Natalie Warburton, mother and full-time carer of Jenson, a young boy with severe autism, explains the difference their autism assistance dog Stanley has made to her son’s life.

“Before Stanley came into our lives we lived a very isolated life.

 Jenson was a very anxious angry and frustrated little boy.  He was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old in January 2014.

He was non-verbal for the most part, only able to say a couple of words. He really didn't like leaving the house even if the destination was somewhere he would enjoy. He would have meltdowns before we could even get past our front gate. On the few rare occasions we would make it out further, Jenson would become erratic with anxiety and run off as fast as he could especially near roads. We would try to take Jenson to visit relatives but it would result in either turning back around or only staying for five minutes.

 Jenson was also terrified to sleep in his own bedroom after having his first nightmare. He would scream every night. His paediatrician tried to help with medication but Jenson was still too scared to go to bed in his room.

I researched autism assistance dogs online and that's when I came across Support Dogs. I read about some of the clients’ stories and the impact it had had on their lives and made an application for Jenson.

Since Stanley has come into our lives we have had a completely different child.

We started slowly by introducing Stanley sleeping on the bottom of Jenson's bed. The very first night Jenson went to sleep calmly and slept right through until morning. After a few days Jenson began spontaneously saying "woof" at bedtime to signal wanting Stanley to join him. Stanley stays on his bed until Jenson is asleep and then we bring him back down to have a play with us then he re-joins Jenson when we go to bed.

 Jenson's sociability has dramatically improved to an unrecognisable level. He enjoys going for long walks with Stanley and will take the lead so he can walk him himself. Stanley has taught Jenson to wait at a road kerbside, Stanley stops and Jenson naturally stops with him and only begins to walk again once Stanley does. Previously we could never make it past the entrance of our local Tesco.  Now, with Stanley, Jenson not only manages his emotions and anxiety but he also helps to put items in the trolley and takes great pride at the end when we reach the till.

 Me, my husband, our elder son Christian, who’s 14, and Jenson are also now able to visit relatives more frequently and for longer periods of time. Jenson will sit down next to Stanley calmly and engages more with his family members.

 Jenson goes to a special school, which he’s attended for the past two years. He was previously in a mainstream school; however they couldn't meet Jenson's care needs.

 Jenson doesn't really have any friends, and birthday parties have always been too much for him to cope with. We started to attend parties taking Stanley with us and slowly Jenson's confidence has grown. He will now go into the play centre with the other children and when he feels anxious he comes back to the table where Stanley is and sits with him.

 Jenson has always had attachment issues and when it comes to me at home he would never leave my side, if I went to the bathroom I had to let him come with me or he would cry and be upset. If I left the room he would scream and work himself into a meltdown even if it I was only in the next room.

 Since having Stanley, Jenson has become much more independent.

He no longer becomes anxious or agitated and is quite content to continue his activity whilst Stanley is there. His spoken language has improved so much! He has learnt all of Stanley's commands "settle," "up, up," "stay," "wait," etc, and he really enjoys being able to talk to Stanley. I think that because talking to Stanley is limited language he finds him easier to talk and bond with rather than adults and other children as they are more complex.

 Jenson will seek Stanley out if he is upset or anxious and will self-choose to go and sit or lay next to Stanley for comfort.

 Stanley has truly become Jenson's best friend and in doing so has not only given us our lives back but given Jenson the confidence and security to explore and challenge all aspects of the life he was missing out on. And for that we will be forever thankful.”

  • For more information about Support Dogs’ autism programme go to