Name: Jo Garner
Job: Managing director of Cheshire Autism Practical Support Ltd (ChAPS)
Education: Broomfields Warrington Secondary School, Association of Accounting Technician
Family: Not married anymore with two challenging children!
Early starts are the norm for me as a single parent with two children on the autism spectrum.
My son, aged 21, is fairly independent and gets himself to work – as long as there are no challenges in the morning which might include flat tyre, shirt not being ironed correctly, running out of toothpaste, hairdryer not working properly (you get the picture!).
My daughter on the other hand is only 10 and her issues are becoming more and more difficult to manage. Very emotional, extreme anxiety around social communication, school refusing, fake illnesses etc. The opposite of him. Bless her.
Although she has not been diagnosed by the local authority as yet, I fully expect her to get an autism spectrum condition diagnosis. It has taken me a long time to accept that she is on the spectrum.
She has always been so sociable, but the more you read about girls on the spectrum, the more I realise that I am doing her a disservice by not getting her the help she needs.
So getting out of the house for 8.45am is the first challenge of the day!
I have had my own bookkeeping business for the past 16 years and have always loved being in charge of my schedule, which of course as a working parent is essential.
My sister passed away, aged 36, in November 2009 from cystic fibrosis and it was an incredibly difficult time for the whole family. She left a massive gap in our lives and an opportunity presented itself in March 2010 which saved my sanity.
This was the start of ChAPS, an autism support group covering the whole of Cheshire, that at the time was called Cheshire Aspergers Parents Support.
Myself and two parents, all with children on the spectrum, set up the charity from scratch. We started with one parents’ meeting in Frodsham and expanded rapidly to offering 37 activities every month for children, adults and families.
In 2012 we rebranded thanks to The University of Chester and renamed ourselves as Cheshire Autism Practical Support Ltd. We have an office in Frodsham, 14 members of staff, about 25 regular volunteers and a trustee board of five parents.
We have over 400 families that we support offering advice, meetings, parental training and activities ranging from anti-gravity yoga to pony riding, swimming and numerous youth clubs.
Managing the charity is extremely rewarding. Myself and the staff love working with families that like ourselves are desperate for knowledge and to know that someone else out there understands what they are going through.
My daily life is never the same two days in a row.
I might be running an activity for our Halton families, writing a funding application, interviewing volunteers, researching governance needed for the trustees, preparing budgets, going to professional meetings or sorting through the stationery box in the office!
What do you wear to do your job? Usually our purple uniform of hoody or business clothes.
What is the favourite part of your job? Talking to other parents. Representing ChAPS in meetings.
What is the least favourite part of your job? Doing a presentation to a group of people frightens the life out of me. Sleepless nights and panic sets in. Lots of people comment on how confident I am as a person, but this is the stuff of nightmares for me.
What would be your dream job if you weren’t doing what you do now? Prime Minister – getting the job done properly.
How do you relax when you are not working? Cooking, drinking, socialising, cinema, gardening, being creative.
What is your favourite film? The Lion King – the score is superb.
What is your favourite book? Anything by Lee Childs.
What is your favourite song? Madonna Like A Prayer.
If a film was made of your life, who would you like to play you? Meryl Streep.
Have you had your 15 minutes of fame yet? Does being nominated for Cheshire Woman of the Year in 2015 count?
To find out more about the charity, visit www.cheshireautism.org.uk.
We want to hear from people from all walks of life – to take part, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the form below