Thirteen-year-old Olivia Rudge, from Cradley Heath in the West Midlands, has been awarded ‘Young Person of the Year’ at the 2021 Sense Awards, which celebrate the achievements of people with complex disabilities.

Olivia, who is non-verbal and has multiple disabilities, is recognised for overcoming significant challenges since the outbreak of the pandemic.

When the pandemic began, Olivia’s support ceased and her routine was turned upside down, leaving her upset and frustrated as she couldn’t understand the situation.

Her mobility skills also worsened without her usual hydrotherapy sessions. But during lockdown, Olivia joined the Sense Virtual Buddying scheme, which matches young disabled people to volunteers to meet online and share their interests.

Her family were surprised at how well she adapted to the sessions, which have helped her to improve her concentration, and try new activities such as candle making, sensory experiences and dancing which has improved her mobility skills. Olivia’s award follows last year’s win for her mum, Sam Rudge, who won the 2020 ‘Family Carer of the Year’ Award for her commitment to go above and beyond when caring full-time for her.

Sam Rudge said: “We are so proud of Olivia for winning this award. It means the world to us that she has been recognised for the very special girl that she is. Even though the last 18 months have been very difficult for her, she has managed to come out the other side, still being our happy, smiley little girl and bringing joy and smiles to everyone she meets.”

Sense Chief Executive, Richard Kramer, added: “Olivia is an absolute star and it’s wonderful to see how she has overcome the challenges she has faced throughout the last 18 months. Sense Buddying provides a vital service, supporting young people with complex disabilities to flourish and this award proves that. We’re delighted to present Olivia with the 2021 ‘Young Person of the Year’ award and congratulate her on her achievements.”

The Sense Awards recognise the outstanding achievements of people with complex disabilities, as well as the staff, carers, family members, volunteers and fundraisers who support them.