Too outsiders Grant is just a dog, albeit a handsome black Labrador.

To 15-year-old Adam Handley however, Grant is a four-legged miracle, a dog that over the past seven years has transformed the autistic youngster’s life, and that of his family, by increasing his confidence and enabling him to go out, have fun, and relax.Thanks to  Support Dogs, Grant has been Adam’s autism assistance dog for the past seven years, and the partnership has been a fantastic success, reports Adam’s mum Diane.

Before Grant Adam found speaking and communicating with people outside the family very, very hard,” says Diane. “He couldn’t sleep in his own bed at night, and was very unhappy at school. Also, he had no sense of danger when crossing the road, for example.

“Grant made an immediate impact. We quickly got more confident so that if we went out there would be less anxiety and far fewer meltdowns. Having Grant helped us as family to go to new places such as the cinema, shops and museums. 

"When we go out as a family everyone is less stressed and anxious and meltdowns are few and far between. When they do happen, people can see that Adam needs support, so we all feel calmer and can focus on helping Adam and getting back on track.

"Adam’s social life is one he shares with his family - he loves camping, walking, the cinema, visiting railways - he is big railway buff! - and these are things we do together as a family."

These days Adam is much happier than he has ever been, his self-esteem has grown, and his communication skills have advanced beyond what his mum could have imagined. He has also formed friendships with children at his school – often difficult for youngster on the autistic spectrum. Grant and Adam still spend a lot of time together and Grant is always on hand to provide emotional support at home as well as physical support when out and about.

Adam talks and reads to Grant all the time. They spend time relaxing and playing together and he asks for Grant all the time. At night the share a tent together and Adam now sleeps in his own room, in his own tent every night. He is very frightened of what he calls "the loud dark" but having Grant there is a huge comfort to him.

The teenager has recently enjoyed a number of train-related trips trips,prompting mum Diane to say:

“It is hard to believe that just a few years ago he could hardly talk, then there he was chatting, listening and responding - that's what having a support dog has enabled him to do. I can hardly explain how much it means to see Adam out and about talking to people about trains!”

She adds:"Adam is an amazing teenager. His ability to form relationships with people, his speech, his reading skills and his confidence are all better than we could have ever hoped for.  There is no doubt that having Grant has enabled Adam to move towards a brighter future. He is becoming more independent and can access many more places and activities.  

"Grant is helping our whole family to live more happily and more independently and we owe him so much; there are no words to describe how much."