New Year’s Honours: Stoke Newington publisher Jessica Kingsley recognised for services to people with autism

Jessica Kingsley

Jessica Kingsley - Credit: Jessica Kingsley

A publisher who has helped change public perceptions of autism and Asperger’s Syndrome has been given an honour in the New Year’s list.

Jessica Kingsley started to publish books on autism in 1996 and became the ‘go-to’ publisher in the field, with almost 800 now commissioned on the subject by her or under her direction.

Jessica, from Aden Grove in Stoke Newington, who has been given a British Empire medal for services to people with autism, told the Gazette: “When we first started publishing about it, no one really knew about it and it was regarded as something scary and awful.

“I had already started publishing around social work and this came up as a problem that so many were noticing. It became obvious there were an awful lot of parents who were really struggling, and it was about realising it was needed.”

By the following year she discovered Tony Attwood whose book Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals became a best-seller.

Over half a million copies have been sold since it was first published in 1997, and it has been translated into 28 languages.

“It was literally the first book on Asperger’s Syndrome, and the fact it sold so many copies showed just how much it was needed,” said Jessica.

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“When I first started working around Asperger’s Syndrome you only ever heard of it if something terrible like a crime had happened, and I thought this is so unfair. I knew a lot of people who had it, and they were really nice people. Publishing is about trying to change people’s approach to how they saw people with autism.

“When I originally started the company, the whole intention was to create social change. It was mainly for professionals, then we realised we could also publish for parents and children, and also to help explain in a classroom why Lucy is different to everyone else.”

The books have helped provide practical tools and guidance to parents, and empowered individuals on the spectrum to see themselves in a positive light.

Jessica is thrilled to have been recognised in the New Year’s honour’s list.

“It did come out of the blue and when you get one of these things a lot of people have to write letters supporting it, so I was really touched by the people who had done that,” she said. “They went to a lot of trouble, and because it’s for work with autism I was really pleased autism has been recognised.”