Families step out this Easter in support of autism acceptance, despite Sunderland event being cancelled
Families in the North East made the most of the dry weather on Good Friday, as they took part in a a Virtual Walk for Autism Acceptance.
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 (April 2) to raise money for the North East Autism Society (NEAS),
The pioneering charity, which provides schools, further education, residential care, toddler and youth groups as well as employment and day services, was founded by a group of parents in Sunderland more than 40 years ago.
The walk, which usually attracts large crowds to Sunderland’s Herrington Country Park, looked a bit different this year due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions but people still got into the spirit of the day, with many donning fancy dress for the occasion.
Six-year-old Jacob Sinclair, from Sunderland, 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.
Jacob’s mum said: “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’.
“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.”
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.”
Many North East landmarks, including the Northern Spire Bridge, Penshaw Monument and Fulwell Mill, were lit up gold in celebration of the week.