Learning Disabilities & Autism Real Lives

Happy Smiles all round

 

Each month we feature an inspirational individual or team who are taking a lead in their lives and helping make society better for everyone.  This month we feature Happy Smiles CIC, winner in the Advocacy, policy and the media category in the  Dimensions Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List

Introducing…Happy Smiles CIC

You can’t help but smile when you hear the name Happy Smiles and they are a delightful bunch with infectious enthusiasm. But don’t be fooled; behind their sunny disposition they carry an important message.

In just two years the Happy Smiles Inclusion Champions have trained and empowered over 4,000 children, young people and adults. That’s over 4,000 people who are now more inclusive and positive about disability!

The Happy Smiles team deliver awareness and inclusion training across the community. They speak directly to school students, community groups and businesses, and empower fellow disabled people to realise their potential and create positive social change.

Like many disabled people, they often face challenges overcoming barriers to employment for disabled people. And some members of the group have faced mental health challenges over the pandemic and the extended periods of isolation.

Turning negative experiences into positive change

The journey from not existing in 2019 to now delivering training across the North West has been full of ups and downs!

The team has grown from a small group of friends to a thriving community of supportive colleagues. They are proud of their achievements and some have overcome fear of public speaking to get here.

In their words: “We are desperate to change the way that disabled people and differences are viewed in general society.”

A brief history of Happy Smiles

Haydn co-founded Happy Smiles two years ago. He has a learning disability and a limited vocabulary of about 10-15 words but he has lots to say! Managing Director, Alex Winstanley, tell us how smiles for Haydn brought with it a new organisation…

“In 2017, Haydn spent nearly a year in hospital due to multiple surgeries and complications.

We asked people to post pictures of their ‘Happy Smiles’ for him, to keep his spirits up. We had a huge response, with hundreds of pictures being posted. This led to the creation of the Happy Smiles Blog in 2018!

Haydn began to deliver awareness assemblies in school and with local community groups.

Once again, the impact generated an eye-opening response and, after multiple phone calls from parents about the impact of the assemblies on their children, I knew that we had to take this further.

In September 2019 we became a registered organisation and soon rebranded to become Happy Smiles Training CIC.”

Onwards and upwards

Since their debut, the organisation has expanded their team to include other local disabled young adults.

They aim to empower their team of Inclusion Champions, who promote positive social change by creating inclusive communities.

Support their work

Book a bespoke training for your school, community group or business by emailing them at the email address below. See their website for more information on what they can do to support you!

www.happysmilestraining.co.uk

The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List is produced by Dimensions in partnership with Learning Disability England and VODG.

Visit dimensions-uk.org/leaderslist2021 to meet all the Leaders.

Follow @DimensionsUK and #LDALeadersList to stay up to date.

Edel Harris

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