Dana, an NAS Young Campaigner, writes about what the team got up to last year

An image of Dana Egerton with Jane Asher

My name’s Dana, I’m 15 years old and I'm from Farnborough; I love playing video games and I collect every single one from over the years, no matter how old they may be! I am an NAS Young Campaigner, and I’m going to give you a general overview about it.

The NAS Young Campaigners Group is a group of about 10 people on the autism spectrum who have a desire to raise awareness of autism. We usually meet in a small room that is hired out for us to have meetings, which this year was in Farringdon, London. Every year, we make a campaign on what we feel is a big issue that people with autism face. This year we campaigned to provide more employment opportunities for people with autism and make employers aware of what autism is. We chose to campaign about this because we felt that employment would be something difficult for us to achieve since the amount of people with autism who are employed is very low, compared the rest of the population.

One thing we did to raise awareness of the issue was make a video discussing the issue; we talked about various statistics relating to the issues and what we could do in order for people with autism to become employed. Some of the solutions we thought would be useful were having taster days instead of typical interviews where you sit down and get asked lots of different questions, or maybe having additional accessibility arrangements made so our environment isn’t too overwhelming for us to work in. Another thing we also did was talk to our local MPs from our constituencies in order for them to support our campaign and make this less of an issue for those on the spectrum. I got a response from my local MP called Sir Gerald Howarth, who I went to meet in Parliament and we discussed our employment campaign to see if there was anything we could do to help in our local constituency.

Personally, I like the NAS Young Campaigners Group because it has made me realise I’m not the only one who has autism and that there are other people who I can relate to, when sometimes I can feel like I’m in a world where 'everyone speaks a foreign language'. Working together at the NAS Young Campaigners group made me feel like I was helping other people like me; If we ever needed a bit of help with parts of our campaign, we would happily assist by suggesting ideas and cooperating together on tasks. Some people in the group helped me by discussing ideas with me and also with planning parts of the campaign too!

It has also helped me gain friends who are similar to me in the way that our brains work and my organisation skills have improved from using public transport since I have to rely on trains to get to the meetings! I have kept in touch with some of the other NAS Young Campaigners when we’re not at the meetings, and that has helped me to develop more friendships even though sometimes I can find it very difficult with the challenges I face as a person on the autism spectrum.

Applications are now open to join the group this year, so if any of you reading this are interested in being part of it! If you know anyone who has autism in the age range of 13 – 19 years, or if anyone people you know has a desire to raise awareness of autism and change the future for those with it, please contact campaign@nas.org.uk for an application form.