Jacob has always been attracted to dogs and we always have to stop and greet each dog we meet. Having found Autism Life Dogs (ALD https://www.autismlifedogs.com ), we are excited at how they can utilise the skills of a specially trained dog to really make life better for children like Jacob and us as a family. Having a dog will bring consistency to our everyday life. The dog will need feeding, grooming and walking everyday regardless of whether it is a school day or weekend, or even holiday time. Jacob finds routine calming and organising and the dog will really help with this. The dog will bring us together as a family - we can all be involved and it will help us all stay fit and healthy by getting out and about in the New Forest where we live.
Jacob struggles with social rules and friendships and is already becoming aware that he is different from his peers. The dog will be a faithful friend who will help Jacob in many ways. One of the key roles will be to help Jacob regulate his sensory system more effectively. The founder of Autism Life Dogs is trained in Sensory Integration and facilitates sensory processing by using special games developed with the dog as well as the dog lying on the child to give calming deep pressure. Just stroking and patting the dog will also help all of us including Jacob calm. The dog will be able to sense when Jacob is anxious or becoming agitated and hopefully help reduce the frequency and severity of his meltdowns by distracting him and going to him for cuddles.
Parents of children with an ALD have reported a marked reduction in bolting/absconding when out in the community. Since he learnt to walk, Jacob runs from us and has little awareness of danger therefore he usually needs to be held firmly using reins or his special buggy to keep him safe when out and about. His ALD will help him work on stopping and waiting at the roadside and crossing safely so will significantly support his safety and independence.
Having an assistance dog will also indicate to others that Jacob has additional needs. Autism is a hidden disability and as his speech is good, it s often difficult for people to understand how much Jacob struggles. It will open up a whole new world as instead of avoiding going out we will be able to take our dog out with us to enable us to access places like the cinema and give Jacob the confidence to cope with such activities and the support to sit and watch.
We have hope with ALD that our situation will improve rather than being increasingly concerned that Jacob's behaviours will become unmanageable as he gets physically bigger. Beth and Ben, Jacob's older Sister and Brother are both really excited and already getting involved with planning fundraising activities and doing presentations at their schools. We have so far paid the deposit and this money will enable us to pay the remaining costs for the dog and training as well as covering the first year of pet insurance, therapy toy box for use in games with the dog, and travel and accommodation costs involved during the training. We have been overwhelmed by support so far and will be arranging fund raising activities such as bake sales to help raise these funds. We believe our ALD will change our lives as a whole family and give Jacob a special and truly amazing friend. We thank you for your support.
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