Kent Boy Opens London Stock Exchange

7 year old Samuel Wilson has done the honours to help mark World Autism Awareness Week. It's hoped the ceremony will draw attention to the need for increased understanding of the condition.

The day was organised by philanthropist Dame Stephanie Shirley.

The founder of autism research charity Autistica Dame Stephanie Shirley asked Samuel to open the stock market today and ring the bell for autism research.

Samuel was diagnosed with autism aged 3.

It is hoped that this ceremony for World Autism Awareness Week can draw attention to the need for increased understanding of the condition.

Samuel's mother Katie said:

"The earlier parents get a diagnosis, the sooner they can start educating themselves, seeking support, and adapting the ways that they care for their child with autism."

"Early diagnosis and support is just one part of why I think Autistica's research is so important. People forget that autism is a lifelong condition and I worry about the future for Samuel. I worry about when he starts to be aware that he is different, and I worry about when we are no longer around to support him."

Jon Spiers, Chief Executive of Autistica, the charity that has organised the opening ceremony with the LSE, said:

"We are thrilled to be given this opportunity to highlight the need for autism research, which remains one of the most underfunded areas of medical research. We are very grateful to Samuel and his parents for representing Autistica at this prestigious and iconic ceremony."

Dame Stephanie Shirley, who founded Autistica in 2004, had a son with autism and feels passionately that research is key in providing better support for those with the condition:

"I made my fortune in business, and it is an honour to be back here today so many years later to talk about the subject that is dearest to my heart. I have given the majority of my wealth away to fund autism projects. Although we have made some progress, there is still so much we don't know about autism and how to best support those like my late son Giles. We need the government and funders to realise that research is key to really make a long and lasting difference to people's lives."

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