Youngsters speak out for autism awareness

SERIES OF EVENTS ... youngsters at Jarrow School Autism Centre.
SERIES OF EVENTS ... youngsters at Jarrow School Autism Centre.

TWO young people have spoken out about living with autism in a bid to raise awareness of the condition.

Eleanor Jackson, 12, and Harvey Gray, 14, are both pupils at the post-11 Autistic Centre, based at Jarrow School.

Life is different to everyone else’s. The teachers teach you about autism and what it is. I think I’m more sensitive about things than other people.

Harvey Gray

All this week, the unit has been hosting a range of fundraising and awareness events, as part of National Autism Awareness Week, which started on March 27 and ends today.

People with autism find social communication, interaction and imagination difficult, with children with the condition often mistaken as being naughty.

Eleanor said: “We all have autism in the unit. I found out when I was at another school. I invited my friends round for a party and only one turned up – they thought autism was contagious.

“But everyone here has it, so I don’t really stand out because I have autism.”

Harvey added: “Life is different to everyone else’s. The teachers teach you about autism and what it is. I think I’m more sensitive about things than other people.

“But being part of the unit it makes me feel safe as I can be myself, and that is important to me.”

As part of Autism Awareness Week, the youngsters released balloons, hosted a cake sale and coffee afternoon, and took part in a onesie day, as well as a sponsored swim.

Pupils also designed Easter cards with an explanation about autism, which were delivered to nearby homes.

There are 34 pupils – with varying degrees of autism – within the unit, aged between 11 and 16 years old.

Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Fay Cunningham, who visited the unit along with Mayoress Stella Matthewson, said: “It is important we have this awareness-raising week to highlight the condition.

“It is also great to hear how they have included pupils from the mainstream school to take part in the events, as it is vital people of all ages understand what autism is.

“The pupils at the unit are so polite and happy, and it has been a pleasure and an honour to have been invited in to meet the pupils and staff.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazette