TWO years ago two mothers decided over coffee that they were going to launch a support group for families affected by Autism.

The pair, both parents to children on the spectrum, were fed up of fighting for answers and feeling like they had no support.

They envisaged a safe space for children to stay and play whilst parents shared stories, ideas and advice.

They say they are “just mams” but to the 2,000 families who have benefitted from their wisdom, they are so much more.

Michelle Abbs and Laura Younger know what it’s like to feel judged, to feel alone and feel despair for what the future holds for them and their children, but since the launch of Little Treasures in October 2016 life is better for them and their families.

“The charity has saved us,” Mrs Abbs says. “Nearly three years down the line and the it still saves me today.

“The support and feedback we get from families and other parents speaks volumes.”

Mrs Abbs has three children, Lewis aged 15, Jodie aged 11 and Charlie aged 10.

Charlie was diagnosed with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Tourettes syndrome and ADHD aged five.

Mrs Abbs added: “There is a common misconception that children with Autism are just naughty kids, that Autism only affects children and boys.

“None of that is correct and we want to get the message out there.

“The point of this week is to make people aware of Autism so that they can accept it, it’s about accepting people for who they are.”

Mrs Younger also has three children, Beth aged eight, Charlie aged five and Archie aged one.

Charlie was diagnosed with Autism, Sensory Processing, Hypotonia and Hypermobility aged four.

Mrs Younger, of Bishop Auckland, says: “I agree that there are a lot of misconceptions around Autism and that’s why it is so important that we start a conversation, this week especially, to educate people on what Autism really is.

“When Charlie was diagnosed we were given a report and it was quite hard-hitting and difficult to read, it was basically a list of things that he couldn’t do.

“We like to focus on the positives - the things he can do.

“Children on the spectrum can have an amazing attention to detail, they can be fantastic builders or brilliant at drawing. We need to celebrate our differences.”

The National Autistic Society describes Autism as a lifelong disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. It is thought that there are approximately 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.

April 1 to 7 is World Autism Awareness Week and the charity founders are hoping to shine a spotlight on the disorder.

Mrs Abbs, who lives in Ferryhill, added: “We have been working with quite a few schools and it’s so important that we teach our children about Autism too so they understand the kids in their class who might be a bit different.

“In future I would like to see parents not have to fight for services and support that children need.

“One of the reasons we started Little Treasures was because we felt like we were fighting a losing battle getting the support we needed for our children.

“Now that we have this experience we’re able to help other parents going through the same thing.”

Little Treasures started with one session held twice a month in Ferryhill. The charity now holds sessions in 18 different locations around the North-East and is about to extend further North into Gateshead.

It offers stay and play sessions on a weekend and parent to parent support sessions during the week.

To date, more than 2,000 families have stepped foot through the door for support and advice.

Mrs Abbs added: “There is no judgement at all at our groups, nobody will look down their nose at anything anybody else has to say, people just share their experiences and what worked for them

“Little Treasures isn’t what I expected, when we set it up I honestly thought it would be me and maybe three or four people who felt the same. It just snowballed.

“But I am so glad we did set it up because you don’t get support like this anywhere else.”

For more information or to donate search Little Treasures on Facebook.