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Councillor Mandy Garford nominated for Most Inspirational Volunteer of the Year

PUBLISHED: 16:17 26 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:17 26 January 2018

Mandy Garford, chairperson of the National Autistic Society for Dartford and Gravesham, is delighted to have been nominated for the Most Inspirational Volunteer of the Year.

Shortlisted from a field of 200, Ms Garford is one of the final three volunteers in the running for the prestigious national award.

A qualified teacher who specialises in challenging behavior, she is also the mother of three children on the autistic spectrum.

The society she chairs supports children and adults affected by autism, as well as their families.

She said: “When I first received the news that I had been nominated and then shortlisted I couldn’t believe it!

“I am primarily a mum with autistic children, helping others with autistic children.

“After waiting for years for an assessment you are finally given a diagnosis and a leaflet.

“I thought ‘that can’t be it’ and from that point I have been determined to help and support others trying to find their way in the world of autism.”

Last year, for World Autism Awareness Week, Ms Garford invited all children on the autistic spectrum from schools across Dartford to submit work to be displayed at an art exhibition.

This year, she has invited all Gravesham schools to participate in ‘Art of Autism 2’, involving St Andrew’s Art Exhibition Centre, the historic light ship LV21 on the River Thames and Gravesham Arts’ sponsored artist of the year, Matt McCloud.

Ms Garford also runs an autism café every week, and is locally considered a ‘one stop shop for autism’, supporting Early Help, local businesses and schools, speaking to members of the community and responding to countless emails from people all over the South East.

During Autism Hour, a national campaign in which shops organise 60 minutes of simple steps to help create a more autism-friendly world, Ms Garford and members of the team spoke to staff at Bluewater Shopping Centre.

On top of this, she is on the committee for the Multi Agency Autism Group that locally hold information talks from experts once a month for parents, carers and professionals.

Ms Garford is also a local councillor, and attends the All Party Parliamentary Group for Autism.

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