A YOUNGSTER is determined to get moving with an 80,000-step challenge to raise funds for a worthy cause close to her heart.

With World Autism Awareness Week starting next Monday, ten-year-old Yasmine Keene will walk 10,000 steps a day throughout the week for the charity Autism Initiatives Group, which provides specialist support throughout the UK.

The family, from Stanley, is currently in the process of obtaining a formal diagnosis for younger brother Joseph Keene, four, for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ADHD, and her cousins have also been diagnosed or are in the process of being diagnosed with ASD.

Mam Lorna Keene said: “She’s so eager to get involved. She’s very kind and considerate of other people, and I’m so proud of her.

“I made sure she understood that 10,000 steps were a lot for a ten-year-old and asked if she maybe wanted to reduce the amount, but she insisted no, that she wanted to do it for Joseph.”

According to Autism Initiatives Group, one in 100 people in the UK may be on the autistic spectrum.

The charity works with autistic individuals and their families to understand what they need, how they work best, and the support needed in order for them to achieve their own goals.

On awaiting a diagnosis for her son, Mrs Keene said: “ADHD and autism have very similar signs, though the ADHD was quite obvious- one of the main things we noticed was Joseph is very energetic constantly from the moment he wakes to the moment he drops on a night.

The Northern Echo: From left, Yasmine Keene, ten, and younger brother Joseph Keene, fourFrom left, Yasmine Keene, ten, and younger brother Joseph Keene, four

“But no two people with autism are the same, and that’s important to remember.

“ADHD and autism are very closely linked, so there are a lot of signs that cross over. At school his teachers noticed he was having difficulty focusing.

“Yasmine and Joseph both attend Bloemfontein Primary School in Craghead, who have been a huge support in getting the ball rolling for receiving a diagnosis and the support needed for Joseph in school, in the classroom and at home.

“Usually, most children of a young age are able to sit and focus on something for a couple of minutes- Joseph doesn’t have that ability at all, so it can be really difficult.

“He also struggles with auditory issues- it’s almost as if noises that would be normal to us are ten times louder to him.

“He used to hate the sound of the toilet flushing or hand dryers, those things would really affect him and he would cover his ears.

“The noise of the classroom at school can also be too much- he will hide underneath the desks when sounds become overwhelming.

“In the dinner hall he has to sit with a teacher, as the sounds of the echoes in the hall can be sensory overload for him.

"We know others don't have the same support network as we do, and as hard as we have found it, those who don't have the right help must find it even harder! We know how crucial this support is to the person and families of those with ASD.

“Yasmine always wants to look out for Joseph and she’s always telling me ‘I’ll take care of him!’ They have a lovely relationship.

“All she wants to do is help her brother, cousins, and all those around the UK with autism. This is her small way of contributing!”

To sponsor the youngster on her mission, visit walkforautism.co.uk/fundraisers/yasminekeene/walk-for-autism

To find out more about the charity visit autisminitiatives.org/our-approach