A schoolboy’s heartfelt letter to I’m A Celebrity contestant Anne Hegerty about their shared experience of autism has received thousands of shares online.

Joseph Hughes, 11, from Preston, was diagnosed with autism at the age of five.

According to his mother, Kate Jarvis, 31, he “has quite a few struggles, especially socially, but he’s a lovely little boy”.

Ms Jarvis said Joseph was “amazed” at seeing Hegerty, who has Asperger’s syndrome, as The Governess on ITV gameshow The Chase.

“He sees his autism quite negatively sometimes, so was pleased to see someone with autism doing something like that for a job,” she told the Press Association.

In the letter to Hegerty, who has spoken of her difficulty coping since entering the jungle this weekend, Joseph wrote: “I think you are very brave for going in the jungle, I couldn’t go there because there are too many bugs.

“You are very clever,” he added, before saying: “Some people are mean to me because I am autistic but watching you makes me see that other people can have autism too and maybe I can have a cool job like you when I am older.”

Joseph’s letter is one of many positive online responses after Hegerty discussed her autism on the programme.

The condition can affect a person’s social interactions, communication, interests and behaviour, according to the NHS.

Joseph HughesJoseph said he could not go into the jungle because there are too many bugs (Kate Jarvis/PA)

On the show’s first day on Sunday, a clearly upset Hegerty said she was “really, really close to saying I can’t do this”,  and on Monday night’s programme she talked in more detail about the condition with former EastEnders actress Rita Simons.

After her campmates offered her their support, the National Autistic society tweeted: “Lovely to see everyone supporting each other. We are backing @anne_hegerty all the way on her #imaceleb journey.”

Twitter user Krystle F wrote: “@anne_hegerty think you are an amazing person for doing what you have and highlighting how people with autism have different needs and are the most unique people in their own ways! My daughter for 1 is unique and we hope to see you crowned queen of the jungle!”

And after Sunday night’s show, Karen Sweet tweeted: “As the mother of a son with Asperger’s Syndrome I am delighted to see Anne Hegarty (sic) in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Best of luck to her.”

Meanwhile, a video of Joseph being told about the reaction to his letter showed how much it meant to him – with the youngster gasping in delight when learning the creators of Thunderbirds would be sending him a special gift in response.