“When your child is diagnosed with autism you think you are the only parents in the world and feel like you have no-one to turn to.”

Those are the words of mum Sheila Buttery – and it must have felt very much like that when her daughter, Amy, now 37, was diagnosed with autism, developmental dyspraxia and associated learning difficulties.

“There was no Daisy Chain to turn to then all those years ago,” she says. “It is a shock when you first find out and Amy suffered a lot at school before she was diagnosed. The psychologist who was assessing her visited us at home and then went to the school without an appointment. He came back to our house and I will never forget his words – he told me ‘get your daughter out of that school. It is destroying her.’”

Sheila and late husband Steve, set about finding a more suitable school for Amy and managed to get her placed in a small class with specialist support.

When Daisy Chain founder Lesley Hanson began fundraising, over 15 years ago, to set up the haven for families affected by autism, Sheila, who already knew Lesley, was on board. “The parents group really helped to show people that they were not the only people in the world affected by this condition,” she explains. “Other parents knew the issues you were facing, they understood what you were talking about. I felt I could contribute my experience to help those with younger children.”

Although at that time Amy was older and couldn’t benefit from the clubs and activities, the Butterys loved Daisy Chain. Says Amy, “I absolutely love Daisy Chain. We were there when Cannon and Ball visited and my brother Chris did a bike ride to raise funds.”

Sheila adds, “Yes, he decided to cycle from Leeds to his wedding in Norton the day before the ceremony with his best man in memory of his dad who had died of a heart attack the previous year. I was horrified, Chris is one of the most accident-prone people in the world so I was terrified something would happen to him and he wouldn’t be able to get married. But he did it and it was fantastic. Daisy Chain set up a finishing line for them outside the Portrack Superstore to welcome them. I cycled to Yarm and joined them on the ride to the store. It was brilliant. Chris was always very keen on Daisy Chain too.” Half the collection from Steve’s funeral was also donated to Daisy Chain with the other half going to the British Heart Foundation.

In more recent times, Amy has been able to benefit from Daisy Chain by undertaking the employability course based in the Superstore and she has continued to volunteer in store setting out the displays, “I love working in the shop, the staff are great and I have met a friend too,” she smiles.

Sheila, who also volunteers in the store, says, “It can be hard for people on the autistic spectrum to make friends so the social aspect of Daisy Chain is excellent. I also love volunteering in the store, I’ve been doing that for three years now – I enjoy doing the sorting of the donations even though it is a never-ending job.”

Today, Amy has her own home and lives independently with support from carers and her cat Mogga – named for the former Boro boss Tony Mowbray as she is a big fan of Middlesbrough Football Club.

Sheila concludes, “Daisy Chain has had a place in our hearts for all of its fifteen years and it will continue to - we all love it. It’s amazing how it has grown over the years and how Amy can now benefit from the support offered.”