Making Myself Heard

Written by Hannah Louise StringfellowDate 09 Aug 2016

Did you know 6% of children have disabilities and in total in Great Britain 11 million people live with a disability? That is roughly 1 in every 6 people! We need to listen and give them a voice.

Hi, my name is Hannah Louise. I am a 16-year-old young adult with opinions to share and dedicated to everything I want to do in life such as getting good grades helping others achieve success and overall being the best person I can be. I am here to tell you what I have been getting up to over these last couple of busy months and to give my opinions and advice (what teenager doesn’t? ha-ha) on subjects concerning me and others reading.

Why am I, a girl from south Yorkshire, who like every teen has just sat through months of exams, even getting the chance to write this blog? I have been chosen to be a member of the new young people’s advisory group on participation organised by CDC and KIDS. I wanted to be a part of this group as I have Autism/Aspergers and want to meet new people who have similar and different disabilities to discuss what we think; maybe have my own opinions changed as well.

I want to help professionals to help me, by advising them as someone with personal experience of the health and social care systems.

I’m very aware of how disabilities effect young people and I want to help professionals understand how to work with us. By helping them they can help me, and other young people like me, make local services more available, and improve educational health and care plans. 

Our first group meeting was held on Saturday the 2nd of July this year in London. A real bonus as it gave me the chance to see our capital city and see some of the famous sights! At the meeting I met a group of 11 others who were amazing and as ready as I am to make a change for the better for the disabled community. As a group we discussed our main aims which are to make ourselves heard, and help people working in the sector to gain a better understanding of how to work and engage with us. Over the next year we’ll be aiming to achieve this through discussions at our meetings and by meeting with professionals at a series of events and conferences hosted by CDC and KIDS

Talking about conferences, the first one took place on Thursday the 21st of July in Manchester (another place that was new to me). It was interesting and fun. I got to meet other inspiring young people and parents of the disabled community, friendly and eager to listen professionals. I even got to meet the Minister of Children and Families, Edward Timpson himself!!!

The conference was focused entirely on participation and specifically how to involve disabled young people more in local areas. With opinion polls, workshops (that I myself helped run) and lots of things to learn, the conference was fab overall!

At the conference we covered many topics within participation such as: how to communicate with children to get them involved; how to fund participation; and much more.

I felt respected and listened to by the professionals. I felt as if I was being accepted for who I was, which was a brilliant feeling.

However, I did not just give my opinion. I learnt from the professionals and adults that they are really eager and enthusiastic to make a change and are looking at new approaches to involve young people. The Minister also said when it comes to participation both non-disabled young people and those with disabilities need an equal involvement this. I believe is what we should strive to achieve.

My message to all those people who came to the conference or those interested in this blog (hopefully some of you are if you are still reading ha-ha), please make sure you always listen to young people’s voices and opinions before making decisions. These decisions affect us and we have a right to be part of that process.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube we all love them young and old. Maybe try these to get young people involved in your projects. Email, text, call, sign, draw and for younger children play don’t just communicate. Adults need to use lots of different ways to reach as wide a group as possible; if not for a mixture of these being used this opportunity would not have been available to me. 

Well that’s what I have been up to so far in my new journey and role as a young advisor. Our next national meeting is in September. Back to London I go!

Thanks for reading!