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Anna Kennedy Online wins Charity of the Year!

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The European Diversity Awards recognise achievement across all strands of diversity: race, age, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity and belief. Launched in 2010, the European Diversity Awards are now firmly established as the continent’s most prestigious and widely respected diversity event.

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Attended by leading lights from business, politics and the media, the EDA recognises those individuals and organisations whose outstanding leadership has made a genuine difference to the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda.

Linda Riley, European Diversity Awards founder, said:

“These awards exist to shine a light on those who have worked tirelessly to champion diversity and inclusion during what has been an extremely challenging year, particularly with the cost-of-living crisis and spiralling food and fuel costs. Every deserving winner has made real achievements in race, age, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity or religious belief over the past year.”

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Winner of European Diversity Charity of the Year 2022 was Autism Charity Anna Kennedy Online. The sponsor for this category was Optum who donated £5k to the charity. Anna founded the charity in 2009 to support and share information to the many families and adults diagnoses with autism.

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Anna said: “Ever since I started my own journey with my own sons Patrick and Angelo in 1999 and wanting to help and support those who like them have a diagnosis of Autism I am frustrated and disappointed with the lack of facilities and support across the UK. This is why it is so important that all of us who are involved with the autism community should continue to fight hard and make our voices heard in improving educational and other resources for autistic individuals, their families and carers.”

Anna shared “I was overwhelmed to receive Charity of the Year at the prestigious European Diversity Awards . I couldn’t do what I do without my PA Lisa Robins and my fantastic team of volunteers who have been with me for many years giving up their precious time to support the charity. We are a small charity made up of autistic role models, parents, siblings, and individuals who want to improve the quality of life for autistic individuals so they can make their mark in this world just like everyone else”.

Supporting the event were Dr Ranj, Emilie Sande,Claire Sweeney and BBC News Jane Hill.
Photo credit: Jonathon Phang 

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We are so proud of one of our Charity Ambassadors Siena Castellon, who is one of three finalists for The Children’s International Peace Prize for her neurodiversity advocacy!

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Siena is a child with several learning difficulties. She has had a very challenging educational experience including having had to move school due to disability and autism-related bullying.

At 13, Siena created a website, www.qlmentoring.com, to mentor bright students with learning disabilities and autism. In November 2018, she launched her Neurodiversity Celebration Week campaign which encourages schools to recognise the strengths and talents of children with special needs, instead of focusing on their weaknesses and difficulties.

In May 2019, over 340 schools and over 314.000 students took part in the first ever Neurodiversity Celebration Week across the UK, US and Australia.

Siena is organising a Neurodiversity Youth Summit at London’s City Hall for 300 youth and is working with organizations such as Stanford University’s Neurodiversity Project.

In 2019 she helped organise protests across the UK to demand the government to adequately fund special educational needs education. She has also written a survival guide for autistic teen girls. The book will be the first written by a teen autistic girl for teen autistic girls.

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“With the right support and understanding, neurodivergent individuals have the potential to make significant contributions to society”

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About KidsRights:
“Children are changemakers. KidsRights works with children to create a world in which their rights are guaranteed and they are enabled to realise their great potential.

KidsRights is convinced that realizing children’s rights more effectively calls for the perspective, experience and authority of children themselves.

We ensure that children are being heard. Together with children, we ask global attention for their power as changemakers and children’s rights issues.

Also, we empower children as positive and resilient changemakers. We act with children, amplifying and accelerating their actions in their communities and beyond.

Lastly, we make sure everyone is informed about children’s rights. Through our research we provide insight in the status of children’s rights worldwide” https://kidsrights.org/about-kidsrights/.

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“I am in awe of these children, whose powerful message is amplified by their youthful energy and an unshakable belief that children can, no must, improve their own futures,” Tutu said in a statement.

The winner will be announced on November 13 in an online ceremony from KidsRights’ headquarters in the Netherlands: Click here for details.

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Autistic Teen Advocate’s Mission to Invite People to Rethink Their Perception of Autism

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Since I’m autistic, I’m used to defying societal expectations and overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles, challenges and odds.

Yet, being selected out of over 7,000 international applicants to be a UN Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a tremendous personal achievement that I would never have envisioned for myself.

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Like most autistic people, I grew up with the societal message that autism is a tragedy; a life sentence that would prevent me from having any goals and ambitions.

Let alone achieving them!

So, the fact that I have achieved the unachievable is a victory in and of itself.

But more than that, I hope that it sends a message to autistic teenagers that, no matter how unreachable their goals may seem, they should strive for the stars and that they shouldn’t let societal prejudices, stereotypes and misconceptions shape their view of their place in the world.

As an autistic teenager, I know how hard it is to block out the negative messages we are bombarded with each day.

There is still an enormous stigma to being autistic.

It’s still common for public figures to use the term “autistic” as an insult and as a way to diminish or devalue someone they dislike or disagree with.

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In terms of equality and inclusion, autism is the last frontier. Even in this woke, politically correct climate, it’s still acceptable to advocate for autism cures and eugenics, to post TikTok videos making fun of autistic people and to sell t-shirts on Amazon advocating making us extinct. If goes without saying that this is unacceptable and has to change.

When I was growing up, there were no prominent autistic role models, other than Dr Temple Grandin. This meant that I grew up with the societal message that autism is a tragedy and a burden; something to hide and be ashamed of.

I want to change this so that future generations of autistic children can grow up like other children. Instead of being  underestimated and held back, I hope that autistic children grow up believing that they can have dreams and ambitions too. It is time to stop focusing only on what autistic children cannot do.

Instead, society needs to also focus on acceptance and on recognising and nurturing the many areas in which autistic children can excel.

I am hopeful that having a global platform on which to invite people to rethink their perception of autism is the start of a journey towards the acceptance, inclusion and equality of autistic people.

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