A North-east mum has opened up about the moment her son discussed his autism diagnosis for the first time, when he saw and signed up for the North East Autism Society’s first-ever Virtual Walk for Autism Acceptance.

Six-year-old Jacob Sinclair received his autism diagnosis in December 2019, but his family had not actually heard him speak about it himself.

It wasn’t until he saw an advert for the walk that he told his mum he wanted to take part to help other people who are “special like him”.

Jacob’s mum said the walk has sparked a “steely determination” in her son, who has set himself the challenge of walking five miles along Sunderland’s coast to raise money for NEAS on April 2nd

I was on the NEAS website one day and he appeared behind me and saw an advert for the walk. He said, ‘Mammy can we do the walk because I have autism and I'm so special and everyone should know that I'm just like them’.

“That was so emotional for me - not only was that the first time he had said the word autism, but in the same breath he said ‘I am special’. And for me, as a parent, that is what it’s all about – acceptance and championing neurodiversity.”

Jacob, who will be dressing as his favourite character Super Mario for Friday’s walk, initially set himself a fundraising goal of £50, however he more than trebled that in the first 24 hours. In preparation for the walk, the youngster has also roped his mum into daily “training”, as well as tracking his steps on his smart watch.

“He is the inspiration behind doing the walk and we’re getting plenty of practice in,” she added. “He keeps telling me I need to do more training – he’s going to whip me into shape. I am sure I will need a rest on Saturday.”

Jacob, who has to do daily stretching exercises to improve mobility in his feet and legs, does struggle to walk long distances, his mum said, however his family will be taking up positions along the coastal route to cheer him on. And he has also cleverly mapped out his walking route to pass a number of ice cream and fish and chip shops.

“He might only be six but he knows about charities like NEAS and knows that they need to do fundraising to help people and make change. He knows I have done things like the Race for Life to raise money in the past and I am so proud of him for wanting to do the walk.” 

Kevin Meikle, Fundraising Manger at NEAS, said: "Our drive for autism acceptance has always been two-fold: educating the wider world so we can collectively work together to make the world better – but crucially, it’s about kids like Jacob never having to exist feeling anything but special, loved, valued and accepted. 

This is wonderful – and we are so proud of Jacob. We look forward to hearing from the many others of you out there who will be walking for your own reasons, as part of Autism Acceptance Week.

Sign up for the walk