A PIONEERING charity is breaking new ground by staging a free online conference developed and delivered alongside autistic people.

The conference will be hosted by the North East Autism Society on Thursday, April 1, as part of World Autism Acceptance Week, and will be free for everyone to attend.

The event – entitled Acceptance Matters – is the centrepiece of a host of activities organised by the award-winning charity under the campaign banner of “The Road To Acceptance”.

Organiser Kerrie Highcock, the Society’s Family Development Manager, said: “Autism acceptance means that rather than being a passive bystander, we take positive action, and this conference does just that.

It has been co-produced with autistic people with the aim of making a clear statement that autistic voices matter, and to serve as a platform to celebrate diversity. We hope to dispel some of the myths that often contribute to the negative narrative of autism.

The majority of the speakers are autistic, and they have chosen a range of topics covering the current issues facing autistic people.

Speakers pictured

We want to get people thinking, reflecting and challenge themselves to do better,” added Kerrie. “This is the first time we have staged a virtual conference, and it is our intention that members of the audience go away feeling enlightened, informed and wanting to play their part in changing the narrative around autism.

The conference is aimed at professionals from a variety of sectors, including health and social care, education, leisure, criminal justice, and the voluntary sector, but anyone is free to join between 9.30am and 4pm.

World Autism Week takes place from March 29 to April 4 and the North East Autism Society, formed more than 40 years ago, has organised a range of events and activities, including:

  • Landmarks across the region lighting up gold – the colour chosen to represent autism because of its associations with success and achievement. Participating landmarks include the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, Penshaw Monument, Stockton Town Hall, Darlington Town Clock, and Middlesbrough’s Centre Square Fountain.
  • The Society’s first ever virtual Walk For Autism takes place on World Autism Acceptance Day on April 2.
  • Schools can help raise funds for the charity by taking part in a Bad Hair Day, or sponsored dress up day. There will also be the chance to take part in a fundraising bake sale.
  • Children will also have the chance to make their own Superhero Infinity Loop Mask and bunting, plus take part in a colouring competition, and quizzes.

John Phillipson, Chief Executive of the North East Autism Society, said: “Due to the ongoing pandemic, it hasn’t been possible to arrange many of our usual activities for World Autism Acceptance Week.

"However, we are extremely fortunate to have a resilient and innovative team who have pulled together an ambitious programme of virtual events that are both educational and great fun. We hope you will be able to join us as we continue our important journey on The Road To Acceptance."

The Acceptance Matters conference is already proving popular and places are limited.

Register now