Retail manager Ste Malcolm has always cherished a wish to run the London Marathon by the time he was 40 and this year, just in time, he scooped a place in the ballot for 2018.

He has chosen to raise funds for Daisy Chain as his son Zac, six, attends one of the after school social clubs. Zac was diagnosed with autism when he was four.

Ste, who is the regional manager for Pets at Home in the Teesside area, wants to support Daisy Chain as much as possible and also arranges corporate volunteering days for his staff where they have helped out in the charity’s Superstore sorting out donations.

Says Ste, "Daisy Chain is somewhere all the family feels comfortable. It’s very informal and relaxed and great to be around other parents. It means you can talk about the challenges and share techniques and strategies that can work."

Ste and wife Kim have two sons, Zac and two-year-old Max. They had some difficult early months with Zac, who had to be referred to a dietitian as he was intolerant to baby milk powder. When Zac was about 18 months old he was not speaking, pointing at things he wanted or interacting. "His childminder began pointing things out to us. As our only child then, we were not comparing him to anyone else. We contacted the health visitor and were told to wait until he was two. We honestly thought it would all be fine, children all develop at different rates."

When Zac began to attend a playgroup, Ste and Kim could see he was struggling in certain environments. "He couldn’t cope with noise and didn’t want to sit still for story time. We did not realise how frightening things were for him, he was physically distressed and that is really upsetting looking back. We did not know anything was wrong. I remember taking him to a birthday party and he screamed the place down, he was beyond upset. He was extremely sensitive to the noise and the lights."

Zac went through assessment with an educational psychologist and speech therapist. Before he started school, Ste and Kim met with the school which then applied for additional funding for Zac to have a support teacher. Says Ste, "Zac’s support teacher has been amazing. She attended the Early Bird course at Daisy Chain in her own time and took away lots of tips which she implemented in school. For example, every time Zac changes class, has a sports day or special event like a nativity, she makes him a story book with words and pictures which we can read at home with him.

"Zac is in a really good class who all support him and are very protective and caring," explains Ste. "But he can take himself off when he wants to be alone. He is good with numbers but doing English and writing stresses him. He enjoys going to Daisy Chain although it can be hard to get out of him what he has done at school or in the social club. I try to get him to tell me just one thing he did each day so as not to overwhelm him.

"My biggest concern is that we live in such a challenging world, it’s hard enough growing up in it now. With social media kids can’t switch off, they can be suffering in silence twenty-four seven. However, we hang on to the milestones. We can see Zac progressing with support at school and from Daisy Chain. Zac has recently had his face painted for the first time and he volunteered as part of a magic show. We came away from that absolutely buzzing. I had a lump in my throat when he eventually learned to read and the first time he made a birthday card for his mum."

Ste has a couple of Great North Runs under his belt and the Middlesbrough 10K for Daisy Chain. He is looking to raise between £4,000 - £5,000 running the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon and is hoping the 96 Pets at Home stores, he looks after will support him.

"Now I just need to get the training done, you really do have to commit the time. I have never run that distance before. I need to start building up how many miles I can run. I can’t really imagine running it and I admit I am pretty nervous but I am glad to be doing it for a cause like Daisy Chain that supports so many families affected by autism.”