Alessa Thompson's life changed dramatically when she was hit by a car due to her tendency to bolt, a common trait in autistic children. Her family lived in constant worry until Mandy, an autism assistance dog trained by Support Dogs, came into their lives.

Before Mandy, Alessa's impulsiveness led to dangerous situations. But since Mandy's arrival, Alessa's running episodes have dramatically reduced, bringing a sense of calm to the household.

"Getting her in and out of school was a nightmare," recalls Alessa's mother, Donna. "When she was six or seven, her grandad picked her up from school and she was excited because she saw her grandad’s van on the other side of the road. She just ran and was hit by a car. It was more of a tap as luckily the driver saw her and was able to brake in time. But it was pretty close and left us all shocked."

Describing the impact, Donna highlights how Mandy has become a constant support, calming Alessa during moments of distress.

"Mandy is a bit of a rock. She just needs to go and sit with her and she will calm down."

Prior to Mandy's arrival, Alessa's meltdowns were frequent and intense, limiting their family outings. "She would throw things, trash things, break things, scream, shout and kick," Donna recalls. "We didn’t really go anywhere. She has a younger sister, Miley, who’s four, and she missed out on quite a lot because I couldn’t take her out because there was a risk of Alessa running off and having to choose between running after Alessa or leaving Miley behind."

Donna's journey to finding Mandy began when she learned about support dogs for autism during a conversation with a hospital patient. Applying for Mandy during lockdown, Donna was thrilled when they were matched within a year.

The moment Mandy and Alessa met was described as magical, with Mandy's presence instantly soothing Alessa. "It was brilliant," says Donna.

"It was very emotional. It was like an instant calming effect – as soon as Mandy sat with her, Alessa just chilled. It was amazing to watch."

This newfound companionship has not only brought relief to Donna and her family but also enabled them to engage in more activities

 together. "In general, Mandy has brought the family closer together. We have been able to get out more and do more stuff. We are even

 in discussions about going abroad," Donna shares.

Donna expresses profound gratitude to Support Dogs, emphasizing the transformative impact they've had on Alessa's life and their family dynamics. "It’s unmatched, it’s absolutely fantastic," she says.

You just can’t put into words what they do. They change people’s lives. They change children’s lives for the better. They are making a difference and it’s just fantastic.