Ian Brookes has found a friend. That may sound unremarkable but for the autistic 19-year-old it is a first in his life and his family could not be more delighted.

Ian attends an adult social club at Daisy Chain in Stockton, which supports families affected by autism. He has been attending since he was 13 but has recently made huge progress thanks to help from family bakers Warburtons.

The company, which has a bakery in Stockton, donated over £8,000 to Daisy Chain to support adults with autism. Warburtons gives Project Grants to organisations whose charitable aims directly benefits families.

The donation meant Daisy Chain could offer more activities in the community for the adult club, giving opportunities to get out and about in social situations which people on the autistic spectrum often find particularly difficult.

Mum Julie Brookes was in tears as she watched her son get involved in bowling, hardly believing it was the same young man who had steadfastly refused to attend the activity.

Dave Borrow who runs the adult social club, said: “He was absolutely adamant he was not going out bowling with the group so I was amazed when he not only came along but joined in, scored a strike and was high fiving everyone. It was fantastic to see such progress.”

Ian was not diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome until he was 13, when his tutor at school advised Julie to get him tested. “We had always been told that Ian’s behaviour was just Ian being Ian. Looking back the signs were there, Ian took things very literally and he never made friends. While he was at sixth form college he had to fill in a form to say if he would recommend the college to his friends he wrote ‘no’ because he didn’t have any. It is heart breaking.

“I was stunned to see Ian bowling. He had even taken off his cap and jacket which never happens. He made friends with Harry and he now refers to him as his friend which has never happened before ever. I think it is wonderful that local companies like Warburtons will support family charities like Daisy Chain because it does make such a huge impact on lives. It certainly has on ours.”

Stuart Dexter, chief executive of Daisy Chain, said: “As a local charity supporting local families, we are dependent on donations and this just goes to prove how important such contributions are. I would like to thank Warburtons for working with us and making a difference in the community for families affected by autism.”

Stephen Mccafferty, Warburtons driver operations manager North East, said: “Myself and the team at Warburtons Stockton are delighted to be in partnership with such a worthwhile organisation. On our first visit to the site, it was clear to see there are fantastic opportunities and support available for families affected by autism. The one-to-one interaction the care staff offer is brilliant. Following a visit from Daisy Chain’s employability coordinator, Donna, we are also now looking to welcoming groups on to our site for their first bakery tour.”

Picture: Ian Brookes (right) bowling.