A multi-coloured bear has arrived on the scene to play an important role in raising awareness of autism.
The cuddly ambassador is the creation of Hayley Reid, from Nairn, who is autistic herself.
Its task is to challenge negative attitudes towards autism and autistic young people, especially during the pandemic.
Hayley, 22, is part of Inspire Highland, a group of courageous youngsters with additional support needs and disabilities who are striving for equality.
She said: “Autism Bear can help the world know that people can have a disability and shouldn’t be yelled at or sworn at, when they’re not able to wear a face mask.
“It can show that you’re not alone – and, if you have dark days, the Autism Bear is always there for you.”
Hayley decided to speak out about autism because she feels people often do not understand what it is like living with a hidden disability and that she, like many others, faces hostility and discrimination.
She added: “I want to speak out because not all kids feel they can stand up, and it can make people feel suicidal.
“The Autism Bear says ‘yes, I have autism, yes I have a disability but I can hold my head up high’.”
The new icon features on badges that will soon be available in Nairn shops for a small donation. The money will be used to support the work of Inspire Highland.
Supported by the Highland Children and Young People’s Forum, the group has campaigned on the issue of young people’s mental health and helped educate politicians about the issues faced on a daily basis by people with autism.