Meet Koda & Charlotte
John Breen, Charlotte’s dad:
“Since Koda has arrived into our home and joined our family, Charlotte has made so many gains. We can now do ordinary, everyday things such as take the bus, walk in traffic, navigate parked cars, go shopping, go to the beach and lots of other lovely activities which used to be difficult.. or not possible at all. Since getting the life-changing call from Autism Assistance Dogs that Koda was joining our family, I cannot even describe all the amazing changes that have happened. It is all the little things Koda does when she is not officially ‘working’, the bonus things that are more than I could have ever imagined, like sleeping outside Charlotte’s bedroom each night. Koda does her very best work with Charlotte when we are out and about and attached in the busy places. Charlotte is walking along with Koda very relaxed, watching Koda, talking to her and checking in with her and with me often. She is not interested in running away, she is enjoying herself. This is huge. She is safe. She is confident. She is empathic. She is happy. She is growing up. I wish this for every child with autism who needs an assistance dog".
Meet Irwin & Joe
Deirdre Jordan, Joe's Mum:
“We were waiting on the amazing phone call from Autism Assistance Dog Ireland for seven and a half years. Life before that phone call was hard. Joe, my son, was a flight risk. Every minute out of the house he had to be held or he would just take off. Trying to do something ordinary like shopping meant holding on to Joe while also keeping hold of the trolley, packing the bags, locking the car; I just didn’t have enough hands.
Since getting Irwin, Joe’s life has changed completely. Now I can attach Joe to Irwin and put the strap around myself. It involves less holding on but more importantly Joe doesn’t want to run. His focus is on Irwin and what he needs. Before Irwin, if we were out for a walk or going somewhere nice, Joe wouldn’t want to turn around to go home as it meant the end of his fun. Now he will happily turn around because Irwin needs a rest or water. Joe wants to attend to Irwin’s needs more than his own which is phenomenal.
There is a different energy in the house too. The whole family has felt the effect of Irwin. We can all breathe again and life is just more relaxed. For a small charity, Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland has such a big impact. Their dogs don’t just change the life of the child, they change the life of the whole family. My family can feel the difference as well as see the changes in Joe. I wish this for any family like mine.”
Meet Egon & Conor
Vivienne Collopy, Conor’s mum:
“After 6 years on the waiting list, we were delighted to hear that Conor had been matched with a fabulous dog called Egon. It was better than winning the lotto. Before Egon came into our lives leaving the house was a huge stress. Conor is a flight risk and has no danger awareness. He is 12 years old and doesn't want someone holding his hand. On one occasion we were waiting to board a flight in Stansted airport and he took off across the runway. Luckily the runway was quiet. Thankfully we now have Egon and he comes with us on all trips out & about. Conor happily walks & waits patiently attached to Egon. The attention is no longer on him and all people see is a fabulous big giant of a dog doing a great job keeping our Conor safe. If anyone can make a donation big or small it will help train more dogs like Egon & ensure more kids get to benefit from having a forever friend”.
Meet Thorpe & Jack
Edel Shaw, Jack’s mum:
“Before Thorpe and Autism Assistance Dogs came into our lives, life was chaotic. We lived a very isolated life, going nowhere as a family. If we needed to go anywhere, either myself or Dermot would stay at home with Jack, and the other would go out with our other son Oisin. Jack is a notorious bolter, and worse still, a bolter who loves water and has no understanding of danger. Once he left the small toddler stage life was horrific, just horrific. He would get out into the middle of roads, running up the white lines with cars flying past on either side as I ran after him to try and save him. We have had many genuine, near death experiences. Since Autism Assistance Dogs rang to say that Jack was to get Thorpe, she has just changed our world. It is extraordinary on so many levels. Jack is calm, less anxious, he feels safe. Thorpe has helped so much. We are now willing to try new things. Of course the big things are great, but the ability to walk down the main street, the simple things that other families take for granted, without fearing the worst for your child, without having to try and deal with the ‘tutter brigade’, those who make the comments. This has been huge. People now see Jack with Thorpe and they make allowances for him. They understand.”
Meet Bella and Rebecca
Elizabeth and TJ Pettit, Rebecca’s parents:
“Life before Bella, our autism assistance dog, was hard. It was hard to do anything. My daughter’s diagnosis of autism was like a death sentence. We were terrified of how she would cope. Before we got Bella, Rebecca was.a ball of anxiety. She was so overwhelmed with the world. She was imprisoned by the anxiety that is very often a symptom of autism. It was like her body was in overdrive with distress. Simple things like going into a shop with Rebecca were a nightmare. She would run away, go into places she wasn’t allowed and we were like an army around her trying to keep her safe. She found it so difficult and distressing and so she would try to run away. Then we got the call from Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland that Bella was coming to live with us. When a child with autism, through having the support of an assistance dog, loses all that awful anxiety and fear, the child can learn, they can connect with others, they can become part of their community, educate people. Bella helps Rebecca go to places that she would have avoided, ran from. It is like magic.
I can’t put into words the transformation that has happened since my daughter got Bella. Bella has been a guardian angel to my child. She is in sync with my child, she can even sense when Rebecca is going to have an epileptic seizure and alert us. Bella is the first being that has ever helped Rebecca remain calm, to stay calm in situations that would have had her ill with anxiety before. Now Rebecca can concentrate, she can adjust to the world around her, she watches everything that is happening now and she has a great laugh. Every child who needs the support of an autism assistance dog should be given one as a right. If children with autism, who suffer and struggle with this disability, are to be integrated into society and not hidden away, then they have to have an autism assistance dog. No question about it”.