Support Dogs is a national charity training assistance dogs for those affected by autism, epilepsy and disability. The DM Thomas Foundation provided funding for the charity’s work training autism assistance dogs for children aged between 3 – 10 years.
One such beneficiary of this is Alex Boardman. Alex’s mother, Alice explains the impact that Support Dog Lucie has had on their lives.
“When Alex was 18 months old the first signs of his autism appeared. What little language and interaction skills he had developed disappeared as Alex retreated into his own world. His main form of self-expression became increasingly severe tantrums – we felt so numb and helpless as we watched our child slip away.
Alex was obsessed with moving vehicles, and would bolt into traffic. His limited communication meant he would get very stressed going out as he didn’t understand what we were doing or what would be happening next. His list of challenges at times seemed endless.
After a 2 year wait from first contacting Support Dogs, we got the call we had been waiting for. Alex was matched with a support dog called Lucie. From there on things happened pretty fast. Alex and Lucie’s first hour together was simply magical. He engaged with her immediately and deep down I knew something special was taking place.
Within a week our whole family life started to change, and with it Alex’s world started to open up. Alex immediately adapted to working with Lucie. This meant accessing our community became an instantly safer and calmer experience. Just one week in we took Alex for the first time to our local supermarket. I had to choke back the tears as I walked him into the store – such a simple everyday activity for most but such a huge step for Alex.
And from there our confidence grew as we started to push back the boundaries. She has made previously stressful activities a pleasure. Hospital appointments, with inevitable waiting times, are now manageable. When it’s time to leave the park, rather than dragging or man-handling a screaming Alex out, he’s now happy to just pick up his handle, and walk out with Lucie. No longer do we receive the disapproving glances when flare ups occur – we now get people coming up to us and even offering assistance… a strange new experience!
Our family regularly go out on walks now, and when someone is sad, she is there to help. She even sleeps next to Alex, just watching out for him, and helps him develop his night time independence. Lucie is more than a dog to us; she is a key to a better life.”
Support Dogs has received funding totalling £4,690 from DM Thomas Foundation since 2012.