Each month we feature an inspirational individual or team who overcome barriers to make a real difference in their communities. This month we feature Aaron Senior who’s innovative approach to advocacy for autistic people landed him a place on the Dimensions Coronavirus Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List.
Role modelling great advocacy
Aaron is a leading advocate for autistic people and people with a learning disability, and fully deserves his spot on the Learning Disability and Autism Leaders List in 2020.
The award will make Aaron feel more confident that he can be a better leader, that he can inspire more people and that he can achieve anything that he wants to. He wants others to feel the same way.
Advocacy and blogging
Previously co-chair of the Leeds Learning Disability Partnership Board, 30-year old Aaron now works in the national NHS autism team; working together to improve lives in a society where everyone counts and where compassion, understanding and respect should naturally be given and received by everyone.
Aaron’s blogging and advocacy helps the NHS ‘work with’ rather than ‘do to’ people, and as one of the 16% of autistic people in paid employment, Aaron is eloquent about what having a job means to him.
“Aaron is always the first to speak up in meetings when they are not accessible for people with learning disabilities and autistic people.” – David Gill, NHS England and Improvement.
Before the pandemic
Prior to coronavirus, Aaron was physically and socially very active. He enjoys socialising with different groups of people and going to the cinema. Aaron likes to stay active and plays for Leeds Rhinos Learning Disability Rugby League on a weekend.
Aaron sees the world around him differently to others, and he uses his knowledge and passion to make sure that everyone has the same access to health services regardless of whether they have an autism or learning disability diagnosis.
“I feel really lucky to work alongside Aaron. His ability to speak-up and challenge where needed, but also develop positive relationships really helps us to understand the issues and work together to fix them.” – Sarah Jackson, NHS England and NHS Improvement.
When covid-19 hit
Covid-19 had a huge emotional impact on Aaron. Being confined to a 1-bed flat away from friends and family is awful, and many readers will identify with his feelings of isolation, anxiety, stress and frustration. Aaron has been on a rollercoaster of emotions, from very happy to very low. He’s even recounted his good and bad days as a poem.
Aaron’s advocacy role has been doubly important through this period. It has helped him find a purpose and, of course, at this time of crisis autistic people and those with learning disabilities have been in far greater need of the advocacy support that he provides.
Aaron’s insights into the impact of shielding have led to the development of accessible Covid-19 resources for autistic people and people with a learning disability.
He is so passionate about making changes to help people lead happier, healthier, longer and more fulfilling lives. And he advocates with a great sense of humour that builds bridges and helps him get his point across.
“Aaron is a fabulous role model as to what people can achieve. When he talks to large audiences it has a massive impact on people’s hearts and minds.” – Jo Whaley, NHS England and Improvement.
The Coronavirus Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List is produced by Dimensions in partnership with Learning Disability England and VODG. It is an adapted version of the annual Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List.
Follow @DimensionsUK and #CovidLeadersList to stay up to date.