“I hope this recognition inspires other young autistic people to reach their goals”
Adam Bradford, who contributed to the organisation of Autism-Europe’s 11th Congress through his work with the National Autistic Society (UK) has, at the age of 23, been honoured by Queen Elizabeth II for his work improving the lives of others in the UK.
Diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at the age of 11, Adam launched an IT social enterprise and set up a mentoring and business project in his home town of Sheffield. In his teens, he gained a place at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy and transformed his project into a social enterprise. He has worked with local and national youth organisations, acted as a mentor and supported young people to set up their own ventures. He has also run campaigns to improve understanding of autism, to raise awareness of gambling addiction and visited schools, colleges and prisons to help young people turn their lives around. He still runs his consultancy company and has worked with numerous charities and youth sector organisations.
Autism-Europe: What does it mean to you and to the autism community to receive the Queen’s Young Leader Award?
Adam Bradford: The Queen’s Young Leader Award is an inspiring platform for me and all of the other winners to be able to show other young people how to lead impactful lives. In today’s world we need leaders more than ever, people who will change the world and challenge things which they feel are not right. For me and the other 59 winners of this prestigious award, this honour is recognition of our commitment to social change and for me personally it helps to profile and champion the fact that people with autism can still achieve – when given the right support. I hope it inspires other young autistic people to reach their goals.
AE: What challenges do you face in your daily life as a person on the autism spectrum?
AB: Nowadays I try to use different strategies and behaviour I have learned to get on in everyday life. I understand this is harder to do for some but I think the real barrier you have to break through is the understanding gap. Many people have heard of autism but hardly any bother to take time to understand the condition or its impact on people. For me I can over process things, not be able to filter my thoughts and that can give me a hard time mentally. I have to work hard and have a trusted group of friends and coaches who help me get on with my life day to day. I’m lucky to have been entrepreneurial in my career and have a great platform of opportunities to do things like share my story but I get a lot of support to help keep me focused.
AE: Tell us about the “Look Past the Label” campaign and other campaigns you have carried out to raise awareness on autism.
AB: “Look Past the Label” was my way of telling the world to respect and appreciate difference. I decided to tell my story and give practical advice to parents whose children had just been diagnosed with autism. I needed to fill a gap where this practical, lived advice was missing. There is a lack of understanding of autism in this country and across Europe and I wanted to help bridge that gap. I’m confident enough, luckily but sometimes reluctantly, to share my story and give people an insight into how I think and feel. I think more people should be brave enough to do that. Together we can help to bring about greater understanding and as such greater appreciation for autism. It is nothing to be ashamed of.
AE: Are you currently working on anything related to autism awareness?
AB: Currently I am working with my business partner to design and launch a magazine run by and for autistic people, showcasing the positive achievements of those on the spectrum. It will launch online and I will give autistic young people real work experience through the business.
The Award is part of The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme, which celebrates the achievements of young people who are taking the lead to transform the lives of others and making a lasting difference in the communities.