NINE-YEAR-OLD Mathew is a cheeky practical joker – and his mum Jackie Richardson couldn’t be more proud.

Mathew had become withdrawn for a couple of years, but now his old self is starting to emerge at Braemar Gardens, a children’s residential home run by the North East Autism Society.

“He will say funny things, plays practical jokes, try to play staff off against each other. That’s him being comfortable,” says Jackie, from Sunderland.

It’s lovely to see, because he went into his shell for a couple of years. The Mathew I see now is back to his old self.

Mathew stays at Braemar Gardens in Sunderland with two other boys and regularly sees Jackie, his dad and his 20-year-old brother Gary. He attends Thornhill Park school nearby which is also run by NEAS.

He has a long list of interests, including TV and films, shopping, trampolining, swimming, and science projects. He saved long and hard for a 3D printer and now care staff help him create a production line of toy soldiers and characters from his favourite films.

Jackie is delighted to see him thriving. “His brain works overtime,” she says. “You are always learning from him because he knows things which I think are brilliant.” 

Mathew moved into Braemar in January 2021 and now gets on so well with care support staff that he asks for a daily cuddle. Jackie says it feels like a family home, which has made him feel comfortable.

She says: "It had a big impact on the family when he went into residential care. But he likes Braemar Gardens and he gets on well with the staff.

“It’s lovely to see him doing well. He’s had his ups and downs, but I couldn’t be prouder of him for how he has adjusted.”

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