2074. Andy Smith
Andy Smith, from Bury, founded ‘Spectrum Gaming’ in 2020, an online platform with over 1,600 members that provides a space for young autistic people to connect through gaming.
Andy attempted to take his own life at age 20, feeling like he would never be able to live a happy and fulfilled life as an autistic person. Following his attempt, he found an online community of autistic people that changed his life as he saw they had accepted what made them different and were able to live authentically. Inspired by this, Andy set out to create a platform to help as many autistic people as possible, hoping to help future generations avoid the struggle that he and others had faced.
Spectrum Gaming offers a community for young autistic people to connect, running a variety of events both online and in person. Alongside running an online community, the charity also hosts in-person socials and supports young people and their families by providing resources, signposting to other charities and working with other organisations to advocate for autistic people.
In a personal letter to Andy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
“From your own experiences of living with autism, you know how important it is for young people to have an inclusive and welcoming community which allows them to be themselves.
“So I was inspired to hear how Spectrum Gaming is helping people increase their self-confidence – as well as having some fun along the way. You are also offering valuable guidance to parents and carers, and helping families find adjustments to allow young people with autism to thrive.
“You should be very proud of everything you have achieved and the difference you are making to improve the lives of others.”
“I am humbled and deeply grateful to receive this award. While I don’t do anything for an award, it is really nice to be recognised for the work that me and my team are doing to try and improve the lives of autistic young people.”