MBE for Asperger syndrome charity founder in Queen’s birthday honours – Great Yarmouth Mercury

The MBE recognises an outstanding achievement or service to the community that has a long-term, significant impact and serves as an example to others.

Marcella Caterina Olive-Ballestra, 72, was made an MBE for her work in founding the charity Asperger East Anglia.

Mrs Olive-Ballestra, who has Italian parents and was educated in the Netherlands, has lived in the village between Norwich and Great Yarmouth for more than 40 years.

She adopted a baby who was extremely challenging to raise, and it wasn’t until he was 14-years-old that he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.

Mrs Olive-Ballestra said: “He was an extremely difficult baby. The doctors said we were doing everything right as parents and nothing was wrong, but needless to say, he is now 37 and he has still got it.”

Following on from the difficulties she faced, Mrs Olive-Ballestra set out to help others in 1996.

She said: “We initially started with a helpline which we set up in our house, but people kept ringing late at night and it got quite intrusive.

“We eventually found a little office that was basically a cupboard at Charing Cross in Norwich.”

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