Dad Phil Harrison’s employer offers its staff two days each year to volunteer with a charity of their own choice – and Phil had no hesitation offering his services to Daisy Chain.

For Phil and wife Pamela’s son, Ashley, now 21, has Asperger’s Syndrome and attended Daisy Chain’s after school clubs when he was younger.

Phil, who lives in Ingleby Barwick, works for chemical company Croda and is now based in Goole, but can offer his volunteering days in his own local community.

Says Phil, “Daisy Chain is a fantastic charity and resource for families who have a child on the autistic spectrum. Our 1% club at work gives us the opportunity to spend two days each year volunteering for a chosen charity. I saw Daisy Chain’s Corporate Big Sort Week at their Superstore advertised on social media and thought that was ideal for me. It’s a great opportunity to be able to give something back.

“I know what it is like when you have a child growing up with autism and it really does feel like you have to battle for everything, all the support they need and should have. It’s always a struggle to make sure everything is in place and Daisy Chain is a great help with that, as well as a lovely place to visit and for the children and young people to socialise.”

Ashley enjoyed going to a Warhammer games club in Middlesbrough and decided to introduce it as an activity at Daisy Chain. Phil explains, “He really took to it and managed to paint the models, despite not having the best fine motor skills. He clicked with everyone going and made friends, then said he wanted to do it at Daisy Chain as well so people could make friends through it.

“As many families will know, it can be easy for youngsters with autism, especially teenagers, to spend their times in their bedrooms playing on their own without social interaction, and as parents, you could let them if you wanted an easy life. It’s a lot of effort, attention and work to get them out socialising but it’s important for their future. Ashley doesn’t like anything he doesn’t know, so persuasion has to be involved usually, but there he was deciding to do something social on his own initiative.”

Ashley’s older sister Abbie, 22, is completing a maths degree at University of St Andrews while younger sister Aimee, 16 is at All Saints Church of England Academy in Ingleby Barwick.

Phil says that going through the diagnostic process when Ashley and his sisters were younger was particularly difficult, “As parents, you know something is not right when he did not want to play with other children. Ashley was not diagnosed until he was eight years old and in retrospect, we can see how hard his life was in those early years without the support he needed in place.”

The penny dropped for Phil that Ashley was on the autism spectrum when they saw a speech therapist, “She asked Ashley to name animals and he couldn’t do it. He listed a few domestic ones like dog and cat but he couldn’t think of any more. As a parent, you are willing him to be able to do it and you know if was prompted to name zoo animals, he would be able to come up with more but without that specific prompt, he just couldn’t.”

In more recent times, Ashley undertook a placement at Stockton Library archives, organised by the Daisy Chain employability coordinator. Now, with that experience under his belt, he has landed a volunteer role in the archives at Stockton’s Globe Theatre restoration project.

“It’s thanks to Daisy Chain that Ashley now has this new role which we are all delighted about and it makes it all the more special that we can offer something back.”

Visit our website pages for more information on Corporate Volunteering opportunities.

9th May 2018