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  • Writer's pictureMelanie

Alex Anderson - Young Achiever 2022

This is Alex Anderson. He received a Pride of Britain Award last week for being a Young Achiever.

Alex is "one of the first people with Asperger's Syndrome to join the Royal Air Force". Yes, you read that right. In 2022, Alex is one of the first. Like so many others, I love watching the Pride of Britain Awards and am so touched by the stories of people doing some brilliant things for the benefit of others, but Alex's story really left me reeling. How, in 2022, could Alex be one of the first? I had to find out. It seems that anyone with a neurodiverse condition was not allowed to join the RAF before their rules changed in 2020. It's not clear to me whether this was every neurodiverse condition, or specific ones. The rule from 2020 is that everyone will be judged based on their individual merits, not based on their diagnosis. I have attached the RAF D&I Statement issued in 2020, which includes neurodiversity specifically, here. There is so much wrong with this. No two brains are the same. It is estimated that 1 in 5 of us is neurodivergent, but not all of us has a diagnosis, and neither is it required under the terms of the Equality Act 2010, but the law does require that no-one is discriminated against due to a 'disability', which includes neurodiverse conditions. (There is potential for a whole other article on whether neurodiverse conditions are disabilities.) The RAF could have missed out on a dedicated and brilliantly talented service person due to their rules, and are likely to have missed out on many many more before him. I could go on (as you have probably gathered!). Thankfully, Alex got support from The Prince's Trust employability team to help him to build his skills and his confidence to achieve his dream, and to support his health and well being through the process. And, Alex received his award from the brilliant Idris Elba, who read a letter that King Charles III had written to Alex. The irony is that, before he read the letter, Idris told the audience that he has dyslexia, so bear with him. The irony being that Idris Elba presumably wouldn't have been allowed to join the RAF due to his neurodiversity. *Sigh Stories like this remind me that we have some way to go to help to make the world a much more neuroinclusive place and to break some of the misunderstanding and stigma that is still surrounding neurodiverse conditions, but it also makes me proud that change IS happening. It spurs me on to continue to try to make the difference for my son, and many other brilliantly talented neurodivergent individuals. I am so pleased that Alex is sharing his story, and is helping so many others with neurodiverse conditions to thrive. Thank you Alex. The growing army of neurodiversity champion, allies and educators are moving forward and, together, we will make the difference and make the change. Small steps people, small steps.


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