Anna Duthie

Most people will have heard of Autism but may not know exactly what that means (we certainly didn’t until Alex came along and we continue to learn day by day). Autism effects people in lots of different ways but one thing for sure is that those on the spectrum see the world in a very unique and innocent way.

Alex was progressing well as a baby, babbling, keen to start weening when he would try just about anything, he loved to listen to music, dance and would respond to his name, but, what seemed like overnight, everything changed. He stopped eating, appeared to ignore anyone who tried to interact with him and he stopped trying to verbally communicate.

For Alex, Autism means that he is now deemed non-verbal, he suffers with extreme anxiety, development delay and sensory processing disorder which has huge impacts on his life from leaving the house to his ability to eat . In short, it means that Alex can struggle with every day situations which neuro-typical individuals would think nothing of… things like going to the supermarket, a park, a doctors surgery, the cinema or a cafe can be terrifying ordeals. It also means he simply cannot make sense of social interactions which can make it extremely difficult to form friendships for Alex and those caring for him.
Alex has no sense of danger and is, in fact drawn to movement such as roads, railway lines, fast running water meaning that leaving the house became a frightening concept for the whole family, afraid that, as Alex grew stronger, we couldn’t keep him safe from harm.

As a parent, you have no choice but to deal with the looks and the comments from strangers commenting on what a terrible parent you must be and what a badly behaved child you have.

Enter Support Dogs… We came across Support Dogs about three and a half years ago and we were lucky enough to be invited on an information day to find out more. We completed an application form and an assessment, we had home visits (including some adorable dog in training) and we could quickly see that Alex was going to respond well to having a furry companion. We waited for a match and in May 2018, we received a call to inform us that a match had been found. Chester.

A meet and training quickly followed and Chester was placed with our family in September 2017.

Since Chester joined our family, he has helped Alex, and our family, in two distinct ways –
Firstly he is, of course, a service dog specifically and incredibly trained to help Alex when he is out of the house, in familiar and unfamiliar places. Chester comforts Alex, keeps him safe, gives Alex a sense of security and an undeniable sense of confidence. When the harness goes on, we see an instant change in Alex’s body language as if to say “we can do this”. Chester brings a sense of calm to every situation which in turn gives us all, but especially Alex, an opportunity to enjoy the moment knowing that Chester will keep him safe from harm.
Chester has opened up our world and of course, most importantly, Alex’s world. Places that had previously ‘spooked’ Alex are now accessible. We can see Alex’s confidence grow each time the pair conquer a new challenge.

Chester and everyone at Support Dogs have helped to improve our lives and we will be forever grateful.

Please help us raise essential funds and awareness to help other families.

Thank you xx

Anna Duthie