I’m Jimmy, I’m 23 years old and have been working with the KIDS participation team for over six years now.  This project has given me so many opportunities to have a say over the years, but I want to focus on this last crazy year.

KIDS have given me chance to not only speak about me, my experiences but also to represent the views of other young people with disabilities. I have been involved in helping OFSTED and CQC redesign their inspection framework, helping KIDS develop their future plans and strategy and spoken to the SEND All Party Parliamentary Group about my experiences during lockdown.

I use an eye gazer to communicate and this can be a barrier but KIDS work with me to ensure my voice can be heard. This has really boosted my confidence and actually helped me stand up for my decisions, including at college. My family are also really proud because I am stepping up at my meetings and letting them know what I want. I’ve got big plans for my future!

Lockdown has been tough because I actually lost all my personal assistants meaning my family had to cover all my care and support. We all need a break sometimes. It was great that KIDS set up an online opportunity for the group to still meet and even more regularly. The staff are amazing and kind, giving us a chance to chat and interact with each other. I really looked forward to our Wednesday evening meetings because I wasn’t seeing anyone else. One of the staff actually came to visit me during lockdown, she talked to me about how things were and we caught up. Hopefully soon we are getting back together in person – I can’t wait.

My mum says when I come to KIDS, it’s one of the only places she really knows I will be looked after and really understood. The staff make sure I have time to say what I want and they encourage me to be part of something bigger than just me. Participation is so important, not just to me but the wider SEND young people and I am helping making a difference for us all by being part of the KIDS work.