Before the lock down last year, some Young Advisors started to develop a project with and for young people with special educational needs and disabilities details of which are below, this work stopped because of the pandemic but the group has recently reformed with new members.
The group is for young people to express their viewpoints on issues that occur in Lewisham. Our team come from all backgrounds and have unique abilities including special educational needs and/or disabilities.
This is a safe and supported space for everyone to learn, grow and connect. Our work has just started. We need you! If you are between 11 and 25 and want to champion key topics for Children and Young People with SEND then get involved.
We meet every two weeks on zoom.
The group created a new name: Champions of Inclusion and contributed to International Women's Day 2021. The group also wanted to celebrate Autism Awareness Week 29th March - 4th April 2021.
Autism Awareness Week 2021
The group decided to interview some people who work with young people with SEND and ask them some key questions:
Hello Micah, I would be happy to answer your questions, we are so proud of you!
What advice / support would you give to someone who you know struggles with Autism?
If something doesn’t make sense in your head, ask someone you trust to help you understand.
Sometimes you might not understand the reasons people do things but there will always be someone who can explain.
The National Autistic Society are brilliant with advice and support. https://www.autism.org.uk/
2. Are there enough social opportunities for children and young people with autism? If yes, which schemes would you recommend and if not, how could this improve?
I think it depends on the area that you live in, some places have fantastic opportunities for people with autism. My friend’s sister uses CASPA in Bromley, they are an award winning Charity who support autistic children and young people, and also to their families. https://www.caspabromley.org.uk/ She has made friends there and gets to do lots of different activities.
3. Careers, preparing for adulthood and future opportunities: what does the school do to support young people with autism from this perspective, empowering their journey to independence and to reaching their potential?
We try really hard to encourage pupils to use their autism as a superpower because they are awesome! Just because you have a learning disability, it doesn’t mean you can’t achieve what you want to achieve, as a school we try to give advice and support wherever we can with Post-16. As our pupils leave us at Post-16 we endeavour to send our pupils to a Post-16 placement where we know they will be supported Post-18!
I feel privileged to have been interviewed, thank you Micah!
Miss Williams-Jones, SENCO Conisborough College
Hello Micah ,
1) What advice / support would you give to someone who you know struggles with Autism?
When you are not clear about something, it is best to ask questions and be sure to ask the right people.
At times you will come across people who do things in a different way instead of jumping to conclusions, ask questions for clarification. Direct them to a right source of information such as
The National Autistic Society https://www.autism.org.uk/
The National Autistic Society is the leading UK charity for autistic people (including those with Asperger syndrome) and their families. We provide information, support and pioneering services, and campaign for a world that works for autistic people.
2) Are there enough social opportunities for children and young people with autism? If yes, which schemes would you recommend and if not, how could this improve?
I will say yes depending on where one lives , however, the society needs more funded schemes that will help children and young ones with autism www.aspens.org.uk The miracle project.
Some local authorities have very good supports in place .
3) Careers, preparing for adulthood and future opportunities: what does the school do to support young people with autism from this perspective, empowering their journey to independence and to reaching their potential?
As a school, we try our best to ensure all our students with learning disabilities, feel proud of who they are , we help them to understand that they are unique and can achieve. Their disability shouldn't stop them from reaching their goals.
They learn / do things in a different way and have great skills that makes them unique.
We do our best to make them independent and help them identify their strengths and skills , that will propel them into Post 16 . Advice and support is given towards the right college for them .
Mentoring is provided at different stages of their journey other support given includes , communication strategies, social skills ,time management etc.
Thank you Mr Spence for allowing me to be part of your interviewing panel
Mrs Akanni, Specialist SEN Teaching Assistant
For a different and interesting perspective Ms Chaintini interviewed Ang, 47. who explained what it is like not to have been diagnosed as autistic as a child.
How do you feel about this interview? I find it difficult because I have never been diagnosed. I have always been told “this is just how you are, you are an oversensitive and emotional person”. Now, it feels like saying “I am autistic” is more of an excuse – it feels like people are making excuses for me, when it is just my stupid behaviour. I actually feel really defensive about it right now – I do not think there is anything wrong with me – it feels weird. I was not told I had autism as a child – it was not a thing back then, why is it a thing now?”. I do not know. It just feels strange.
