“There was a time when we couldn’t even imagine Adam reading or writing, never mind flying through the air on a zip-line crossing a river!”

When mum Caroline Costello was given the news that her six year old son, Adam, had autism it came as a relief – but that didn’t erode the fears she had for her beautiful boy.

Now, almost 25 years on from diagnosis, Caroline beams with pride at the mere mention of Adam and ‘all that he’s achieved in life’.

With a Tyne Bridge zip line, two Run the Spectrum races, the Sunderland Scramble, a flying fox from the roof of the Stadium of Light across the River Wear and the Aqua Dash already under his belt, Adam has also tackled NE-AS latest event Choco-charge. Always partnered with long-term support worker Grainger Simpson, and mum in charge of fundraising, the 5k chocolate-fuelled fun run has taken Adam’s fundraising total ever closer to the thousand mark.

“It’s an easy thing for us to want to do,” said teaching assistant, Caroline, who’s married to Mick Costello, Adam’s step dad. “The North East Autism Society changed Adam’s life, and it changed our lives – fundraising is the least we could do.”

Adam Gluck, now 32, has been receiving education and support from NEAS since he was seven-years-old. Now in his own supported living accommodation and in day services at the Society’s New Warlands Farm, he’s fast becoming the face of the Society’s fundraising events.

Caroline explained: “There was almost no information out there when Adam was diagnosed. So while it was a huge relief to be told there was a reason for Adam being different, we honestly had no idea what the future would hold. A disastrous start in mainstream schooling left us wondering and worrying for Adam’s future, but that was all before we were introduced to the North East Autism Society.”

Beginning school at Thornhill Park in Sunderland, NEAS’s specialist school for children up to age 18, was the turnaround for Adam and his family.

Grainger and Adam at Choco Charge

“At the end of his first year the difference in him was incredible, but those changes kept coming year on year. I now have a grown up son who made his own decision to move out of the family home, who sees his vocational placement as a job and who consistently surprises us with what we can do physically when it comes to the fundraising events.

“And it helped us as well, “Caroline added. “We went from feeling completely alone to being part of a community with other parents, part of the Society where they taught us about Autism and helped us understand our son more. Things that we initially saw as a weakness – like him having no fear or no awareness of social conventions – is now the very thing that allows him to accept challenge after challenge. We are so, so proud of him.”

But for Operations Manager Grainger Simpson, who accompanies Adam on the fundraising events, the best moments come when the pair are faced with new events.

“I see a different side to Adam when we are out there running, or taking part in some event. I’ve worked with Adam now for the best part of 12 years and together we have done some incredible things. For us – and for everything we do at NEAS – it’s not just what it looks like on the surface. It looks like a good chance to raise awareness and raise money – and of course it is. But for Adam it’s also a chance for him to learn how to trust others, for him to meet new people and try new things. It’s an opportunity for him to make a difference. And he absolutely loves it.”

Mum added: “When you get that diagnosis your mind races. What will it mean? What will he do? To see my son contributing to society and him being so pleased with himself for it, is incredible.”

Asked what he likes best about being one of NEAS’s top fundraisers, Adam said: “It’s good! I get to go (from place to place) and see all the people I know. It’s my job.”

Adam and Grainger were dressed in Santa Costumes and were cheered on by Caroline and Mick as they join hundreds of others all tackling the Choco Charge in Darlington’s South Park on Saturday 12th November.

Proceeds from the event help fund the North East Autism Society’s free services which include toddler groups and parent workshops. This vital life line for parents is often the first step to an early diagnosis and significantly better outcomes for children with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC).

To make a donation or to join in please visit NEAS website www.ne-as.org.uk/donate or call the fundraising team on 0191 410 9974