WHILE Easter weather looks set to be grey our North-East skies will soon be awash with gold.

That’s thanks to the pioneering work of the North East Autism Society and World Autism Acceptance Week starting on Monday.

With a long list of local authorities and their landmarks ready to ‘go gold’, it looks set to be another record-breaking year for the region’s leading autism-specific service provider. 

John Phillipson, CEO at NEAS, said: “We took a deliberate step away from the negative imagery, terminology and culture surrounding autism a few years ago now, switching from awareness to acceptance.

“Our goal remains the same:  we believe we can collectively create a better world for us all, but especially – for this week – our focus is on what we can learn and change for the better, for those of us who are autistic.

“That positive message is also backed up by our gold theme. While the colour blue has typically been used in association with autism, we opted for gold instead as it denotes value and worth.”

Venues going gold in support of Autism Acceptance include:

Sunderland: Northern Spire Bridge, Penshaw Monument, Keel Square, Market square, Seaburn Lighthouse, Fulwell Mill and Hylton Castle. 29th March - 2nd April 

Newcastle: Newcastle Civic Centre. 29th March - 4th April 

Middlesbrough: Centre Square Fountains. 29th March - 4th April  

Gateshead: Gateshead Millennium Bridge. 2nd April 

Stockton: Stockton Town Hall, Stockton High Street fountains and columns, Riverside and Newport Bridge. 2nd April 

Autistic, the word traditionally used to describe any person with specific lifelong neurodevelopmental differences, can apply to male and female. It’s not a childhood condition which can be grown out of neither is it a disease which can be ‘cut out’ or cured. 

John added: “In real terms being autistic is not negative or positive, while there will be definite aspects of both throughout life. It’s actually neutral. It just ‘is’. Acceptance is about a movement where who we are – in all fullness – is loved and accepted.

“Whether we communicate by speaking or in silence, whether we have other co-existing conditions or have just learned of our diagnosis, whether we need additional support or care, or whether we live independently… every life is equally valued and worthy of being accepted.”

The move from awareness to acceptance has seen the North-East charity continue to innovate and lead the region in how autism is viewed and understood. 

The week will also include a virtual conference called Autism Matters on Thursday, April 1 which includes a packed line-up including autistic speakers and practitioners, as well as the first ever virtual walk for autism on Friday, April 2. 

  • To register for either, for a free home activity pack, or for more information, visit www.ne-as.org.uk.