A brand new service will offer life-long support to people with autism in South Shields.
The new 'autism hub', opened by the mayor and mayoress of South Tyneside this month, will offer occupational therapy, mental health help and peer support for people with the condition throughout the area.
Councillors say they're responded to a need created by an above-average number of people with an autism diagnosis in the borough, as parents, carers and those with a diagnosis told the council they needed more local support.
One of those who can't wait to start using the new hub is little Jak Brunton, and his mum Jay.
For Jak, who turns four on Monday, regular sessions at a Toby Henderson Trust centre in Bedlington have been a lifeline, helping him connect with his family and supporting them as they understand his needs.
The Jarrow family travel at least once a week to Northumberland for invaluable one-to-one sessions, so the opening of a hub close to home in South Shields will make a huge difference to their lives.
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By paul mann
When I used to knock around Bedlington with a few mates from Westridge we knew how to amuse ourselves. Knowing how to hockle well was a talent worth cultivating. Harry Wilson was the undisputed master. He knew how to howk up a pellet of phlegm, shape it to give it just the right heft and aerodynamics and propel it over an amazingly long distance with impressive accuracy. Once lying around on the grass at the tennis courts behind Holymount Square I saw him, from a sitting position, his back against the high chain link fence around the tennis courts, unleash a spectacular hockle straight up into the air and backwards over the fence onto the tennis court. We knew how to have a good time.