I was recently nominated for the National Diversity Awards, which celebrate nominees' "outstanding devotion to enhancing equality, diversity and inclusion; thus embracing the excellence of all our citizens irrespective of race, faith, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability and culture."
There were over 20,000 nominations and votes overall, and unfortunately I was not shortlisted. However, I am extremely proud and honoured to have been nominated. I received votes that made tears stream down my face, and confirmed to me that The Rainbow Project is changing lives - I did not need to win to prove that.
Thank you to everyone who voted. It means the world to me.
I am presenting a selection of the votes here (I have removed some identifying details).
"Amanda is founder of The Rainbow Project, providing specialist early intervention for autistic children and support for parents. She is particularly autism positive, encouraging children in her care to develop their full potential using a gentle, child led developmental approach. Parents feel empowered, closer to their children, and supported in ways they haven't found except with Amanda. The children make amazing progress in social skills and communication with focus on their motivations, not enforcement of behaviours. Amanda is passionate about helping as many children and families as she can and as well and offers her services cheaply so parents can afford them. In order to do so she needs to work as a dentist as well as working full time for the project. She also studies to improve her skills, and seeks as many further training opportunities as possible. Most of all you see love between Amanda and the children and the stunning results achieved."
"Amanda is simply amazing. She provides tremendous emotional support for me as a parent and gives me hope that my daughters future will be a lot brighter than I had been led to believe by the school. I met her last October(16) when someone suggested her to me to help educate my nonverbal autistic daughter. From the very first meeting she formed a bond with my daughter and I saw my daughter do things I knew she could do ( from watching her with her ipad) that everyone told me she couldn't do e.g. matching colours and shapes. My daughter has never looked back. In the past 8 months she has learnt all her numbers 1-20, all her alphabet, is recognising some words, can write her first name unaided and her surname and all other letters tracing. All in 2 hours a week with Amanda. Amanda works very hard in between sessions. She thinks about how to approach a situation from a different angle if it’s not worked the first time and usually by the second approach my daughter has understood what is requested of her and shows her understanding. I think my daughter sees Amanda as her friend, someone she can go and have fun with. I see my daughter eager to learn whilst at Amanda's and she brings that home and asks ( in her non verbal way) to practise eg her writing. Its like Amanda has stimulated her interest in learning. I truly believe that having Amanda in my daughter’s life will transform her whole life and future as she is giving her skills and confidence. Seeing my daughter with Amanda and watching her develop provides a lot of support for me to continue fighting for what she needs. Amanda offers advice and provide her time for free for assistance with EHCPs, IEPs. her comments are intuitive and very articulate. I find it truly amazing that not only can she inspire my daughter and support me. She presents at seminars too. All this makes her an exceptional person without even beginning to factor in her own personal issues. If my daughter manages to achieve half of what Amanda has achieved I will be extremely happy. I believe with Amanda's help she will reach her full potential. I would think her parents are very proud of all she has achieved so far. I hope she fulfils her dream and starts a pre school it will provide valuable support for both children and parents alike and it would be criminal if her talents were not shared to a wider audience. I started by saying I think Amanda is truly amazing and I think I would like to end saying the same thing."
"Amanda developed her service because she recognised there was a very important need for affordable 1:1 therapy for children with autism. She specifically has chosen the early years age group as early intervention is so crucial. It is very inspiring to see the progress all the children in her care make all with very different needs. Amanda is a teacher who is changing the life chances of these children. I know she sends many hours developing resources individual to the special interests of her children, she spends many hours learning all she can about their needs and is always striving to be the best she can for them. You will be hard pushed to find anyone more deserving of this award than Amanda."
"Amanda is one of the most amazing caring people I have the pleasure of knowing! When I met Amanda and she told me about The Rainbow Project, I couldn't imagine a better, more determined person doing it. It's clear to everyone around her that she loves doing what she does and she does it so very well! She has so much pride in her work at The Rainbow Project and you can tell how much she loves it when you're sitting with her and she's telling you all about whag different children learned that week and I think knowing they she has helped them, makes her feel so proud! So because of all that, I couldn't think of anyone better to receive this award than amanda!"
"I'm voting for Amanda because she is embodies the message that the National Diversity Awards conveys. She is an outstanding role model to the children she looks after, the community she works in and random people she meets, like me. She is perhaps the most inclusive person I know, her work with young children with complex communication difficulties in itself should be rewarded (although I know she thinks the progress the children make and a smile from them is more than enough reward) but in addition her attitude, her personality and her commitment to providing a just and fair world for all human beings is genuinely awe inspiring."
