In a recent article published on Anna Kennedy Online Jo Redman 27 a 3x World Kickboxing Champion who has Asperger’s Syndrome spoke openly about how she was bullied in her younger years. Jo grew up without a diagnosis and did not understand why she was different. Jo has taken the decision to share how she was bullied to help others going through similar situations. As it is Anti Bullying week this week in the UK, Jo knew that this was the perfect time for her voice to be heard.
Talking exclusively to Autism Daily newscast Jo was further able to share her thoughts and feelings about growing up and being seen as different.
When growing up Jo did not talk about her feelings or share any problems that she had with anybody.
“I found it difficult to approach my parents, my teachers and even friends. I didn’t realise that people talked about these kind of things for some time and when I did realise I had no idea how they managed it.”
Jo had great difficulty putting her feelings into words and being able to vocalise them. She also had great difficulty in sharing emotions. Jo explains:
“Getting those words out would bring emotion out of me too and that felt out of control and I didn’t like it. I’d do whatever I could to keep any emotion in because the only emotion that seemed to come out of me was extreme and evoked these huge reactions from the people around me. Reactions I then consequently couldn’t deal with.”
Jo was also acutely aware of how her emotional outbursts would impact upon her mother. At the time she felt that she was upsetting her mother but now she knows that her parents wanted her to share her feelings so that they could understand and support her. Jo further explains:
“I had a very close attachment to my mum as a young child, she’s my mum and I love her deeply. I hate to see her upset so if I had problems or difficulties I thought that it was best to protect her from them as I didn’t want her to be upset because of me. Looking at it now I can see that although my mum would hurt for me ultimately she wanted to be able to understand and support me through those challenging school years.”
Jo went on to say that during the later years of her schooling she withdrew so much that she actually stopped talking to her teachers.
Due to Jo being perceived as different she was bullied at school. However at 13 she decided that she was going to be a World Kickboxing Champion. Having this focus helped her to get through the next tough years which she describes as being excruciatingly painful. Jo does not want other young people to suffer in silence.
Now Jo does have a platform and voice. Jo explains how she met Anna Kennedy and became a young patron:
“I met Anna Kennedy on Twitter after I watched a video about her anti-bullying campaign and she asked me to share my story on her website and to speak at Autism’s Got Talent in May. Since then we stayed in touch.”
“It is really special to me that Anna believes in me enough to ask me to be a patron. I don’t really get why people think I am inspirational enough to be a patron, I get a lot of messages saying people find me inspirational but I am just being me. I am good at my sport and have worked really hard for it but there are lots of people good at my sport in my club. But if I do inspire people and they go away and achieve something they wouldn’t normally do then that is pretty amazing and I’m really glad I could help.”
Jo believes that everyone is capable of reaching their goal in life. She enjoys going into schools and talking to the children about what their goals and achievements are. She hopes to inspire children going through difficult situations by the telling of her story.
“I talk about goals and how I decided at 13 I wanted to be a world champion, often I ask what their goals are and it really surprises the teachers sometimes what they come up with because nobody has asked before. Asperger’s Syndrome to me is the reason why things may be more difficult but not the excuse for why I should achieve nothing. If someone tells me that I can’t or that it is too hard for me or it is probably best if I just forgot about doing that it makes me sit up and think right you clearly don’t believe in me and I’m going to make you feel silly for that by showing you that I can. I am underestimated in sport because I am quiet, I don’t have an attitude but they soon realise what I’m all about, believe me!”
Jo’s life didn’t change until she was diagnosed in 2010 and won her first World title in 2011
Jo is busy writing her book at the moment and is hoping to have it finished by the end of the year. Jo also received a Martial Arts Illustrated Hall of Fame award for her achievements within martial arts at the weekend.