A North-east author has generously vowed to donate a percentage of his book sales to the North East Autism Society.

Simon Van der Velde has pledged 10 per cent of profits from the sale of his book Backstories to the Society – and for a very personal reason.

Simon - who lives in Newcastle with wife Nikki, their sons Charlie and Tom and dog Barney - first came across NEAS when Nikki took Charlie to one of our young people’s groups at the Discovery Museum.

 “The project was aimed at empowering autistic children, encouraging them to suggest how the museum might become more autism/sensory friendly. This whole approach felt refreshing and positive,” Simon said.

My wife felt very supported and was very impressed by the compassion and dedication of Kerrie from NEAS.

Charlie was diagnosed as autistic at the age of eight, however Simon believes his son may have been diagnosed sooner were it not for “ridiculous stereotypes” about autistic people.

“People routinely told us that autistic people lack empathy and have no sense of humour,” he added. “While everyone is different, this is definitely not our experience. Charlie is super empathic and hilarious – so at first we concluded he couldn’t be autistic.

“These stereotypes cause a lot of problems for autistic people and their families – not just hindering diagnosis but also giving a negative view of autistic people. When it came though, and we got better quality advice, Charlie’s diagnosis made absolute sense.”

Simon has channelled this understanding of people’s differences – and how society perceives those differences – into Backstories, which was released to critical acclaim earlier this year.

The book is a collection of 14 short stories which delves into the past of well-known figures before their rise to notoriety. Without revealing their identity, Simon guides the reader on a journey, leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who the subject of each story is.

“In Backstories I aim to explore the intimate truth of the real people behind the mask,” Simon explained.

On one level, Backstories is a fun detective game – can you find the famous person hidden in every story? But once you’ve found them, then the real challenge begins. Can you understand them? And can you handle the challenge to your moral compass and everything you thought you knew before? 

Asked why he chose NEAS to receive a portion of his profits, Simon said: “I chose NEAS because you get it - that autistic people need understanding and empowerment, and the neurotypical world needs to learn and adjust.”

Simon is also donating 10 per cent of all sales to Stop Hate UK – a charity founded after the murder of Stephen Lawrence – and Friends of the Earth.

Backstories is available for purchase now, while the sequel Backstories II is due to hit shelves in August.

Simon added: “But be warned, Backstories is not for children. It is not for the faint-hearted, and if you do take up the Backstories Challenge it will lead you to some dark places.”