Congratulations to Finn Anderson-Hendra of Dwight School in London for winning the Young Advocate of the Year (Aged 16 and Under) category of the nasen* Awards 2023.

Finn is 14 and neurodivergent with high learning potential. Before moving to Dwight School, she had experienced significant barriers to inclusion in education. She now uses her lived experience to raise awareness and challenge the barriers that are experienced by children who are neurodivergent or have special educational needs and disabilities.

Passionate about making sure Disabled children in her school have a voice and a chance to lead change, Finn has been finding ways to raise awareness about people’s rights and the barriers that they face. She has highlighted this through her classwork; through informal discussions with other students; through assemblies; through calling out stigma and excluding behaviours and language; and by regularly raising issues with school staff.

This year she set up a peer support club for neurodivergent students, helping them to know that they can be leaders of change. This included:

  • Liaising with other students, headteacher and staff to get the group started
  • Engaging a local Disabled People Led Organisation to provide initial training and guidance on a social model of disability, rights and strengths-based approaches
  • Examining and testing interactive activities to support young people to talk about their school experiences and to think about how they can influence change.

The benefits of this group are already being felt. Young people talk more openly and proudly, in a supportive and safe environment, about their differences and the challenges that they face. They have used tools, such as journey maps, to think about their personal experiences at school and to gather together good practice ideas and information about the common barriers that they can face; and they are now making short videos to share with teachers and the leadership team to promote improvement in inclusive practices.

Congratulations to Finn and to Dwight School for helping young people to find their voice.

*nasen is a charitable membership organisation that exists to support and champion those working with, and for, children and young people with special educational needs, disabilities, or learning differences.