"The Rainbow Project has already changed the lives of several families, improving the communication and emotion regulating skills of the children that are a part of it. It is a project like no other and I feel like the methods used at The Rainbow Project have such a deep affect on the children. I have known Amanda for five years and in that time she has come so far. I have enjoyed watching her blossom throughout these years and grow into a perfectly capable young woman. Her passion for Autism and helping others who live with it is so inspiring. The fact she is so committed to helping the children in her project means the results are greater because she gives every child 100%. I am amazed but not surprised at how well she has already done with her current children. I am so proud of her and this project. "
"Amanda is putting herself through university in order to help the children she is working with more effectively. She has done her project in a productive, useful manner so that she can aid the children she works with. I have seen her develop in confidence in the past two years since I have known her. I have read some of her assignments and it shows how invested she is in this project, how much of a difference she makes and helped me understand exactly what she does and how she helps. Amanda often talks about her work and her face lights up when she does which shows me how passionate she is about it and is absolutely amazing to see and hear. Amanda is constantly so positive in her approach to autism in general, she named our group chat the 'autism positivity club' which all of us found inspirational. Amanda inspires me every time she talks about what she does and makes me want to make more of a difference as well. I feel like she spends every single moment thinking about those children, their behaviours and what she can do to help them overcome their anxieties. I really admire this and hope that the families she helps appreciate the work that she puts into it. I cannot express enough how much Amanda inspires me each and every day that I speak to her. I just hope others will acknowledge this and vote for her as well."
"It is clear to anyone who has seen Amanda's work that she is doing a wonderful and much needed job. She provides successful intervention and support for children with autism with pleasing results. That is good enough to warrant an award, but more than that, Amanda provides hope to so many parents who have struggled to find the help and support needed. Amanda has overcome a huge amount of adversity to achieve this, and has been so determined and dedicated in seeking to support others. She cares so much about the children and families she serves. Amanda is a remarkable individual and I love her company. Her joy and humour is infectious and her insights so helpful. She is always worth listening to and her perspective is always interesting and arresting. More than anyone else I know, Amanda has turned what might be considered disadvantage into advantage, what some call weakness into obvious strength and what society refers to as disability into her superpower. Amanda has changed my perception of Autism and other kinds of different abilities."
"Amanda has impressed me with her level of dedication to this project - I would even go so far as to say I think she's found her calling! The progress the kids have made in such a short timescale is astonishing, and just goes to prove how far a little extra time, knowledge and experience can help non-neurotypical children learn and develop, especially in those oh-so-critical early years. Her personal experiences with Autism give Amanda a fantastic insight into different learning and communication methods, as well as a deep empathy for and thus ultimate patience with the children in her care. She is always striving to increase her knowledge of both the disorder and techniques for dealing with it, as of course each presentation of Autism is unique, and she is brilliant at tailoring her approach to each individual child. It goes without saying that this takes a lot of time out of her personal life - she honestly does live and breathe this project! All in all, she is a fantastic role model for these kids: even if they're too young to be aware of it just yet, she's giving them a great example of what they can achieve in life despite their disability, showing them they can find their own unique place in the world, and also demonstrating how such empathy and dedication can make a huge difference to others' lives."
"Amanda is a very special person . She has been working with my son ( with adores her) for about 6 months. and has helped improve his social and communication skills SO much . Her passion and dedication for her start up 'The Rainbow Project' is admirable , and she is adept and talented at being able to tune into very young children with speech delays and challenges and help them learn to communicate."
"Amanda is fantastic my son is 2,1/2 and we suspect he is autistic she totally gets him I I don't find myself constantly explaining him to her she just knows and understands his needs she totally interacts beautifully with him he loves going to see her and enjoys spending time with her which I find lovely and unusual for my son to connect with someone other than close family he picked up pec also straight away with her amazing teaching and is coming on lovely I only wish he had more time with her as she making such a difference ?? vote to Amanda I have found all the other early intervention almost pointless until now!"
"Within 8 months at being at the rainbow project our son has gone from being non-verbal, and quite challenging. now his frustration is down by half if not more he engages he can now tells us what he wants using pecs language and using signalong and is trying to count to ten. He is anxious but with the strategies the rainbow project has put in place we are seeing so much improvement that he is like a different boy. The rainbow project has made us become better advocates for our sons needs. We are so glad we found Amanda when we did she has changed all our life's but most importantly our sons his world is so much bigger now that is why we are voting for Amanda as we firmly believe her work is and can benefit so many children."
"I met Amanda during a residential weekend at Birmingham University ,where I am studying for a degree in autism in children. She is an amazing person-full of knowledge and definitely a role model for autism and what you can achieve . She is passionate about the Rainbow Project and obviously cares very much for the welfare and education of the children ( and parents!) that she helps every day . She has inspired me to reach high in my dreams to help to make autism better understood and to give my best to help the children I work with."
"The reason I am voting for Amanda is because of her never ending enthusiasm and dedication to the children and families she works with. I know Amanda at university. She inspires myself and other students and we value her contribution immensely. Just as we value Amanda, Amanda sees the positive in her children. She calls this their 'wow' moments. The world needs more people like this, that are positive about Neuro diversity. Often parents are told nothing but negative comments about their child's autism. For Amanda to be positive about every achievement they make and to celebrate this will mean so much to the children and parents."
"Amanda has always been passionate about helping children reach their potential no matter their barriers. She loves the job that she does, such that she set up her own business to aid pre-schoolers. Parents appreciate the difference that they see in their children after they spend time with Amanda."