Family business: Anna of Autism Matters

Anna Taylor is the CEO of Autism Matters & Mum of 4. She is a woman who has always felt a sense of responsibility from a young age, and now in her 50s is on a mission to support Autistic adults. Anna has faced the struggles and challenges herself as a mum of autistic children for over 30 years and has worked within the sector throughout her career.

Anna, a mum of 4, including 2 autistic adult sons, is the CEO of Autism Matters – a registered charity she established in 2012, supporting Autistic adults, after culminating her career focused on improving the lives of others by taking direct action to enable her to make even more change for the better.

How did you get started?
Being a mum changed my direction in life completely. James, my eldest, was diagnosed with a very rare genetic disorder at 2 years old, about a week before my second child was born! Daniel was then diagnosed with Autism before he was 2 years old. Having two severely disabled children was an awakening for me, This then became my life’s purpose, and all my efforts went towards helping them. I got a job in a pre school association, and recruited and trained volunteers whose role it was to help disabled children 1:1 in playgroups. This then led to working full time in a school for children with autism. Where I spent a lot of my time supporting other mums. I now am CEO of an expanding and thriving charity Autism Matters for Autistic adults.

What challenges have you faced along the way?
The challenges I’ve faced are many, the majority I realise now, were self imposed. Fear of visibility, putting myself out there and being judged was my greatest challenge. I remember when the boys were only 2 and 4 years old, I was raising money to fund a trip to see a specialist in America, I had read about dolphin therapy and thought it would help my boys learn to talk. When we returned we were in the press, and I got my first ever hate mail! I was devastated, it really hurt me, as the anonymous author wrote that I was a fraud, and I must have done something evil to have two disabled boys. That started me on a downward spiral of self doubt, and fear of being judged, and I was a serious over-giver from then on.

What has worked well about your business?
Being present, and really listening to what our members want, what they feel and think. This is everything, how can you give value if you don’t understand what your customers need? Year on year I have learnt that staying close to the customer really develops services that are needed. I trust my instincts, and am  authentic and  I never make fear based decisions.

How do you fit in work with the family?
At first, this was something I really struggled with, as again my belief was you couldn’t “have it all”. I learnt that’s a rubbish rule, really it’s about mindset. I truly believe that when you do things from the heart, that creates value and good in the world, you are inspiring, and the ripple effect moves out to your family, friends and then their friends and families. We work together as a team in our house. My husband Phil is amazing, and works in a school for children with autism, and for our charity part time. My daughter is doing her A levels and she is loving psychology. She works for me too, and I am grateful for her IT skills. I work smart, and have created a life where I get to drop off and pick up from school and college every day. I spend quality time with them all, as I have 4 children. After years of being a control freak, I can now accept delegation, and outsourcing…  

What advice would you give your younger self?
You have one life to follow your dreams. Don’t let anyone else’s beliefs or judgement  hinder you. Be authentically you, lead with love and be in charge of your own destiny.

What impact do you want to have?
I want to build a scalable model for our charity so we can impact many more lives. My next goals are having our own podcast, and courses people can access worldwide. Then replication in other areas in the UK. Everything I put my heart and soul into, I believe will succeed, eventually. However, I have found that failure is essential to move forward as everything that has ever been created was because of failures first. So, I’m not worried about that now, as I am a step closer to success.

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