A WIRRAL dad is taking on the challenge of the Wirral Coastal Walk to raise money for vital research into autism.
Peter Harrison’s son Alex, now 12, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of two-and-a-half.
Mr Harrison, from Greasby, is hoping to raise £150 for the Autism Research Trust by completing the 15-mile walk from Seacombe to Thurstaston on Sunday, May 27 with daughter Jessica, 12.
The charity raises funds to assist research conducted at Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre into the causes of and interventions for autism spectrum conditions.
Autism is a developmental disability on the autistic spectrum that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people and how they make sense of the world around them.
Mr Harrison said: “This is hugely important to me as Alex is 12 now and I worry about his future and how he’ll cope in the future in a “neurotypical” world.
“He's a wonderful, caring, intelligent boy who struggles to understand the world that we all live in.
“After he was diagnosed I started researching autism. I found out about Wirral Autistic Society than came across the Cambridge research group and looked at what they do.
“I’ve been quite conservative in my goal and I’ve set £150 as my goal through the coastal walk.
“I’ve done the coastal walk twice before, for Alex’s then primary school and the Epilepsy Trust, but it will be a really special year if I can raise quite a bit of money for the Autism Research Trust.”
Alex, who attends Claremount School, was diagnosed after it was noticed he was withdrawn and uncommunicative after starting nursery.
Mr Harrison said: “Now we’d know what to look for but at the time we didn’t have that knowledge. He was very withdrawn and wasn’t involved with the other children.
“Eventually it was my wife who drew a line and said ‘I know something is not right’ and was like a dog with a bone until we found out until we got the diagnosis.
“I try to describe it to other people by saying that before he was born, as a family we might be able to go to Liverpool or go shopping at the weekend.
“We don’t do that now because Alex finds it extremely stressful being in a crowd of people. He needs to be somewhere comfortable for him so we’ll go on quite a lot of walks in the country.
“He can have a conversation but he uses strange words in strange ways to have a conversation about something he wants to talk to you about.”
Mr Harrison, a civil servant, has been training for the coastal challenge by completing country walks around Wirral, cycling to work and climbing hills in North Wales – all with his family in tow. He said: “I’ve been dragging everybody up hills.
“I think they can’t wait for it to be over now!
“Last year the weather was absolutely horrible and the wind was blowing sand in my face. I’m hoping for better conditions this year – hopefully not too hot and not too cold!”
Find out more about the work of the Autism Research Trust at www.autismresearchtrust.org.uk
Donations to Peter’s fundraising can be made through www.justgiving.com/4harrisons2012