Tuesday 24 November 2015

Hertfordshire Heroines: The ADD-vance Ball

A new website has just sprung up all about Hertfordshire's Hidden Heroines (www.hertshiddenheroines.org.uk) and I instantly knew exactly who I would like to add to the list. Anne Ross and Pamela Reitemeier, you can see your names up in lights at ADD-vance; two Herts heroines in one!
Stephs Two Girls ADD-vance autism
Anne Ross and Pamela Reitemeier (credit ADD-vance)

Their 20th Anniversary Ball was recently held at the stunning Hatfield House to celebrate the wonderful Hertfordshire charity ADD-vance.

ADD-vance was started back in 1996 by the inspirational Anne Ross, who was facing struggles with how her children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) and Autism were being treated. She soon realised there were other families in similarly difficult situations and she began to man a helpline from her own house to offer help. As a Behavioural Psychologist, Anne also offered coaching to help families in their own homes.

There was such a great need for this help that over the years Pamela Reitemeier joined Anne to make a formidable duo who expanded the offering. The ADD-vance team also expanded, with more Specialist Coaches and Specialist Trainers. Anne has always maintained that her employees would be parents of children with Autism and ADHD themselves, in order to be able to pass on real personal experiences and a real understanding of the challenging situations experienced by many.

Anne and Pamela carried on with the original model of helpline and coaching but also began bidding for funding in order to offer their skills and expertise further, in the form of parenting courses specifically designed for parents and carers of children with Autism and ADHD. Free one-to-one consultations were then added to the offer, along with specific training for educational and leisure establishments and a variety of workshops. I was lucky enough to join the team for a year, at a time when I hadn't planned on returning to work at all, and I helped with general office admin including manning the helpline. From the lovely office with cows grazing by the windows I saw the dedication and passion that these ladies put into the business, and felt proud to be a (very small) part of it. They achieved charity status that year and became the ADD-vance Autism and ADHD Trust. The whole ADD-vance team have helped so many families and children in Hertfordshire by listening and understanding, by offering strategies and support groups, and by educating others.

The Ball was a celebration of the past 20 years and of the future to come. Anne gave an emotional speech in which she explained that 20 years ago there was  no wide internet usage and little information out there on Autism and ADHD - one book published in America which they had to send for. Some might say we've got to the other extreme of information overload these days, but that brings its own challenges of knowing which advice is the best. ADD-vance is targeted, proven information from experienced people and is invaluable.

Her speech went on to talk about how we need to get the message across that Autism and ADHD are massive ABILITIES not disabilities. It's a gift, and many people with these abilities such as scientists, inventors, comedians and actors have made huge beneficial changes in our world. We need to change perceptions of what these people can do.

Many parents of children with Autism and ADHD attended the Ball which the lovely Kacey Ainsworth compered, and we enjoyed the opportunity to relax in each other's company with the shared understanding of how difficult life can be at other times. I had tears (of laughter) running down my face as the comedian John Williams took to the stage; his stories are so real and at the same time almost unbelievable, told in a deadpan Northern way similar to how he writes his blog, My Son's Not Rainman. Descriptions of a Special School Disco and the suggestion that we should all experience one in our lives made total sense to me. We all need that kind of humour in our lives and John was a real highlight of the evening for me.

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