Meet Reilly – he’s funny, loving and all-round “awesome”, his mum says – but he’s never been invited to a birthday party.
Reilly, six, from Cramlington , is autistic, and the condition has a huge effect on his life and that of his family.
He may never be able to speak, and he can find everyday situations overwhelming – even the sound of someone coughing could send him into a ‘meltdown’, which might last a hour.
But he’s also energetic, creative and cheeky, he loves music, cuddles with his mum and playing with his dog, Tarly.
Reilly’s story touched the hearts of thousands of people, after his dad Shane’s furious message to people who exclude his son went viral.
Mum Christine, who blogs about her experiences raising Reilly, and his older brother Ellis, 11, shared the angry outburst on Twitter, saying “my husband’s message to his mates breaks my heart”.
The post has already received well over 5,000 likes and 2,000 retweets.
Shane had written: “Right this has been brewing for some time so here it goes and you can like it or f***ing well lump it.
“My son Reilly has autism not f***ing leprosy; he is six years old and my so called friends who have kids also have kids parties.
“Not ONE invite not f***ing one. Think about that whilst you go and f*** yourselves; you have any idea how hurtful that is?
“Just for the record in future don’t bother he’s not an after thought he’s my every f***ing thought.”
Speaking from Reilly’s ‘favourite place in the world’ – the Airbox trampoline park in Cramlington where she says he can bounce and be himself, thanks to staff who all have autism awareness training – Christine spoke about the impact that a lack of understanding can have on Reilly, and his family.
She said: “The messages that I’ve had back on Twitter have been overwhelming, literally thousands of people have contacted me, and it’s a common theme, everybody says ‘it happens to me’.
Northern Stage in March.
She says greater awareness would make a huge difference to families like hers.
She said: “It would take the pressure off parents, we wouldn’t feel so confined. Sometimes we don’t go somewhere, just because it’s easier not to.
“That’s not because of Reilly, that’s because of other people and how they react to him – if you could go somewhere and know that if something happened it would be ok, no one would judge you, then it would be so much easier for us.
“A lot of people don’t really understand autism – people might think Reilly doesn’t ‘look autistic’, but what does autism look like?
“You shouldn’t judge people, because you just don’t know what their circumstances are.
“And if you don’t know whether we would be able to come to something with Reilly, please just ask us.”