"My other children were like little security guards, watching exits if we had to go to the shop. Even my son Harry, at just 6 years old, would automatically watch the exits and constantly say “Where is Adam? In the end, one of us would stay at home with Adam so being a family together didn't happen. This definitely affected our other two children”.
Adams mum Caroline shares just how difficult life was for her son Adam and all of their family before Earl bounded into their lives
Before my son Adam received his autism assistance dog from AADI, we couldn’t go anywhere as Adam does not understand danger, as a result of having autism.
My other children were like little security guards, watching exits if we had to go to the shop. Even my son Harry, at just 6 years old, would automatically watch the exits and constantly say “Where is Adam?”. The whole family were always watching the exits in case Adam would bolt. He ran everywhere. He would run away to relieve the anxiety that he was experiencing, a horrible symptom of his autism. He would hit himself in the chest to let us know that he was getting stressed, that things were escalating. We just couldn’t go out as a family as this was so stressful. One of us would stay at home with Adam so being a family together didn’t happen. This definitely affected my other two children.
Adam also didn’t notice the world around him. He was constantly trying to get away from the anxiety he was feeling. Adam has limited speech because of his autism and repeats sentences over and over to try and communicate. Imagine trying to find your lost child when they don’t have a lot of words. We just couldn’t go anywhere with Adam.
Since we got an autism assistance dog from AADI, all of my children can now live a normal life. Adam feels calmer and he is now safer. He can cope with going out to the shop, to new places.
Adams brother and sister are no longer stressed, they no longer constantly watch Adam to see is he safe and beside them.
As a mother, I finally have time for my other children and I can actually spend quality time with them.
Since AADI gave us Earl, it now only takes one of us to support Adam with daily tasks.
Earl has genuinely helped everyone in our family. He is there for all of us in different ways. He even picks up on when I am about to have an epileptic seizure or migraine.
As a family, we can finally do typical things that other families take for granted, like going to the shop together, getting groceries, picking an ice cream, going out together to have food, having a holiday together.
Because Adams disability is invisible, people thought Adam was a bad child. They would talk to the rest of us and ignore Adam. They didn’t know what to say to Adam. Now that Adam is out in public with Earl attached to him, strangers will ask Adam, “What is your dog’s name?” and Adam will tell them. They now know that Adam has a disability as they see Adam attached to Earl and I think that they now know to make an effort with him.
Sadly, we still need more awareness about autism, how it affects a child and their family and why many children with autism absolutely have to have their assistance dog with them. I was asked to tie Earl up outside the hospital when I needed to bring Adam for blood tests. Adam needs Earl so he can cope with his surroundings and Earl will help him feel calm.
Another time, a security guard shouted across the shop, “What’s the dog for?” and when he got as far as us he wanted to know was Adam blind. Earl’s coat tells everyone why he is with Adam. Sometimes it is just ignorance. When people say nasty things, it makes you want to stay at home.
But we did have a wonderful experience in Supermacs on the Tuam road in Galway. We were served and helped by the nicest girl. She couldn’t have done enough for us and made our time together as a family so enjoyable. She had such respect and empathy for Adam.
Even though we were told by the professionals that Adam would never speak, and although Adam had limited speech, getting our assistance dog, Earl, has also changed all of this. Since we have to use short commands with Earl, Adam now uses the same commands. Adam now says “It’s okay Earl. You can tell me. I’m here. You are my friend”. This togetherness between Adam and Earl is beautiful. Earl doesn’t judge Adam and I feel that this has helped bring out more language from Adam. Because of Earl, Adams speech has gone from being solely functional, to being filled with emotion.
Adam even started to say to Earl, “I love you” and as a result he now can spontaneously say to myself and Neill, “I love you”. As parents, to hear your child finally tell you that he loves you is incredible.
Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland, by giving us Earl, gave our whole family a therapy, not just Adam, but our whole family. It really is incredible.