AN award-winning charity has launched a pioneering online campaign to support autistic families during the coronavirus crisis.

The North East Autism Society (NEAS) has prepared an ambitious programme of digital activities in readiness for World Autism Acceptance Week which begins on Monday and ends on April 5.

A number of traditional events have had to be cancelled due to the pandemic but NEAS staff have been working remotely to ensure that autistic and neurodiverse people can still access wide-ranging support.

The charity has launched a special standalone website – – where the autistic community can engage in fun, educational and mindful activities from home.

The website, the first of its kind in the country, is specifically designed to help families during the lockdown and features include gaming areas, fitness videos, mindfulness tools, and virtual events.

Among other highlights organised for the week will be the “Great Minds” historic walking tour of Newcastle, led by Alexander Iles, of Iles Tours. The open air walk was originally planned for Saturday, April 4, but will now be a free virtual tour instead.

Meanwhile, starting on Monday, a children’s story called Snowdrop The Spikeshuffler – illustrated by Darlington-based autistic artist Jonathan Raiseborough – will be serialised as an audio book on social media.

The daily podcast will feature Jonathan’s drawings and animations and be narrated by author Peter Barron.

Families can also visit the main website – – to download a ‘home pack’ full of crafts and fun activities.

Last year, NEAS changed the narrative on autism with a “Going For Gold” campaign, and a number of the region’s best-known landmarks will still light up gold on World Autism Acceptance Day this year.

The day falls on Thursday, April 2, and participating landmarks include Gateshead’s Millennium Bridge, Penshaw Monument, and Sunderland’s Northern Spire Bridge.

Families are also being urged to join in for an hour at 7pm on Thursday evening by turning on all their lights at home.

John Phillipson, chief executive for the North East Autism Society, said: “I’m incredibly proud of the fundraising and marketing teams who have been working together – from home – to put an engaging and comprehensive programme together in these challenging times.

“They will be making sure all of our families, and the wider autistic community and those in their lives, still have access to positive, helpful tools and content during a week when all eyes are on autism.”