Nicola Roberts, from Newton Abbot, has paid tribute to a former teacher by nominating him as a National Autistic Society (NAS) Happiness Hero.
Nicola, who has Asperger syndrome which is a form of autism, nominated former teacher Andy Taylor who taught her for five years at Brent Knoll Special School in London for a special award.
The NAS Happiness Heroes celebrates people like Andy across the UK who play a huge role in helping young people with autism lead happy and healthy lives.
Nicola told the Devon Week: “I’d had a lot of problems at my previous school, but Mr Taylor made me feel at home at Brent Knoll. I arrived with so many obstacles to overcome and I left with qualifications and a belief in myself. He knew how to get the most out of his students and always had a smile on his face. It was Mr Taylor who got me into art and explained that I could use it to express how I was feeling. He still keeps in touch and offers encouragement when I need it only now I have to get used to calling him Andy, instead of Mr Taylor.”
Nicola’s mum Tracy said: “As well as his outstanding teaching contribution, Andy understood Nicola and was always a great support to us as parents as well. He is a major factor in the way Nicola has turned out and how far she’s moved forward with her life.”
Andy said: “I was very surprised and flattered to receive the NAS Happiness Hero nomination from Nicola. She and her parents worked hard together to overcome the difficulties that people on the autistic spectrum face and I am pleased, though not surprised, that she has gone on to be such a success. I think it is right that the NAS is highlighting the difficulties that young people face when confronted with autism and hope that the You Need to Know campaign highlights how support from an early age can make a positive difference and lasting impact on the lives of young people.”
Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS said: “We know that many children with autism aren’t able to get the support they need to fulfil their full potential. That’s why we’re delighted to be able to celebrate the work of people like Andy. The right help at the right time can make an enormous difference to the lives of children with autism”.
Happiness Heroes is part of the NAS’s You Need to Know campaign, which highlights how over 70%* of children with autism in England also have a mental health problem, often due to the lack of appropriate support. The Happiness Heroes scheme aims to commend people who make a positive difference by helping to prevent these problems from developing in the first place.