wanted you to hear about.


For our Australian friends, Looking for La La, How to Survive Your Sisters and To Catch A Creeper have all been chosen by Amazon for a Black Friday Sale. Ends tomorrow. We were thrilled this morning to wake up to find Looking for La La at #3 in the Aussie Kindle charts and #1 in Cozy Mystery with To Catch a Creeper racing up behind her!

UK and US

For our UK and US readers from today until 30th November we have Million Dollar Question on Kindle Countdown at 99 pence and 99 cents.

Just as a huge financial scandal throws New Yorker, Olivia Wheeler, from wealth and success to bankruptcy and shame, struggling impoverished single-mother Rosie Dixon wins an unexpected million pounds. Good luck? Bad luck? Who can tell? Both women have more in common than they realize. While Olivia struggles to survive her humiliations, fleeing broke and homeless to London, shy unassuming Rosie discovers sudden riches arrive with their own mega-load of problems. 

And finally for everybody everywhere

the Authors XP Romance Giveaway

Win Up To 25+ Romance eBooks!

(2) Grand Prize “Gift Baskets” of ALL eBooks!
(25+) Winners of Individual eBooks (randomly selected titles)

Ends this Monday coming 28th!

Good luck to all!

Pam and Lorraine (Ellie Campbell)


Publication Day Meddling with Murder

meddling with murderYes we’re celebrating….


9th April – Publication Day for Meddling With Murder which also happens to be Lorraine’s birthday. Double Celebration.

This is the day we nervously await reviews coming in and so far, they’ve been great! We do so appreciate all the readers and bloggers who take the time out to read and review early release copies.

Thank you all!

Meddling with Murder: A Crouch End Confidential Mystery by Ellie Campbell

Thanks Kraftireader. Tomorrow’s the official publication day so pre-order copies now!

The Sound of Music vs Star Wars

Is the beginning the best place to start ?

So you have the ebook, the paperback, the audio, what next – how about a book trailer?

For the launch of our sixth novel, Meddling with Murder we decided we wanted to make more of an impact rather than our standard “cover reveal” and the “Lo, behold, our new book launching today”. We…

Source: So you have the ebook, the paperback, the audio, what next – how about a book trailer?

Cover Reveal Day and $25 Amazon Voucher to be won!

Although followers of our blog have already had a sneak preview, today the rest of the world is taking a look and the reactions so far have been gr-r-r-reat!


Publishing on 9th April, Meddling With Murder is now available for pre-order here at the special price of 99c US and 99p UK.

And check out our book trailer.

 This is new for us, and we can’t thank Rachel Bostwick, the creator, enough for making the magic happen.

Other news is that this week in celebration of Meddling with Murder emerging from her chrysalis, we’re sponsoring Fussy Librarian’s Blog Giveaway and donating 4 paperbacks and 5 ecopies, plus Amazon giftcard.


For chance to win paperback copies of Looking for La La, To Catch a Creeper and Meddling with MurderHyperlink 107

For chance to win ecopies
Click here 1

And for a chance to win Amazon Gift Vouchers – entry into this giveaway also qualifies you to win a $25 Amazon gift card from Fussy, so well worth having a go. 109 click here



So that’s all folks. You might not hear from us for a while. Pam’s flying off with her family to Colorado in two days’ time and she’s busy packing for snow, sun, strong winds and a huge celebration party on 9th April – publication day, which just so happens to be Lorraine’s birthday. Celebrations all around.


Have a great Easter! Not too much chocolate.

big chocolate bunny

Oh go on then. We are!