South Shields man shows “autism can be awesome” after receiving Platinum Champion award from the Duchess of Cornwall

An autistic man from South Shields hopes to continue to inspire others with the condition after being recognised as a Platinum Champion as part of the Queen’s ongoing jubilee celebrations.

Richie Smith, 37, was only diagnosed with autism three years ago and after setting up his charity, Awesometistic, has dedicated his life to raising the profile of autism and inspiring children to “embrace the condition rather than seeing it as a barrier to success”.

Using his bright yellow Mustang sports car to help engage children, Richie has spent the last three years visiting schools across Sunderland and South Tyneside to tell his story and promote his mantra that “having autism can be awesome”.

After being presented with his award by the Duchess of Cornwall, Richie said: “To get this award is absolutely amazing but I don’t do this for awards, I do it to help children to hopefully not feel like I did when I was their age.

"Everyone with autism is different and it’s important children understand it’s okay to be yourself – autism really can be awesome.

"I still don’t know who nominated me but hopefully this shows that I must be inspiring and helping some children.”

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Richie found out about his nomination via email and was invited to receive his award as part of the Platinum Party at the Palace jubilee celebrations.

Richie Smith with his Platinum Champion certificate from the Duchess of Cornwall.

The email addressed from the palace said: “We are delighted to let you know that you are one of our national 490 Platinum Champions. You have been nominated by someone due to your outstanding commitment to volunteering.

"Together with our President, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, the Platinum Champion Awards were launched by the Royal Voluntary Service to celebrate extraordinary volunteers who go the extra mile to improve the lives of others.

"We think you are truly amazing.”

Richie Smith with his yellow Mustang sports car during one of his initiatives to promote autism awareness.

While delighted at the nomination, the journey to the capital was not without trepidation for Richie.

He said: “It was certainly a case of in at the deep end and very much a sensory overload - I was overwhelmed and I did struggle. It was an emotional roller-coaster with all the excitement.

"It’s really made me more resilient and it was important I attended as I want to show people you can be whoever you want to be.”

Richie Smith on The Mall in London ahead of receiving his Platinum Champion award.