April 1 to April 7 has been Autism Awareness Week and the region has aimed to bring more awareness to autism and the struggles faced by autistic people.
Landmarks such as Penshaw Momument have turned gold in support of The North East Autism Society’s Going for Gold Campaign. Meanwhile, the Intu Metrocentre and Eldon Square have joined Morrisons in having a “Quiet Hour”.
The North East Autism Society’s Going for Gold campaign was chosen as the colour gold is the colour of success and achievement. want autism to be celebrated and accepted.
John Phillipson, the chief executive of The North East Autism Society (NEAS), said: “This is our most exciting campaign to date because it’s about each of us taking responsibility to make the world a better place. We’ve been providing services for autistic children, young people and adults in the North-east for close to 40 years. It’s time we moved from awareness to a new standard – a gold standard – of acceptance and celebration.”
Dr Amy Pearson, a researcher specialising in autism at the University of Sunderland, said: “It’s great that the North East Autism Society is really listening to what autistic people want and working with autistic people to really advocate for acceptance rather than just awareness.”
Dr Pearson also commented on Quiet Hours. She said: “I think Quiet Hours are a lovely idea, I think for most people, shopping in a quieter and stress-free environment is fantastic. I do think more could be done in terms of timing as limiting them to just a morning that means autistic people who work full time are not going to able to benefit from them.”
Regarding more widespread acceptance for autism in the future, Dr Pearson said: “General acceptance would be absolutely fantastic to see: changing society to view working alongside autistic people as not making adjustments or allowances but just making things easier for individuals to work and live.
“Personally I would like to see more autistic led research in academia.”