Her Royal Highness was accompanied by John Phillipson, Chief Executive for NEAS who introduced HRH The Countess of Wessex to Kerrie Highcock, Family Development Manager who runs the group.

Kerrie said; “Parents can often find accessing mainstream toddler groups extremely difficult. Autism is a hidden condition so others may think a child is being naughty or has bad behaviour when in fact they may be finding it difficult to cope in the group or communicate their needs. Children with autism perceive the world differently through their senses, for example a toddler may be hypersensitive to noise so being in a group with other children who are loud or crying may make them anxious even resulting in the noise causing them pain. Because children with autism find it difficult to communicate, they can become disruptive but it’s their way of expressing themselves. This can leave parents very anxious and feel as if they are being judged.”

The toddler group was formed in March 2014 and is a vital resource for families whose children are going through a diagnosis of autism. Her Royal Highness had the opportunity to speak with some of the parents from the group.

Caroline Robertson, mother to Lucas aged 3 who attends the toddler group said; “The group has helped Lucas to socialise with other children, he is a happy little boy and growing in confidence. Having trained staff on hand allows me to take a break and speak with other parents.”

We are hoping our Christmas fundraising appeal will help develop our toddler group service. We launched an appeal earlier this month called ‘Elfie’ urging our supporters to join in the festive fun by posting elf-themed selfies on Facebook and Twitter.

We hope the appeal will raise £50,000 to help replicate our successful toddler group that is based at Newton Aycliffe site to other towns across the North East.

Click here for more information on how you can get involved and support us with our appeal.

If you would like further details about the toddler group service email [email protected] or call 0191 410 9974