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Carol, a hairdresser at the time, realised how little there was going on for him. It is a real problem.” Heart Venture quiz nights and discos draw crowds of 120 and Daniel has made use of its services to arrange crazy golf trips to Worthing, excursions to Thorpe Park and fish and chip dates in cafes with Amber.
Security around the agency, which is designed exclusively for those with learning difficulties, is essential: those who sign up are first met in person; they cannot talk directly with one another online; and all first dates are chaperoned by a healthcare professional or someone from Carol’s team. “Two dates in and I told Amber to say will you be my girlfriend,” he says, his grin as wide as the moon.
Seeing the two together, her words are tricky to believe. A gentle 6ft 4in presence with a tumbling head of hair and wide blue eyes, he maintains eye contact, unabashed. “Once they actually said it, it was a massive relief because I had something to use as a point of reference,” says Carol.
“Some people didn’t want him at their children’s parties because he is not the same as other children. She and Daniel’s father Barry, 66, a support worker, who have been married for 33 years, had largely given up hope that their son might find love, happiness and a relationship as strong as theirs, something he had told them was his dream. His first song – entitled The Black of Lonely – described the melancholy of being alone.
For a mother, the lyrics cannot have been easy listening.
“He insisted on wearing dark sunglasses everywhere.
He wouldn’t go into the school assembly if there was a play on and if he walked into a room with people in, even if he knew them, he would have his eyes closed for the first half hour, even behind the sunglasses.” On the autistic spectrum, he has struggled with speech and comprehending others for most of his life.