#MyKINDofChristmas - Day 10 It’s day 10 of My Kind of Christmas and today we are shining the spotlight on our youth groups – and in particular the story of one of our teenagers. Emma Thomas shares some of the progress her son has made since engaging with our organisation. You can also hear from Ed himself in today’s video. Hi Emma, can you tell us about how you and Ed got involved with the Autism Activists youth group? Over the years we, as a family have accessed various NEAS services, from parent courses to understand autism and support groups for myself as a parent and carer, to toddler groups and after school clubs. We have all gained massively from the support provided but especially so in the case of my son Ed, who is now 14. He’s really bubbly and confident in today’s video – has that always been the case for Ed? Ed was a shy child, crippled by anxiety and the feeling that he wasn't accepted in this weird world we all live in. Fast forward to today and he is hugely proud of being autistic and is happy to explain it to anyone who lacks understanding. He is far more willing to try things that he fears may be difficult and often excels at the task. He is becoming a confident and expressive young man, happy in his own skin and confident that he can conquer what is still, often a weird world. The impact of NEAS in this development has been massive and we, as a family, will be forever grateful. Which groups is Ed part of? Ed is a member of the e=mc² steering group at the Life centre in Newcastle and massively enjoys being able to change things positively for other autistic young people locally. He is proud of his voice and his own opinions. Ed was also chosen to be an Autism Activist at the Thought Foundation in Birtley, which filled him with the most immense pride I have ever witnessed. He loves to explain his work and the way autism affects him and his family. He looks forward to these sessions as a social event also and we have gained some true friends throughout this ever-changing journey. It is wonderful to see Ed in a place where not only is he is comfortable enough to be himself (in a world where he normally masks all day) but where he is truly proud of what being himself means. What would you to people thinking of supporting the campaign to launch more of these groups? I’m looking forward to seeing what NEAS has to offer in the 2020 and hope that other children can benefit from such groups in the same way that we have.