It would probably be misleading and suspicious if any of us were to object to any form of recognition, especially when it is comes in the shape of an award.
In my case, there are a whole range of interests that have grabbed my attention of the years; whether that may be autism, disability or healthcare, there are always campaigns to enable change which always require support and graft to have an impact. I welcome praise, when it's deserved, but I'm accustomed to never expecting awards or prizes – after all, that should never be the real motivation.
In a year of meeting members of the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, to also be nominated at this year’s Children and Young People Now Awards for one of their most highly prized categories, ‘Children and Young People’s Champion’, is something quite special.
The award itself is not intended especially for young people either, so I would most likely be against already very experienced and long-serving individuals who are equally just as committed to making a difference in their own way. I have much to thank my nominator, James Cathcart, who previously served as CEO of the British Youth Council and who seemed to have been following much of my activism already, to put the time into including my name as part of the highly competitive shortlist for the awards.
To just have been part of the final selection of people to be in the running for the award would have been enough for me.
For my name then read out as the winner – it’s another kind of feeling entirely.
At this point, it would perhaps be right to highlight the ceremony itself wasn’t constructed as an autism friendly space. Whether it would be the sheer number of people around or the loud cheers and thunderous clapping for nominees, I knew to expect quite an energised and clamorous evening.
On receiving the award, however, it was an unforgettable sight to see and hear a swell of applause and guests on their feet for me.
Like many autistic people, we tend to see ourselves as outsiders; looking through the other side, which we are in but not necessarily part of. What had this response to my new award meant? It’s quite difficult to express entirely, but something that gave a real validation of everything I had done with my work with Ambitious and beyond.
It was perhaps fortunate I didn’t have to share any words on stage, as I would have been likely to downplay and moderate the feeling in the room, as I normally might.
Speaking to people once the formal proceedings had ended, I spoke to one who commented that I was ‘a big deal’ now. Now to live up to expectations!
I’m not sure if I have ever pursued fame intentionally, but simply to promote the excitement I have for what I do.
In any case, I think it is wise to stay focused on what you do and why, as well as giving credit to those who are just as driven on the same causes.
I might have won the award, but there are many who have helped to make it a reality. There’s still plenty of work to be done!