LANDMARKS and public buildings across the North-East turned gold last night to mark World Autism Acceptance Day.

The list going gold included the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, Stockton’s Infinity Bridge, Middlesbrough’s Newport Bridge, Penshaw Monument in Sunderland, Darlington Hippodrome Theatre, the Redcar Beacon, and a host of others.

The colour blue has traditionally been associated with autism, but the North East Autism Society (NEAS) has switched to gold in recent years because it symbolises value and worth.

John Phillipson, chief executive of NEAS, said: "Our focus is on what we can learn and change for the better, for those of us who are autistic."

Families across the North-east made the most of the dry weather on Good Friday, as they took part in a Virtual Walk for Autism Acceptance, organised by the region’s leading autism charity, the North East Autism Society (NEAS).

Meanwhile, autistic children, young, people and adults across the region, along with their families, friends and the staff who support them, stepped out on World Autism Acceptance Day (Friday, April 2nd) to raise money for the Society, which was founded by a group of parents more than 40 years ago.

The walk, which usually attracts large crowds to Sunderland’s Herrington Country Park, looked a little different this year due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, however NEAS’s message of acceptance remained the same and people still got into the spirit of the day, with many donning fancy dress for the occasion.

And with the walk going online this year for the first time ever, people will be heading out to complete their individual walks over the long weekend.

Six-year-old Jacob Sinclair, who is autistic and has mobility issues, raised more than £600 for the North East Autism Society, after telling his mum he wanted to walk five miles, dressed as Super Mario, to help other autistic people like him.

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“I was on the NEAS website one day and Jacob appeared behind me and saw an advert for the walk. He said, ‘Mammy can we do the walk because I have autism and I'm so special and everyone should know that I'm just like them’,” Jacob’s mum, from Sunderland, said.

“That was so emotional for me - not only was that the first time he had said the word autism, but in the same breath he said ‘I am special’. And for me, as a parent, that is what it’s all about – acceptance and championing neurodiversity.”

The Society - which provides schools, further education, residential care, toddler and youth groups, employment and day services - said the safety of its supporters, employees and the people they aim to serve was at the forefront of its planning.

Kevin Meikle, fundraising manager for the North East Autism Society, said: “Autism Acceptance Week has looked a little different this year - but our message remains the same. Being aware of autism and autistic people requires very little – acceptance is much less passive. It requires boots on the ground – so what better way to show support than to take part in the walk.”

To mark Autism Acceptance Week (March 29 – April 4) the Society has put on a number of events, including its groundbreaking Acceptance Matters Virtual Conference on Thursday, which attracted more than 500 people to sign up from across the globe and included a packed line-up including autistic speakers and practitioners.

And the Life Science Centre in Newcastle became the first visitor attraction to be awarded the Gold Standard Autism Acceptance Award by NEAS.

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