More help for people with autism thanks to Sunderland Echo lottery cash drive

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PEOPLE with autism are to be given a helping hand with the launch of a new support scheme.

The North East Autism Society (NEAS) is to provide volunteer befrienders to offer a one-to-one service to isolated young people with condition.

The group, in Chester-le-Street, was one of 14 charities and community groups to win a share of £250,000 handed out as part of the Echo’s Do a Lotto Good drive.

We joined forces with the Big Lottery Fund to hand out grants of between £10,000 and £30,000 to community and not-for-profit organisations, parish and town councils, health bodies and schools.

Readers voted on a shortlist of the best ideas, with the group awarded £23,625 for its project.

Fund-raiser Susan Tron said: “It was necessary for me to research the difficulties faced by families with children affected by autism and I was shocked to find how difficult life can be.

“There is an awful lot of parents at their wits’ end trying to cope with children with autism, who are isolated and lonely and desperate to make friends and socialise.

“That is no way for people to live.

“The long-term prognosis for such families is really bleak.”

The group aims to recruit and train volunteers to provide support to access activities including adventure and sport, communication and sensory, creative arts and music, computers and media.

Befrienders will aim to create a sense of belonging and a degree of independence that will support the children to tolerate new environments, leading to improved integration and less risky behaviour.

“The Befriending Project is such a simple idea,” said Susan.

“Volunteers will work with the young people to help them travel independently on public transport and visit leisure and community centres, taking them places they can safely meet people of their own age.

“Imagine how wonderful it will be to open the door to life’s simple pleasures by just giving the right kind of support where it is needed.”

Form more information, call 410 9974 or email