A five-year-old pupil from our Thornhill Park school in Sunderland has become the unexpected star of John Lewis’s Christmas campaign this year after he became obsessed with the Venus flytrap in their advert.

Tommy watched the festive ad up to a hundred times a day, and his mum Bethany posted a video on Facebook of him laughing and flapping his hands with joy in front of the TV.

John Lewis saw it and put together a film explaining Tommy’s special bond with “Snapper” the flytrap, which has gathered thousands of likes and comments on the retailer’s social media channels this week.

See the John Lewis post here

They also invited him for a VIP trip to their Newcastle store, did a photoshoot with him and gifted him with the whole Snapper collection, including two soft toys that he now takes everywhere with him.

Mum Bethany, 30, says: “I’m so happy that John Lewis are getting this important message out and giving my boy a chance to shine. Not everybody gets to see the moments of joy we parents see, but John Lewis really get it. 

“Tommy doesn’t talk much and can struggle making connections with people and things, but he has got so much joy out of this, it’s magical. 

We celebrate Tommy being autistic and these moments are so beautiful. Now everyone can see that.

Tommy started in September at Thornhill Park School in Sunderland, a specialist school run by the North East Autism Society. The school helped spark his love for Venus flytraps when one of his learning assistants brought a plant in to show the five-year-old.

Thornhill Park teachers also put together a social story to help prepare Tommy for his trip to John Lewis, with visuals about what would happen there.

Bethany says: “The school is amazing and he is really thriving there - it's one of his favourite places on earth. They’re really encouraging him with his arts and crafts, and he created a card to give to John Lewis to say thank you for his presents.”

The card features in the John Lewis film, along with clips of Tommy cuddling his Snapper toys and visiting the Newcastle store. “Thank you Tommy, for letting us be part of your Christmas joy,” the caption says.

The theme of the retailer’s campaign this Christmas is “let your traditions grow” and Bethany says that has special resonance for her family and many others with autistic loved ones.

“Through Tommy’s disabilities and needs, a lot of traditions have had to change,” she says. “You don’t realise unless you’re directly affected by this - you don’t think of the family maybe eating chicken nuggets for their Christmas dinner or turning the fairy lights down. It’s remarkable for John Lewis to highlight this.

“I’m so proud that Tommy is part of this. Nobody deserves it more.”

Now Tommy takes his Snapper toys to bed with him every night and tries to sneak them into his school bag in the morning.

The whole family have Snapper pyjamas, and a custom-made Snapper bauble to hang on the Christmas tree.

 Best of all, John Lewis surprised Bethany with a digital copy of the advert on a USB stick, so she doesn’t have to keep rewinding it hundreds of times a day. “It’s going to be a great Christmas, I can hardly believe this has all happened,” she says.

See more news from Thornhill Park School here