For more information about the Simplyhealth Great North Run, visit our website.

Father-of-three, Ben McBean, has entered the Simplyhealth Great North Run to raise awareness of autism. 

Ben, from Stockton-on-Tees, said: “When my son Luke was five, we were told by the school that they thought he had autism, which as you can imagine was quite a shock.  

“The whole diagnosis process took two years before we could get our appointment with the MATT clinic, where a team of professionals discuss whether there are sufficient traits to meet the criteria for autism.  

“I was in tears when I was told that Luke didn't have autism, particularly because within a number of months it was quite evident that Luke did in fact have autism as the differences between him and his peers became more apparent.   

“It took another 2 years for him to be reassessed, and as expected he received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  

“This time I was in tears because I realised that we needed the diagnosis so that people would understand his behaviour and we could get the additional support we needed for him.”

Ben added: “During the process of diagnosis, we were lucky enough to have two more boys, but the youngest, Harry, started to show signs that he had sensory issues.  

“With our new knowledge, we suspected that he too had autism.  

“Harry commenced the diagnosis process at the same time Luke commenced the process for the second time and eventually, after 18 months, Harry was diagnosed as having ASD at three years old.

“Over the last 8 years we have had various challenges from having to remove our boys from their schools, fighting for the support and funding they require, dealing with challenging behaviours and lack of sleep.”

After experiencing first-hand how little support there is for people on the Autistic Spectrum, Ben is running to raise money and awareness for autism and special needs at the Simplyhealth Great North Run, which takes place on Sunday 10 September.

He said: “The Great North Run is something that has been in my consciousness from being at school in the 80's but I didn't think it was something I would be capable of and that it's only really for ‘proper runners'.

“However, I realised it is within my capabilities, especially when you see some of the things that people overcome to make it round.”

The half marathon is an opportunity for Ben to fundraise for SNAPS (Special Needs Activities with Parents Support), a local charity which has supported him and his family.

He said: “I wanted to help a smaller charity with whom I could make a bigger impact.

“One of the most important things in our lives has been finding the charities in our area that support families and facilitate activities for children with Special Needs.  

“It's so nice to be somewhere where their challenging behaviour is accepted as part of their autism, not a child being naughty.  

“Also we met other parents in situations similar to our own and it has been really beneficial to learn from the experiences of others.  

“SNAPS is run by an tireless and inspired lady, Ruth Benson, who saw the need for these facilities, having had a son with disabilities herself.”

Ben added: “I believe that it is important for me as a parent of children with disabilities to do my utmost to try and make the society that they live in more accepting/understanding and try to ensure that they will live fulfilled lives.”

Support Ben's fundraising for SNAPS here.

For more information about the Simplyhealth Great North Run, visit our website.