A MOTHER has told of her autistic sons’ disappointment after a river failed to shine blue on World Autism Day.

Charlotte Hall, of Stockton, took her two autistic sons, Oliver, six, and Edward, four, to Stockton town centre on Wednesday night to see the River Tees lit up.

However, despite Stockton Borough Council’s promise to turn the river and bridges blue as part of World Autism Day, largely failed due to a technical problem and council mleader Bob Cook today apologised for any disappointment caused.

Loading article content

The Millennium Bridge did turn blue for a time, as reported and pictured in today’s (Thursday's) Northern Echo, but, contrary to earlier reports, the river and the Princess of Wales Bridge did not change colour.

Mrs Hall, from the Bishopsgarth area of the town, explained World Autism Day was always a special day for the family.

“The reason last night was so disappointing wasn't just because the lights didn't turn blue but because for my oldest son any change in his usual routine makes him very anxious.

"Before he left the house he was screaming on the doorstep. He desperately wanted to go but the change in his usual routine is hard for him.

“They were both really disappointed when what they expected to happen didn't happen and, although it may seem like a small thing to most people, when you have autism it can be very difficult to deal with the unexpected.

“In Oliver's words; 'Someone has ruined world autism day. Were they playing an April fool’s trick on me, that's really mean.’”

“I think the idea was brilliant and it made me feel like Stockton was recognising a day that's really important to families affected by autism and making a special effort. I hope next year they can deliver something.”

Leader of Stockton Council,  Bob Cook, said that a temporary software problem meant the lights didn’t work. The river will now glow blue for a month, apart from St George’s day on Tuesday, April 23, when it will turn red.

Coun Cook said: “We are very sorry about this and for any disappointment caused as we are strongly committed to raising awareness about autism. As an apology we will be making a donation to the North East Autism Society.”