Originally created to amplify autistic young voices as part of a research project, our Autism Activists group has gone from strength to strength this year.

The group, made up of seven autistic young people aged nine to 18 years has been running since 2019, when it was formed by Family Development Manager Kerrie Highcock as part of a master’s degree research project on what autistic people wanted society to know about being autistic.

Since then, the Activists have been part of five projects, and their short film, Let Me Be Me, recently beat multiple entries from national and international charities at the Smiley Charity Film Awards, earning silver medals in both the Judges’ Award and the People’s Choice vote.

Kerrie said:

Working on the film was brilliant, just giving young people the opportunity to talk about stuff that matters to them is really vital.

In the past, the group has used other creative methods to spread its message as well, working with OGRE Studio in creating protest art that combatted preconceived and negative views of autism.

William, a member of the Activists group, said:

People think that autism is a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s just me! Me walking down the street, me going to school, me doing things with my friends, me going to the cinema, me thinking about what we’ll have for tea, me wondering what’s in the future.

Kerrie added: “Using creative methods is really powerful because you’re giving them a different medium that doesn’t rely on language to communicate.”

The film was produced by the activists, who planned, scripted, and provided voice-over, as well as all the artwork that was then animated by Graeme Patterson of Arms Reach.

Ed, an 18-year-old member of the Activists group, said: “I’m really passionate about human rights, and the voices of young autistic people being heard, so I was proud to be part of making the film because it will help raise awareness.”

Ed, alongside fellow activist Lucie, 15, also features in an upcoming takeover of the North East Autism Society podcast, This Is Autism.

Kerrie said:

I think people should be looking forward to hearing a youth voice that is very raw. If society wants to learn anything about autism, it should do it from autistic people, and I think autistic youth bring a very different perspective to autistic adults because it’s a whole different world now.

Lucie added: “We do bring a different perspective. I think maybe if you have a whole room full of neurotypical people you might get a lot of agreement.”

A difference in thinking can lead to new ideas.

The podcast episode featuring Ed and Lucie will be released on 6th April as an Autism Acceptance Week special.