Young people share their experiences to raise awareness of special educational needs

A group of young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) took part in an event earlier this week to help raise awareness of SEND.

A group of young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) took part in an event earlier this week to help raise awareness of SEND and increase understanding and acceptance more widely in the community.

Around 50 secondary school aged pupils attended the Shout Out for SEND event at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury on Wednesday 15 November. Organised by Buckinghamshire Council’s Youth Participation Team, the event, now in its fourth year, is designed to give children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities the opportunity to give their views and relay their experiences with the aim of helping to better shape services and support for their needs.

The theme of this year’s conference was on increasing understanding and acceptance of SEND. The theme was chosen by young people who are members of the Shout Out for SEND Reps group, part of Buckinghamshire Council’s Youth Voice Programme. They feel passionately that more needs to be done to help all young people better understand their lived experience, and to tackle the bullying and discrimination they experience. The event was timed to take place during National Anti-Bullying Week.

Pippa, the young person who compered the event, said: “Working as a member of the Youth Voice Bucks Executive Committee and as a Shout Out for SEND Rep has given me a tonne of confidence and a bunch of new skills. Now, when I meet new people, I can explain my disability clearly and help others to understand why I might act a bit differently. Before I started, it felt like I was the only one fighting against a world that didn’t work the same way I do. I felt really isolated from everyone around me because I knew they didn’t see the world the same way I did. I know how difficult it can be when you feel like the only one who is different; the only one who is dealing with all the things you have to on a daily basis. But at now I know there’s young people just like you and me. We get support to do things we didn’t even realise were options. Today, everyone single one of us gets our chance to make a difference. And, the best part is, we’re doing it all together. No one here is alone. Everyone here has the power to make a positive difference.”

Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Education commented: “Thank you to all the young people who came along to this event and shared their experiences, ideas and creativity. Our aim is that the valuable insight they have given will help us to develop a series of jointly produced resources that can be used in schools to provide a better understanding of the lived experience of those with special educational needs or disabilities.

“Bullying and discrimination can have a long lasting and damaging impact on young people with SEND and we want to work with them to create more understanding in the wider community, both at school and beyond, to improve their experiences and ensure they are not disadvantaged by their circumstances.”