I am writing a special newsletter to wholeheartedly welcome all of my new subscribers.
The last two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of activity. In addition to balancing my day job of being a sixth-form student at King’s College London Maths School, I have taken some huge strides in addressing stereotypes and misconceptions about autism and learning differences, and in raising awareness of disability-based bullying.
On Wednesday, I was invited to an intimate reception to meet William and Kate in their Kensington Palace home. Although nervous, it turns out I need not have been. William and Kate were very warm, friendly and easy to talk to. They both knew my name and knew about my website, my anti-bullying campaign and about my commitment to improving the educational experiences of autistic young people and young people with learning differences. Kate, in particular, was very interested in talking about the myths and misconceptions around autism, and to hear about my disability-based bullying experience. She was sad to hear that my experience is not unique and that approximately 75% of autistic students report being bullied. She asked me if my former bullies knew where I was, and what I had gone on to achieve, I told her that I didn’t think so. But between you and me, it would be gratifying for my former bullies to know that despite their cruelty and the suffering they deliberately caused me, that instead of breaking my spirit, their actions motivated me to focus on making the change I want to see.
My visit to Kensington Palace received significant publicity. I gave a brief statement about my visit and my website, which appeared in Hello Magazine, Elle, Marie Claire, People and several other world-wide publications. The publicity resulted in lots and lots of new subscribers from all around the world. Many of whom have reached out with encouraging messages of congratulations and support.
On Thursday, I was bestowed a British Citizen Youth Award at the Palace of Westminster in recognition for my autism advocacy and commitment to addressing disability-based bullying. At the event, I met 22 other young people who shared their amazing stories of community service and who inspired me to continue my autism and neurodiversity advocacy and my commitment to addressing disability-related bullying.
Yesterday, I attended the BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards, where I won a Teen Hero Award. I collected the award and gave a brief speech at Wembley Arena in front of 10,000 teenagers!!! The Teen Awards were aired on BBC2, which resulted in even more new subscribers to my website.
A large part of the Teen Hero experience is filming a video about each winner’s individual story. (See video below). In my video, I talk about being autistic, dyspraxic, dyslexic and having ADHD. I talk about my commitment to changing perceptions about autism and learning differences. I also share my story, including why I decided to create my website and my commitment to addressing disability-related bullying. I hope that my video inspires young people who are autistic or who have learning differences to look beyond the limitations that may have been placed on them and beyond the challenges they may face, because I firmly believe that each one of us, in our own unique way, can achieve amazing things.
In addition to meeting William and Kate, the British Citizen Youth Awards and the Teen Hero Awards, there have been less high profile, yet no less important developments and opportunities.
Last week, my belief in the justice system was restored. After eight long months, I was thrilled to find out that Upper Tribunal Judge Mitchell granted us permission to appeal our SEND disability discrimination case against Sevenoaks School on seven grounds. Although this is the first step in what I am sure will be a long and protracted process, it gives me hope that we could win our claim. Let me be very clear, by winning, I mean that we will have won the right for the tribunal to order Sevenoaks School to put measures in place to better support current and future autistic students. For example, these are some of the actions we requested the tribunal to order Sevenoaks School to do in order to put things right:
Update and improve their bullying policy
Send senior staff to anti-bullying training
Send senior staff to autism training course
Send their staff who support SEN students to a SEN training course
Require the school to have a designated safe space / quiet area for autistic students.
For me the most vindicating part of Judge Mitchell’s decision is that he stated that the happy face emoji email sent by the Deputy Head Pastoral in which she appears to boast about terrifying me “troubled” him.
I hope that our SEN disability discrimination appeal succeeds, so that future autistic students at Sevenoaks School do not have to go through the traumatic experience I endured.
Finally, I was recently invited to be a member of an Autism and Girls Steering Group comprised of a consortium of London schools, SENCOs and teachers who are passionate about supporting autistic girls in school. I am really excited about being given the opportunity to represent to voices of autistic teen girls so that are needs are unde4rstood and supported. I was also contacted by a publisher who has approached me about writing a survival guide for autistic teenagers. I would love to write a survival guide for autistic teenage girls, a guide that would cover issues, such as gender identity, relationships, hygiene and other issues that autistic girls tend to struggle with. If you have any thoughts or ideas about what type of information you would like to see in a survival guide for autistic teenage girls, please email me. I would love your input.
In parting, I hope that you find the resources on my website helpful. I am always trying to expand and improve it. If there is anything you would like to have included, please let me know. I welcome your involvement.