A KIND-hearted couple who have been foster carers for six years have planned the first Christmas away from home for a boy with autism.

Tracy and Darrell Woodward, from Wigan borough, have housed nine young people since 2011 and are making sure that nine-year-old Tom is able to have as much fun as possible over the festive period.

Tom cannot communicate through speech so the couple have been thinking of ways they can to be more interactive over Christmas with him so he can fully enjoy it.

Tracy said: “Tom has been with us for six weeks, and although communicating can be challenging, we are making real progress.

"We use communication cards and do really interactive activities together such as baking and art.

"You can see the delight on his face and through his actions – he is always giving out cuddles.

“We are going to have quite a low key Christmas this year spending a lot of time with close friends and family as we do not want to overwhelm Tom.

"He has a great relationship with my daughter so Christmas dinner will be at her house this year.

“Tom has engaged really well with festive activities- he has written a letter to Santa and was really excited to receive one back.”

Tracy and Darrell also praised Wigan Council for their autism-friendly training to equip them with the skills and knowledge to help them to understand Tom's processes.

The couple, along with their biological son, Austen, 19, will also help Tom to make Christmas cards for his birth mum and brother, who he has contact with every week and will see during the festive holidays.

James Winterbottom, director for children’s services at the council, said: "Christmas can be a difficult time for children in care so it it great to hear families are going the extra mile to give people like Tom a really enjoyable day.

“High quality foster carers are vital in ensuring we meet our ambitions of a safe family home for every child.

We are always looking for new foster carers to join us and we promise to provide the support you need right from the beginning of your fostering journey."

Tom's name has been changed for this story for his protection.

For more information about fostering visit wigan.gov.uk/fostering.