A COUPLE are a step nearer to realising their dream thanks to the generosity of those who have given to an appeal to help their son.

Jake Burgess, of Catterick, suffers from autism and, although there has been some recent improvement in his condition, he still spends much of his day locked in a world of his own.

Unable to communicate effectively, his frustration can manifest itself in tantrums or bursts of manic activity.

His mother, Claire, and father, Tim, have been using techniques learned at the Options Institute in Massachusetts in the US to help Jake .

However, the couple still need a number of helpers to encourage him to express himself through play and are hoping to return to the US with Jake.

Thanks to the appeal, they now have enough cash to cover the costs of the treatment.

This time, they will fly to the Growing Minds Institute, in Miami, which offers a six-month back-up package to the families of its patients, as well as teaching techniques which can be incorporated into everyday life.

Claire said: "The only snag is that they are so busy, we could not get a booking until next September. I was keen to get started as soon as possible but, if it is going to be earlier, we are relying on a cancellation."

Fundraising will continue in the meantime to help meet the costs of accommodation and travel to and from the US institute.

Money-spinning efforts so far have included entries in the Great North Run - with one in particular by Alan White of Brompton-on-Swale, who raised £1,600 - and a sponsored walk by regulars at The Crown in the same village.

A sponsored team challenge set by F Company at the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick Garrison and supported by NAAFI Financial Services in September is thought to have raised £6,000 in a single day.

"We are extremely grateful to everyone," said Claire.

Anyone who would like to contribute to the appeal call (01748) 812431