Adulthood, independence and employment. It is not something that affects me all the time. I just feel that this is me and I feel like saying “I am autistic”, it almost gives me a leeway to do these things more. Growing up has not been different. This has always been how I am – nobody told me a reason before. I have been able to be independent and I have not really faced any major issues with housing or budgeting or looking after myself. However, employment was a completely different story. I was fine once in the job, but going for an interview, talking about myself, especially to people I did not know, in a place I did not know was absolutely nerve wracking. Going through an interview was one of the worst experiences of my life. It would have been so much better if I could have just been allowed to just sit with someone who was doing the job first, and have a look at the job and a friendly and informal chat.
3. Friendships. I have made friends through circumstance, like sitting next to people in the class and you end up being friends with them. Then I made friends through work. Any friends since school and work are mainly people I have met through the internet. I do not go out to socialise and meet new people. I do not talk to people I do not know.
4. Triggers. Noises and noisy environments, crowded places, over-stimuli, too many people talking to me at the same time, or one person bombarding me, or someone giving me too many things to do on one go. A major trigger is when someone asks me to do something and then they change their mind. Or for example when we agree to go to A and B and then suddenly C and D are added to the agreed schedule. Or if I am going somewhere and people are coming that I do not know or that I did not know about.
5. Strategies that you have develop to cope with these triggers? Ear defenders have helped, ear plugs in the night, having a bath, time in nature, going for a walk, being by the seaside and walking on the beach, jigsaw puzzles and reading books. Overall, having space and time to myself.
6. Advice to younger people, to parents and to professionals? If someone needs space, you need to give it to them. When they need space, just give it to them immediately, without negotiations or further delay. Please do not expect any attention to what you are saying at the minute, not because we do not want to, but because the thought “I wanna go! I wanna go!” is just so overwhelming and the only thing we might be able to think of at this stage. Be kind, patient and gentle. Yes, be kind.
More Interviews to follow
The SEND project (temporary name) has been created out of the Young Advisors meetings and interest in how we can better support and address some of the issues experienced by young people with additional needs and disabilities.
The Young Mayor Team have always worked with all the special schools in Lewisham, who participate in the Young Mayors Election every year. Young Mayor Candidates attend assemblies and speak to students about why they are standing and we usually have candidates from Brent Knoll School as well as others who have disabilities from other schools. Throughout the year the Young Mayor and Young Advisors aim to meet with students and have worked on different projects in the past.
Two previous Young Mayor candidates and now Young Advisors, Morgan and Zak have both been core to getting the project going. They met regularly with the team and Chereice Nelson from the Complex Needs Team at Kaleidoscope, to look at how to best represent young people and get others involved in the project. Cheriece and her team are keen to have young people contribute to their work at Kaleidoscope and share their views about the services they receive, including about the Local Offer and how this works for young people. Lewisham local offer
The first thing that was decided was to organise an event and invite young people and schools, to see what others think is important and how they would like to get involved.
The aim of the event was to get young people with SEND involved in the changes we wanted to make for autism friendly places, inclusion and also making people aware about children and young people with disabilities; Morgan
“It’s everybody’s business to be inclusive”
The event took place on Tuesday 3rd March 2020 – 9.30am – 12.30pm at Lewisham Civic Suite
The aim of this event was to bring together young people who may / may not have a special educational need and / or disability, to hear their views about issues relating to SEND.
This is an inclusive and interactive event for young people by young people which will focus on providing them with a safe platform to discuss key topics like:
What is SEND
Things that work and / or do not work at school and in the community
What can we do to make things better
We were delighted to have an amazing turnrout of students and teachers take part on the day from the following schools: Greenvale, Drumbeat, Abbey Manor, Bonus Pastor Catholic College.
The event: hosted by Morgan and Zack
The full film showing more of the activities and participants on the day will be completed after the lock down.
Thanks to Michael from Broken Hearted Youth and Morgan for the film
Short film from the Send event for autism awareness week 2020
Write up feedback from people who took part in the day
Get back in touch with schools and students who took part in the event, see who wants to meet up again
Do some group building activities
Decide on name and activities for the group and project; will the group be Champions? or ambassadors? or something else?
Identify what the group would like to talk about how they will feed back to schools /others
Decide on issues /interests to be discussed
Invite officers /politicians to talk to the group
Make some changes!
Keep the website updated