An autistic boy has spoken his first words at the age of seven after being treated by a North-East football club's physiotherapist.

Thomas Bryan showed signs of autism when he was just six months old and had yet to speak or write by the age of seven - but that all changed when Middlesbrough FC physiotherapist Bob Ward got involved.

Since October, he has been visiting Thomas at his east Cleveland home each Sunday to massage his head.

Parents Francis and Wendy Bryan, of Brotton, contacted the club after hearing of Mr Ward's training in craniosacral therapy through an autism institute.

The intensive massage concentrates on the cranial bones of the skull to stimulate damaged nerves.

Mr Bryan, 40, said Thomas was now speaking, writing on a computer and spelling words correctly for the first time.

He said: "After the treatment started Thomas began doing sums on a school computer, began spelling names correctly and speaking.

"He wrote a story in his book and spelt every word but one correctly.

"It's like a whole new world has opened up for him and for us."